By Matt Stevens
Daniel Kaluuya won the Academy Award for best supporting actor for his nuanced portrayal of Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” beating out his co-star, Lakeith Stanfield, who was also nominated in the category.
“To chairman Fred Hampton,” Kaluuya said in his acceptance speech. “What a man. How blessed we are that we lived in a lifetime where he existed.”
“There’s so much work to do,” Kaluuya added, speaking about Hampton’s legacy. “That’s on everyone in this room.”
Kaluuya’s win was far from a surprise. Critics have widely praised his performance of Hampton, an ascendant leader of the Black Panther Party who was killed by the police in 1969. And Kaluuya won the Golden Globe for best supporting actor earlier this awards season.
But when Oscar nominations were unveiled last month, Stanfield’s inclusion in the supporting actor category alongside Kaluuya puzzled some Oscars pundits, who thought Stanfield a better fit for the best actor category. As it turned out, it did not ultimately cost Kaluuya, who was considered something of a lock to win the category.
Kaluuya previously had earned a best actor Oscar nomination for his turn in the 2017 smash “Get Out.” Sunday marked his first Oscar win.
Kaluuya’s rousing call-and-response speeches drive some of the most electric scenes in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” But in an interview with The New York Times, Kaluuya detailed the great lengths he went to in order to understand Hampton and, in so doing, come to capture his idiosyncratic voice and style of speaking. “I gave it everything I had. I gave. I gave. I gave,” he said then.
In his review of the film, The New York Times co-chief film critic A.O. Scott acknowledged Kaluuya’s efforts, writing that the actor “finds inflections of Southernness in his voice and manner — undertones of humor and courtliness, an appreciation of the expressive possibilities of language.”
“I don’t feel like I’m entitled to anyone’s attention,” Kaluuya told The Times. “I have to offer, or channel, or shape something that’s going to make you want to give it to me.”
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