Spike Lee Wins His First Competitive Academy Award. Mahershala Ali Becomes First Black Actor To Win Two Best Supporting Actor Academy Awards.

Best Adapted Screenplay Winners
Kevin Wilmott, David Rabinowitz, Spike Lee and Charles Wachtel pose backstage with the Oscar® for adapted screenplay during the live ABC Telecast of The 91st Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre in Hollywood, CA on Sunday, February 24, 2019. Photo credit: Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.

The NYU Tisch School of the Arts (TSOA) has much reason to celebrate as four of its alumni won Oscars when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its winners for the 91st Annual Academy Awards.

Renowned filmmaker Spike Lee (TSOA ’82, HON ’98), artistic director and professor at Tisch’s Graduate Film program, won his first competitive Oscar for Adapted Screenplay for his film BlacKkKlansman. Lee was presented with an Honorary Academy Award by the Academy in 2015 in recognition of “extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.” Lee earned a Student Academy Award in 1983 for his NYU thesis film, Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads.

Kevin Willmott (TSOA) also won his first Oscar for Adapted Screenplay with Professor Lee for his work on BlackKklansman. Willmott is a filmmaker as well as a professor of film and media studies at the University of Kansas.

Grad Acting alumnus Mahershala Ali (TSOA ’00) won his second Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Green Book. With this win, Ali is now the first black actor to win two best supporting Academy Awards and only the second black actor after Denzel Washington to win more than one Oscar in the award show’s 91-year history. In 2017, Ali became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar for his performance in Moonlight.

Tisch Drama alumna Lady Gaga (TSOA) won her first Academy Award for Best Original Song with “Shallow” from A Star Is Born. She made history as the first person ever to be nominated for Best Actress and Best Original Song in the same year.

The Academy Awards took place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday, February 24.

Below is the list of NYU-related Oscar winners. For a full list of NYU-related nominees, view the press release here.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali ’00 (MFA, Acting), Green Book

Music (Original Song)
“Shallow” from A Star Is Born
Lady Gaga (Drama), Songwriter

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)


Spike Lee ’82 (MFA, Kanbar, Film & TV)/’98 (Honorary)
Kevin Willmott (Dramatic Writing)

Press Contact

Cheryl Feliciano
Cheryl Feliciano
(212) 998-6865