Actress Elizabeth Banks has apologised to Steven Spielberg after she wrongly “called him out” in public for never directing a film with a female lead.
The star made the comments at a Women in Film awards ceremony on Wednesday.
Actress Shari Belafonte called out from the audience Spielberg had directed the 1985 film The Color Purple, starring Whoopi Goldberg. But after another audience member yelled it was wrong, Banks believed she was still correct.
“I messed up,” Banks said in a tweet.
The Hunger Games star was awarded an excellence in film prize at the ceremony and used her acceptance speech to highlight gender equality in Hollywood.
“We can’t do it by ourselves… It’s our responsibility to bring the men along,” she said.
“I went to Indiana Jones and Jaws and every movie Steven Spielberg ever made, and by the way, he’s never made a movie with a female lead. Sorry, Steven. I don’t mean to call your ass out, but it’s true.”
After Belafonte reminded Banks of Oscar-nominated movie The Color Purple, the actress initially corrected herself.
“OK… I’m wrong. Ummm… he directed?” she queried.
Another guest mistakenly called out no, so Banks concluded: “Oh, so I’m right still,” and moved on.
The error was much talked about in both social and general media – especially as The Color Purple focuses on the issues African American women faced in early 20th Century.
The Color Purple
- Based on the 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker
- Set in rural Georgia, tells the story of oppressed African-American girl Celie
- Addresses themes of racism, misogyny, equality and domestic violence
- Nominated for 11 Oscars – including best actress for Whoopi Goldberg and best supporting actress for Oprah Winfrey and Margaret Avery – but didn’t win any
Banks posted a lengthy apology on Twitter on Thursday, saying she “framed [her] comments about [Spielberg’s] films inaccurately”.
“I want to be clear from the start that I take full responsibility for what I said and I’m sorry,” she wrote.
“When I made the comments, I was thinking of recent films Steven directed, it was not my intention to dismiss the importance of the iconic #TheColorPurple.
“I made things worse by giving the impression that I was dismissing Shari Belafonte when she attempted to correct me. I spoke with Shari backstage and she was kind enough to forgive me.
“Those who have the privilege and honour of directing and producing films should be held to account for our mistakes, whether it’s about diversity or inaccurate statements. I’m very sorry.”
Since Banks’s error, others have pointed out that while she was wrong in her claim about Spielberg, the director has only helmed three films out of his 30 which feature a female lead.
In addition to The Color Purple, he also directed Goldie Hawn in The Sugarland Express (1974) and his most recent film, The BFG, featured 12-year-old Ruby Barnhill in the lead.
His next film, The Papers, also stars Meryl Streep in the main role as the first US female newspaper publisher.
Banks is next set to direct a rebooted film version of Charlie’s Angels.
As well as appearing in the Pitch Perfect series of films, she directed the second and served as a producer on all three.