David Oyelowo goes off on Oscars: 'I am an Academy member and it doesn't reflect me'

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Academy Head Responds to Oscars Diversity Issue

Actor David Oyelowo -- who was famously overlooked for playing Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma when the Oscar nominations were announced last year -- broke off his prepared remarks to blast the Academy at a gala honoring Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs Monday night.

"The Academy has a problem," said the British actor, speaking at the King Legacy Awards, held at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles, where he was presenting Boone Isaacs with an award named after civil rights icon Rosa Parks. "It's a problem that needs to be solved."

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He revealed that Boone Isaacs had met with him privately to discuss his omission from the nominations. "A year ago, I did a film called Selma, and after the Academy Awards, Cheryl invited me to her office to talk about what went wrong then," he said. "We had a deep and meaningful [conversation]. For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors of color, actresses of color, to be missed last year is one thing; for that to happen again this year is unforgivable."

See photos of David Oyelowo and the stars of 'Selma'

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David Oyelowo goes off on Oscars: 'I am an Academy member and it doesn't reflect me'
David Oyelowo gave a bold answer as to why he was passed over for an Oscar nomination for his critically acclaimed role as Martin Luther King, Jr. in 'Selma.'
David Oyelowo arrives at the 30th Santa Barbara International Film Festival Virtuosos Award ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Santa Barbara, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
David Oyelowo arrives at the 30th Santa Barbara International Film Festival Virtuosos Award ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Santa Barbara, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Actor David Oyelowo and wife Jessica pose for photographers at a central London cinema, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, for the European premiere of Selma, a film about a three month campaign led by Martin Luther King Jr, which culminated in a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, USA. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)
Dr. Mohammad Bhuiyan, fourth from left, joins hands with actor David Oyelowo, center, who portrays the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie "Selma,"Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, second from right, and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., during the singing of "We Shall Overcome" at a service honoring King at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Actor David Oyelowo, who portrays the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie "Selma," cries as he speaks during a service honoring King at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Actor David Oyelowo, who portrays the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie "Selma," speaks at the King holiday commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where King preached, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Oprah Winfrey lowers her head to pray with David Oyelowo, who portrays Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie "Selma" before they march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, in Selma, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
David Oyelowo, who portrays Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie "Selma" just before he marches to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, in Selma, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Actor David Oyelowo, who portrays the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie "Selma," prepares to speak during a service honoring King at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015, in Atlanta. Also pictured are King's daughter Bernice King, left, and his sister Christine King Farris, right. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Oprah Winfrey locks arms with David Oyelowo, who portrays Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie "Selma" as they march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, in Selma, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
David Oyelowo arrives at the 20th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards at the Hollywood Palladium on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
SANTA BARBARA, CA - FEBRUARY 01: Actor David Oyelowo attends the Virtuosos Award at the 30th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Arlington Theater on February 1, 2015 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Jennifer Lourie/WireImage)
SANTA BARBARA, CA - FEBRUARY 01: Actor David Oyelowo speaks at the Virtuosos Award at the 30th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Arlington Theater on February 1, 2015 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Santa Barbara International Film Festival)
SANTA BARBARA, CA - FEBRUARY 01: Actor David Oyelowo attends a screening of 'Nightingale' at the Metro at the 30th Santa Barbara International Film Festival on February 1, 2015 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Santa Barbara International Film Festival)
SANTA BARBARA, CA - FEBRUARY 01: Actor David Oyelowo attends a screening of 'Nightingale' at the Metro at the 30th Santa Barbara International Film Festival on l on February 1, 2015 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Santa Barbara International Film Festival)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 27: (SUN NEWSPAPER OUT. MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTO BY DAVE J. HOGAN GETTY IMAGES REQUIRED) Actor David Oyelowo (second left) with his family attend the European premiere of 'Selma' after party at One Mayfair on January 27, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 27: (L to R) Colman Domingo, Jade Ewen and David Oyelowo attend the European Premiere of 'Selma' at One Mayfair on January 27, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 27: (SUN NEWSPAPER OUT. MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTO BY DAVE J. HOGAN GETTY IMAGES REQUIRED) Actor David Oyelowo attends the European premiere of 'Selma' at the Curzon Mayfair on January 27, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 27: (SUN NEWSPAPER OUT. MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTO BY DAVE J. HOGAN GETTY IMAGES REQUIRED) Actor David Oyelowo attends the European premiere of 'Selma' at the Curzon Mayfair on January 27, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
SELMA, AL - JANUARY 18: EDITORIAL USE ONLY David Oyelowo attends a special screening of 'Selma,' presented by Paramount Pictures on January 18, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)
SELMA, AL - JANUARY 18: EDITORIAL USE ONLY- Oprah Winfrey greets David Oyelowo during the red carpet event for a special screeing of 'Selma' on January 18, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)
SELMA, AL - JANUARY 18: EDITORIAL USE ONLY- David Oyelowo waves to audience members at the Selma High School Q&A event on January 18, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15: Actor David Oyelowo attends the 20th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards at the Hollywood Palladium on January 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for A&E Network)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Actors David Oyelowo (L) and Oprah Winfrey attend the 20th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards at the Hollywood Palladium on January 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for A&E Network)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 11: (EDITORS NOTE: Image processed using digital filters) Actor David Oyelowo attends the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 11: Oprah Winfrey (L) and actor David Oyelowo attends the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards cocktail party at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Moet & Chandon)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 09: Actor David Oyelowo arrives at the 15th Annual AFI Awards at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on January 9, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 09: (L-R) Actors Angelina Jolie, David Oyelowo and Brad Pitt attend the 15th Annual AFI Awards Luncheon at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on January 9, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 09: Actors Matthew McConaughey (L) and David Oyelowo attend the 15th Annual AFI Awards Luncheon at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on January 9, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 06: (L-R) Common, Director Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo attend the 2014 National Board of Review Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on January 6, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 06: David Oyelowo visits The SiriusXM Studios For 'Selma: An Urban View Special' on January 6, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 05: David Oyelowo arrives for the 'Late Show with David Letterman' at Ed Sullivan Theater on January 5, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Donna Ward/Getty Images)
THE VIEW - The cast of the movie 'Selma,' actors Common, David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo air on ABC's 'The View,' Monday, January 19, 2015. 'The View' airs Monday-Friday (11:00 am-12:00 pm, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty Images)
SELMA, AL - JANUARY 18: 'Selma' director Ava DuVernay participates in the ceremony to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 18, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. (Photo by David A. Smith/Getty Images)
SELMA, AL - JANUARY 18: 'Selma' director Ava DuVernay participates in the ceremony to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 18, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. (Photo by David A. Smith/Getty Images)
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While urging the audience to pray for Boone Isaacs, he continued: "The reason why the Oscars are so important is because it is the zenith, it is the epitome, it is the height of celebration of artistic endeavor within the filmmaking community. We grow up aspiring, dreaming, longing to be accepted into that august establishment because it is the height of excellence. I would like to walk away and say it doesn't matter, but it does, because that acknowledgement changes the trajectory of your life, your career, and the culture of the world we live in."

READ MORE: Academy President Issues Lengthy Statement on Lack of Oscars Diversity

He said of the current Academy: "This institution doesn't reflect its president and it doesn't reflect this room. I am an Academy member and it doesn't reflect me, and it doesn't reflect this nation."

Oyelowo noted that the two top films at the box office this week are led by black performers. "We have a situation whereby currently the biggest movie in the world and of all time [Star Wars: The Force Awakens] is led by a black man. That film was knocked off the top spot this weekend by a film led by two black men, Ride Along 2. The biggest TV show on the planet is led by black people, Empire."

Pointing to the speed of change in the 1960s, he said there was no reason the Academy should take so long to effect change now, without specifying what that change should be.

"There was a photograph up here earlier and it's a photograph of Lyndon Johnson giving a pen that was used to sign the Voting Rights Act to Dr. King," he said. "The year before that photograph was taken, the Civil Rights Act was passed. It was started as an idea by JFK; LBJ used the sentiment at the loss of JFK's life to bring about the Civil Rights Act being passed. When Dr. King said we need the Voting Rights Act to be passed, LBJ said it's too soon, it can't be done. People were losing their lives. People weren't allowed to vote. Dr. King said [we cannot] wait. What was done was done not in years but months. The march from Selma to Montgomery, those marches began in January of 1965 and by March of '65 the world was aware what was going on in Selma. By August of that year, the Voting Rights Act was passed."

READ MORE: Oscars: Jada Pinkett Smith Says She Won't Attend Awards, Contemplates Appropriate Response to Lack of Nonwhite Nominees

He used that example to lambaste the Academy for not moving quicker. "The Academy is an institution in which they all say radical and timely change cannot happen quickly," he said. "It better happen quickly. The law of this country can change in a matter of months. It better come on. The Oscars is on February 28. Cheryl needs us to pray that by that date, change is going to come. We need to pray for Cheryl, we need to support Cheryl, we need to love Cheryl. We cannot afford to get bitter, we cannot afford to get negative. But we must make our voice heard."

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