Jordan Peele may have made history as the first black man to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay but his success almost didn’t happen.
While his 2017 film Get Out made waves among moviegoers, the newly minted Oscar winner, 39, told reporters backstage at the 90th Academy Awards that as he did not see many people of color in Hollywood, he almost did not let himself dream of being a director.
“I almost never became a director because there was such a shortage of role models,” he said. “We had Spike , we had John Singleton, we had the Peebleses, we had the Hughes brothers, but they felt like the exception to the rule.”
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Peele continued, “I’m so proud to be a part of a time, the beginning of a movement where I feel like the best films in every genre are being brought to me by my fellow black directors. It’s very special and I think that goes for all areas of inclusion. But it’s quite clear with the work that Ava’s doing, that Ryan’s doing, F. Gary Gray, Barry… this is a very special time.”
When it came to one motivational person in his life, Peele credited Whoopi Goldberg after she won the Oscar in 1991 when he was 12 as his inspiration.
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“This is about paying it forward to the young people who might not believe that they could achieve the highest honor in whatever craft they want to push for,” he said. “You’re not a failure if you don’t get this. But I almost didn’t do it because I didn’t believe that there was a place for me.
“Whoopi Goldberg, in her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress for Ghost, was a huge inspiration to me,” Peele continued. “When I got nominated, one of the first things I did was reach out and call her and thank her for telling young people who maybe doubted themselves that they could do it.”
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He added, “So, I hope that this does the same and inspires more people to use their voices.”
The 2018 Oscars were held at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4 and were telecast live on ABC.