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Oprah Discusses Sidney Poitier Documentary And Her Own Biopic That’s In The Works

The famed talk show host teamed up with producer Reginald Hudlin for the AppleTV+ documentary Sidney which documents Sidney Poitier’s life.

Sidney Poitier is a household name that will live on for years. The actor-director is a Hollywood icon that has opened doors for many Black actors in the entertainment industry. He was the first Black actor to win an Academy Award in 1964 for his role in the film Lilies of the Field and received an honorary award in 2001.

Some of his memorable roles include In the Heat of the Night to Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and he has starred in more than 40 films in his career. The famed actor received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 from former President Barack Obama.

All of the achievements will be celebrated in the new AppleTV+ documentary Sidney featuring interviews from Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Robert Redford, Lenny Kravitz, Barbra Streisand, Spike Lee, and many more, honoring the legacy of the icon.

BET.com spoke with Oprah Winfrey and Reginald Hudlin, who served as the documentary producers, about their relationship with Poitier and the challenges of inputting his entire life into a two-hour documentary. Winfrey also shared if audiences would see a biopic about her life in the future.

BET.com: Oprah, you sat down with Sidney Poitier a few years back and asked him what five decades in Hollywood taught him. I want to ask you, what's one thing your friendship with Sidney taught you?

Winfrey: Oh, that's a good one — I haven't had that today [laughs]. One of the things [Sidney Poitier] taught me was never to kill spiders [laughs]. Poitier is a dynamic, bold man but will not kill a bug. I was in his house once and watched him get a tissue and scoop up a spider without killing him — he spent 15 minutes trying to do so. I've observed how he treated every server, valet, and cook — he acknowledges all people as equal people to him. I learned from watching him, Maya Angelou, and Quincy Jones what it means to be a real star. The bigger the star, the more humble you are with everyone else. Poitier is the biggest star in the world — I've seen nothing but humility in his personal and professional life. I've learned to ground myself with everything around me because he was my counsel, friend, and advisor. He was a steady force of humility and integrity.

BET.com: Reginald, you have co-produced the Academy Awards to blockbuster films. What was your biggest challenge in telling Sidney's story through your lens and still capturing the essential nuggets to make a well-rounded piece?

Hudlin: The most challenging part is [Sidney] was a man with an incredibly consequential life. He's made so many vital movies and has been such an incredible political activist; he has a fantastic family life. How do you fit all this into two hours? You don't; you have to make complex, hard choices. That is what captures the essence of the man, and that's why we focused on the stories that give you the picture of this guy who had no role models and no precedent but had just enough from his family to go from his humble beginnings to outer space. Given that he wasn't even supposed to live, who can stop you once you cheat death?

BET.com: Oprah, you have helped many stars tell their stories on your platform. Will we ever get a chance to see the Oprah story come to life in the future as a biopic of some sort?

Winfrey: Yes, some people are working on this right now. But again, it's hard to tell a story because I've spoken to over 35,000 people over the years, and the essence of that show has been the greatest love of my life. For the 25 years the show was on-air, I never missed one day — through sickness and health because I knew audiences from all over the country who don't want to hear you're sick. The show allowed me to see the best within themselves while often seeing the worst of other people. I believe what we were able to do with this Sidney documentary is allow them to see the best of what it means to be a real man and what the measure of a man is. To this day, Poitier's daughters still see him as a dad because he had great stories to tell them and gathered them as a family unit. Reginald and I wanted audiences to see their hope and possibility through the light of Sidney Poitier's magnificent life.

You can learn and relive the life of Sidney Poitier in the documentary Sidney which will be in select theaters and globally on Apple TV+ on September 23, 2022.


*This interview has been edited for length and clarity

Ty Cole is a New York-based entertainment reporter and writer for BET.com who covers pop culture, music, and lifestyle. Follow his latest musings on Twitter @IamTyCole.

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