The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is apologizing to actor and activist Sacheen Littlefeather for the abuse she endured after refusing Marlon Brando’s 1973 Oscar on his behalf.
Littlefeather, now 75, was the first Native American woman to step onto the Academy Awards stage when she declined Brando’s best actor award for “The Godfather” at his behest, using the speech to highlight the film industry’s treatment of Native Americans.
She was booed, heckled and mocked for doing so. John Wayne had to be restrained from storming the stage to physically attack her, she told The Hollywood Reporter. And it shattered her career in Hollywood.
Nearly 50 years later, the Academy is trying to make things right. According to the outlet, Littlefeather was invited as the guest of honor to an upcoming evening of reflection at the Academy Museum, featuring a formal apology from the Academy.
“I was stunned. I never thought I’d live to see the day I would be hearing this, experiencing this,” said Littlefeather, who is Apache and Yaqui. “When I was at the podium in 1973, I stood there alone.”
Littlefeather said the Academy’s statement was first presented privately to her in June.
“The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified,” then-Academy president David Rubin said in part in the June 18 letter. “The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”
The apology will be read in full at the Sept. 17 Academy Museum event in Los Angeles honoring her.
Watch Littlefeather’s 1973 speech below: