Celine Song's wistful romance Past Lives earned top honors at the Gotham Awards on Monday evening at an award-season kickoff where the night's biggest drama came in a political speech by Robert De Niro that the actor claimed had been edited without his permission, the AP reports. Past Lives, a breakout at the Sundance Film Festival in January and an arthouse hit in June for A24, may be poised to be an Oscar sleeper this year after winning best feature film at the Gothams. But the ceremony went off-script when De Niro, co-star in Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon, took the podium to present a tribute award to that film. While giving his remarks, De Niro noticed a section had been omitted on the teleprompter. After attempting to scroll back through, he completed his speech before returning to read from his phone.
"The beginning of my speech was edited, cut out," De Niro said. "I didn't know about it." De Niro, known for his fiery rhetoric against former President Trump, then expanded on what he called America's "post-truth society" and chided Hollywood—specifically John Wayne—for earlier depictions of Native Americans. "The former president lied to us more than 30,000 times during his four years in office, and he's keeping up the pace with his current campaign of retribution," De Niro said. "With all of his lies, he can't hide his soul. He attacks the weak, destroys the gifts of nature and shows his disrespect for example using Pocahontas as a slur."
De Niro seemed to blame Apple, which produced Killers of the Flower Moon, for the changes to his speech. "So I'm going to say these things—to Apple and thank them, all that. Gothams. Blah blah blah. Apple. But I don't really feel like thanking them at all for what they did," said De Niro. "How dare they do that, actually." Apple didn't immediately respond to requests for comment late Monday evening. The Gotham Awards, put on by the Gotham Film & Media Institute and now in their 33rd year, leapfrog most of the major ceremonies that lead up to the Academy Awards. But over time, they've established themselves as the first big party of the season, and an early hint at some of the favorites. (More from the ceremony, and the rest of the big winners, here.)