Most people expect a text or an email waiting for them when they flip their cellphone off of airplane mode upon landing.
For Ron Stallworth, it was the news that "BlacKkKlansman," the movie inspired by his stranger than fiction life story, was an Oscar nominee.
"We learned while the plane was actually taxiing on the runway," he said.
"BlacKkKlansman" has six Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Score and Best Film Editing. Stallworth was clearly confident in the film's awards show odds.
"I expected to get at least four nominations," he said. "The fact that it’s gotten six is beyond my wife’s and mine imaginations."
His experience as a Colorado Springs Police Department detective, recorded in his book "Black Klansman," was the basis for Spike Lee's 2018 film. For him, it's an unbelievable feeling that his life and his book have "garnered recognition from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences."
Unbelievable is just as fitting a word to describe his life.
In the late 1970s, Stallworth became the Colorado Springs Police Department's first black detective and went on to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. In the process, Stallworth fooled local Klansmen and even Grand Wizard David Duke over the phone while his white partner assumed the role in person.
The two cops prevented several cross burnings and exposed top-security NORAD personnel in the Klan ranks.
"It didn’t change my perception in any way, shape or form [of Colorado Springs]. Colorado Springs is a good community, it was then and it is now," Stallworth said in a 2018 interview with Colorado Matters. "It’s a typical all-American community. And in being a typical all-American community, they had issues of race, probably still have issues of race. So that’s not unusual."
Stallworth said he's texted with director Spike Lee to congratulate him, and called the filmmaker's lack of nominations in the past "one of the missed factors of Hollywood."
Lee had been nominated for an Academy Award only twice before “BlacKkKlansman,” and did not win either time. In 2015, Lee received the Academy Honorary Award. This year's nominations could lead to his first competitive win.
Stallworth didn't want to call the "BlacKkKlansman" Oscar nominations a fairy tale — the ceremonies and parties he's already attended on the awards circuit have worn off the glossy Hollywood veneer already, he said. He's just "thrilled" that his life story is being honored.
"In some respects this is almost like a validation," Stallworth said. "Not that I need to be validated."
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