Lee walked to the back of the auditorium after the announcement, Deadline reported, before returning to his seat and turning his back to the stage during the acceptance speech.
“I’m snakebit. Every time someone’s driving somebody I lose. But in ’89 I didn’t get nominated so,” Lee told reporters backstage after the ceremony. His Do the Right Thing was not nominated for Best Picture in 1989, while Driving Miss Daisy won the award.
Green Book tells the true story of black classical pianist Don Shirley’s (Mahershala Ali) tour through the American South in the 1960s with the help of his white driver and bodyguard Tony ‘Lip’ Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen). The film has been criticized as presenting a “white savior” narrative, among other controversies..
“I thought I was courtside at the Garden and the ref made a bad call,” Lee said of Green Book’s win.
Lee won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman. The film, based on the true story of a black police officer who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s, was also nominated for Best Picture.
In an interview with UPI earlier this month, Ron Stallworth, on whose memoir the film was based, said the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, inspired Lee to make the movie.
Lee wore a purple suit to the Oscars in tribute to Prince, the legendary musician who died in 2016. He accessorized the Ozwald Boateng suit with a matching hat and glasses and a necklace sporting the symbol Prince once used as his name — and a pair of specially made gold Nikes.
Lee’s acceptance speech touched on his family’s history, slavery and the upcoming 2020 presidential election. “Let’s all mobilize,” he said. “Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate.”