Nigerian-British Hollywood star, David Oyelowo, has told Sky News’ Entertainment Week that change is needed at the top of Hollywood if more diverse films are to be made.
The actor plays Martin Luther King Jr in the film about the 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery which eventually let to a change in the US voting law.
Oyelowo first read for the part in 2007 but it took seven years before the movie was made.
The actor credits the success of recent films covering American black history with “black protagonists in the centre of their own narrative” with allowing cameras to roll on this story.
Oyelowo told Sky’s Entertainment Week: “It wasn’t until films like The Butler and 12 Years A Slave came along and did well critically and at the box office that we are seeing a little bit of a sea change.”
Despite black history beginning to get its own voice in Hollywood, Oyelowo says fundamental change is needed at the top of Hollywood.
“The truth of the matter is we all want to see ourselves in movies and if the people who have green light power are all a certain section of society that’s what you see on screen – it’s a reflection of the people who have the power to say yes. I just think that we need to diversify that.”
With racial tension escalating in the US in recent months, Oyelowo said the film feels very poignant.
“It’s a shame that Selma feels not like an historical drama, it almost feels like it’s ripped from the headlines,” he said.
“We wrapped on 3 July, Michael Brown was murdered on the 9 August, the Eric Garner has happened more recently and we have seen the protests too.
“A lot of things have happened since shooting the film that have made it feel more relevant but we set out to make a film that feels relevant anyway.
“My hope is that the film is evidence of an inspiration to bring about change now.”
Despite getting critical acclaim, there was surprise that Selma only picked up two Oscars nominations for this year’s awards with Oyelowo and Selma’s black, female director Ava DuVernay overlooked but Oyelowo says playing the part of Mr King is the role of a lifetime.
He said: “It’s very rare that you are in a moment in your career where you absolutely know this is going to be one of the highlights – no matter what comes beyond this moment, I think, for me, this is definitely the case with this role.”
Selma, which also stars Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B Johnson and Oprah Winfrey, is released on 6 February.