Tom Hiddleston Being Called Out His “White Savior Speech” And 8 Other Times Celebs Faced Backlash For Their Acceptance Speeches

The Sam Smith one…I’m cringing.

Contrary to popular belief, celeb acceptance speeches aren’t always a home run — occasionally, they can totally miss the mark, draw backlash, spark debate, and make headlines.

Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images

Here are 9 times celebs’ acceptance speeches were insensitive, controversial, or both:


Jane Campion recently won Best Director at the 2022 Critics Choice Awards and said, “Venus and Serena, you are such marvels. However, you don’t play against the guys like I have to.”


People called out out Jane for “peak white feminism.” They said her speech came across as arrogant and like she was trying to say she was more oppressed than the Williams sisters, who face racism and misogyny. She later apologized, saying, “I made a thoughtless comment equating what I do in the film world with all that Serena Williams and Venus Williams have achieved.


Sam Smith said they were the first gay man to win an Oscar when they won for Best Original Song for “Writing’s On the Wall” in 2016:

Oscars / Via

Obviously, Sam’s statement is inaccurate. Several gay men, like Elton John and Tim Rice, have won Oscars. Sam later apologized on Ellen, saying they had too much to drink.

Note: Sam Smith now identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.


Patricia Arquette used her 2015 Oscar speech to call for equal pay, but missed the mark. “It is time for us,” she said. “It is time for women. It’s time for all the women in America, and the men who love women and all the gay people and people of color we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”


It lacked any semblance of intersectionality. Like, Black women exist. Gay women exist. The pay gap is also significantly worse for Black women, so excluding them from the narrative and message was problematic. 


In 2013, Jared Leto sparked backlash for his Dallas Buyers Club Screen Actor’s Guilds speech, where he won for playing Rayon, a trans woman living with HIV. “I did not ever use any prosthetics in this film. That tiny little Brazilian bubble butt was all mine. It was a very transformative role. I had to do a lot of things to prepare. One of the things I did was wax my entire body, including my eyebrows. I’m just thankful that it wasn’t a period piece, so I didn’t have to do full Brazilian. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about, and so do some of you men, I think.”


Salon critic Daniel D’Addario said it best, writing, “It’s sort of a weird punch line for a person whose entire role was about body discomfort and the painful modifications one must make to feel OK with oneself. Leto got money and at least one award for playing his part in Dallas Buyers Club; it’s strange that he didn’t take into account the notion that his struggle was not, in fact, the most important one involved in his role.”


James Franco won Best Actor, Musical or Comedy at the 2018 Golden Globes for his portrayal of Tommy Wiseau, and then pushed Tommy off and did not let him speak during his acceptance speech:

NBC / Via

The movie The Disaster Artist is about Tommy and his life — probably should’ve let him speak.


Adele sparked controversy at the BRITs this year when she said, “I really love being a woman and being a female artist.”

BRITs / Via

In 2021, the BRITs announced that it will have gender-neutral categories. Some people viewed Adele’s emphasis on gender in her Artist of the Year speech as anti-trans.


Fiona Apple‘s 1997 VMAs acceptance speech was controversial at the time when she didn’t thank anyone and went on a rant.


It probably wouldn’t have been a big deal today, but in 1997, this was a rebellious speech that critiqued a culture that emphasized the idolization of celebrities. 


Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones threw a drink at Brandon Block, a DJ who drunkenly kept interrupting his Brit Awards speech in 2000:


Tom Hiddleston won Best Actor in a Limited Series for The Night Manager in 2017 and gave a speech that many viewed as peak white savior complex. In his speech he said, “I recently went to South Sudan, which is the youngest country in the world, in East Africa. With the United Nations Children’s Fund. I do a little bit of work with them to spread the word as fast as I can. It’s a terrible situation for children there. The Night Manager is about arms dealing, and there are far too many arms coming into South Sudan.” He said the workers there would “binge” his show.

.@twhiddleston wins Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made For Television! Congrats! #GoldenGlobes

02:50 AM – 09 Jan 2017


In his speech, Tom also said, “The idea that I could, or that we could, provide some relief and entertainment for people who work for Unicef and Médecins Sans Frontières and the World Food Programme, who are fixing the world in the places where it was broken, made me immensely proud.” People thought it was rather self-involved and arrogant.

Did I miss any? Let me know which celeb acceptance speeches missed the mark in the comments below!