Sacheen Littlefeather Says John Wayne Behind ‘Most Violent’ Oscars Moment
Sacheen Littlefeather in an interview published Tuesday addressed the infamous moment when she accepted Marlon Brando’s Oscar award in 1973, which also allegedly led to a near physical altercation with John Wayne.
When Brando won the Academy Award for best actor for his portrayal of Don Corleone in The Godfather, he sent Littlefeather—a Native American civil rights activist and actress—to the stage in his place. She declined his Oscar, explaining to a mostly booing audience that Brando had boycotted the ceremony due to the film industry’s portrayal of Native Americans.
After her 60-second speech, Littlefeather was escorted offstage and learned that Wayne reportedly had to be stopped from rushing the stage. Last month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a statement nearly 50 years after the incident to apologize to Littlefeather.
She spoke about the night in a recent story in Variety, including the alleged Wayne incident.
“I heard a disturbance from behind me as I was speaking up at the podium. I found out that he [Wayne] had been restrained by six security men from assaulting me while I was on that stage,” Littlefeather told the outlet. “That was the most violent moment that had ever taken place at the Academy Awards.”
Littlefeather went on to tell Variety that she learned about Wayne’s outburst from a security guard. She added his actions were “never publicized” and that Wayne “was never admonished by the Academy.”
“It was never published in the press,” she said. “But the most violent moments took place then and there at the Academy Awards by John Wayne.”
Following its apology to Littlefeather, the Academy published an interview with her on its website on August 15. In the talk, she said an even more dangerous violent incident occurred after the Oscars.
She said that when she went to Brando’s house later, people shot at the doorway where she was standing.
“When I went back to Marlon’s house, there was an incident with people shooting at me,” she said. “And there were two bullet holes that came through the doorway of where I was standing, and I was on the other side of it.”
Littlefeather told Variety that the Oscars speech resulted in the FBI working to get her boycotted from Hollywood by allegedly threatening to shut down productions if she was hired. The Apache and Yaqui activist also lamented never being given the opportunity to explain her actions on popular talk shows at the time, even though she was being discussed on the programs.
She dismissed rumors that she was a love interest of Brando’s, instead calling the acting legend a friend who “understood racial prejudice in a way that most people do not.”
When asked by Variety if she would do the protest all over again with all she knows now about its aftermath, Littlefeather answered, “In a heartbeat.”
She added, “I did not do this totally for Marlon…I did this for all Native people everywhere who suffered from racial prejudice and discrimination.”