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'He was ahead of everybody': Lee Grant reflects on legacy of Sidney Poitier

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Washington | January 9, 2022 2:50:45 PM IST
Actor and Oscar-winning filmmaker Lee Grant, who directed a documentary about the late legendary actor Sidney Poitier, recently reflected on the legacy he created for the future generation to follow.

The Hollywood Reporter recently obtained excerpts from an interview of Grant where she shared how her 'In the Heat of the Night' co-star was "ahead of everybody."

"Sidney was ahead of everybody. He broke the mould as an actor and as a Black actor," said Grant who also directed an 'American Masters' documentary on Poitier in 2000.

"Since he was from the islands, he had no sense of his not being equal. He had an urgency, a life urgency -- going from the islands to Florida, where they told him to go to the back of the house -- to fly. And so all the rules that said that Black actors play porters and have to be funny, he just had no sense of that," Grant recalled about the cinematic trailblazer, who died on Thursday at the age of 94.

"He flew past all of those things that said: You can't play leads, you can't be romantic, you can't be wanted by white women. You can't be this. You can't be that. Because they weren't real to him. So since it wasn't real to him, all the rules were broken. But he didn't know that they were rules to be broken," she added.

Gant said that Poitier had a unique sense of power and humour within himself. She noted that the legendary actor was grounded in his own freedom because he came over to the US States when he was a kid.

"He was himself. He was urgent and he was brilliant and he was gorgeous. We shall not see his like again," Grant said.

Taking a walk down memory lane about 'In the Heat of the Night' film-- that was her first movie coming back from the blacklist and broke all the rules of colour, Grant said, "I felt I was part of something important."

"Norman Jewison continued to make important films, and I think that was one of the most important. It was a seminal experience. Sidney and I improvised that scene that we had. It was one of those great experiences working with a guy who had that kind of empathy. His energy and his empathy and his concentration just filled the room. He could be intense in the scene, and then when it was over ... everything was delicious," Grant recalled.

She said that it was Poitier who changed the whole way that film sees Black actors and was the one because he didn't know it.

Poitier died on Thursday night at the age of 94. Among his many achievements was becoming the first Black man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, when he was recognised for 'Lilies of the Field' on April 13, 1964.

Poitier was an inspiration to many. The Bahamian actor has played several pivotal roles in some of the most iconic Hollywood movies. His notable works include 'The Defiant Ones', 'Porgy and Bess', 'A Raisin in the Sun', 'Paris Blues', and more. (ANI)

 
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