What was supposed to be an empowering speech about women in film ended up majorly backfiring for Elizabeth Banks. The Pitch Perfect 2 director was the recipient of the Excellence in Film Award at the annual Crystal + Lucy Awards in LA on Tuesday, where she used her moment in the spotlight to discuss gender equality in Hollywood and criticize Steven Spielberg for always casting men as the leads in his films. "We can't do it by ourselves. We need dudes. We need the guys," she said. "It's our responsibility to bring the men along. 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."
Immediately actress Shari Belafonte, who was sitting in the audience, yelled out "The Color Purple!" Banks took a second to semicorrect herself once attention had been brought to Spielberg's 1985 drama, saying, "Okay, The Color Purple, okay, I'm wrong. Um . . . he directed?" Another audience member shouted, "No!" so Banks continued, "Oh, so I'm right still," and finished her speech. Spielberg did in fact direct the Oscar-nominated film, which is led by Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, as well as The Sugarland Express in 1974, which stars former Crystal Award winner Goldie Hawn. Though the rest of her speech made some salient points about the necessity for more films directed by and starring women, it didn't take long for social media to drag Banks for her flat-out wrong assertion about Spielberg.
ELIZABETH BANKS: Steven Spielberg never made a movie with a female lead
AUDIENCE MEMBER: He made "The Color Purple"
ELIZABETH BANKS: pic.twitter.com/gHTjKZS2C4
— Eric Haywood (@EricHaywood) June 15, 2017
Making matters worse was a now-deleted tweet from IndieWire's Anne Thompson, who asserted that Banks's mistake was forgivable since The Color Purple was a flop (since when is a film that brought in 11 Oscar nominations and $95 million at the box office a flop?). Banks's point about the need for diversity in film was quickly lost in the scrum of Twitter jokes directed at both her and Thompson. To be fair, her instincts about Spielberg aren't completely unfounded — besides The Color Purple and The Sugarland Express, the only other one of his films featuring a female lead is 2016's The BFG. Either way, her statement, at its core, was wrong, and Banks shared a heartfelt apology on Twitter on Thursday.
— Elizabeth Banks (@ElizabethBanks) June 15, 2017