Cord Jefferson wins adapted screenplay Oscar for ‘American Fiction’

The filmmaker used his speech to make a plea for more "risk-taking" in Hollywood.

Cord Jefferson won an Academy Award on Sunday for his debut film, “American Fiction.” The writer and filmmaker took home the Oscar for best adapted screenplay at the 96th Annual Academy Awards.

96th Annual Academy Awards - Show
Cord Jefferson accepts the award for best adapted screenplay for “American Fiction” during the 96th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) Credit: Photo byKevin Winter / Getty Images

As theGrio previously reported, Jefferson’s “American Fiction” is based on a Percival Everett novel, “Erasure.”  Starring Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown, and more, the film follows novelist  Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Wright) who wrestles with the publishing industry and media at large as they seek work from him that is “Black” enough. The satirical drama has earned multiple honors throughout awards season, with Jefferson winning for best screenplay at the Film Independent Spirit Awards and the British Academy Film Awards, BAFTA.

“My god, thank you so much,” a stunned Jefferson said in his speech, before thanking the academy and all who worked on the film. He then made an impassioned plea for studios to take more risks on new talent.

“I’ve been talking a lot about how many people passed on this movie … I worry that sometimes that sounds vindictive,” he continued. Quipping that it is not, as he has worked “very hard” to not be vindictive anymore, he described it as “a plea to acknowledge and recognize that there are so many people out there who want the opportunity” that he was given.


He went on to say he understands that the film industry is “risk-averse,” but that “$200 million” movies are also a risk. “Instead of making one $200 million movie, try making 20 $10 million movies.” He added that the next Martin Scorcese, Greta Gerwig, Christopher Nolan and more are “out there.”

He again thanked everyone who worked on the movie for “trusting a 40-year-old Black guy who never directed anything before.” He concluded, “It has changed my life.”

Jefferson, who has an Emmy for his work on the acclaimed HBO series “Watchmen,” made his film debut with “American Fiction” after working for years in television, and before that as a journalist. As theGrio previously reported, Jefferson also worked on shows like “Succession” and “Master of None.”

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