Sam Smith’s erroneous claim during his Oscars acceptance speech wasn’t his only unfortunate remark about gay Academy Award winners last night (Feb. 28). In addition to misinterpreting an Ian McKellen quotation and drawing the ire of Dustin Lance Black, Smith later made a joking remark about another gay Oscar winner who, unfortunately and unbeknownst to Smith, passed away many years ago.
During his acceptance speech for best original song, Smith said he was proud to be the first openly gay Oscar winner. Smith acknowledged he wasn’t 100 percent sure if that fact was true during his speech, but explained he had read an interview where Sir Ian McKellen made that claim.
Ian McKellen tweeted clarification this morning (Feb. 29): “I’d said no openly gay actor had received #Oscars – that doesn’t detract from @samsmithworld achievement. Congratulations to him & all others!”
— Ian McKellen (@IanMcKellen) February 29, 2016
Later on, Smith was corrected on his statement by reporters. At a Vanity Fair party post-Oscars, Smith said, “I think I’m the second openly gay person to win it but either way it’s important that we shine light on what’s going on.”
Smith is just one of a few on the short list of openly gay individuals to win an Oscar, which includes Stephen Sondheim, Elton John, Melissa Etheridge, Howard Ashman, Dustin Lance Black, and Pedro Almdóvar, among others.
According to Entertainment Tonight, a reporter informed Smith that Ashman had previously won best original song as well, to which Smith responded, “I should know him. We should date.” Unbeknownst to Smith, Ashman passed away in 1991 due to complications from AIDS.
After waking up late on Monday (Feb. 29), Smith apologized to anyone offended by his accidental gaffe on Twitter. “My point was to shine some light on the LGBT community who I love so dearly,” he said.