American University Professor Russell Williams II is planning a trip to the Oscars to highlight a significant achievement. Twenty years ago he became America's first black to win two Academy Awards.
"I won my second Academy Award in 1991 and it was for sound on the film 'Dances with Wolves' and I had been fortunate enough to win the year prior for the sound on 'Glory,' so that's what put me in the history books," he explained. "So far in the African-American multiple Oscar club there are only three, but we're looking for more members, so put your projects together and hopefully get nominated."
Williams' pathway to Hollywood history came through the District. He grew up in D.C. and attended American University. He worked for nearby NBC through "this minor hiccup in history called the Watergate hearings" and also did a stint at Channel 7 before pivoting his career toward film.
"I just thought film was something that you paid for your ticket and got your popcorn, I didn't really think of it as a career path until college," said the AU alum who is now a distinguished artist in residence at the university's School of Communication. His film credits also include "Field of Dreams," "Boomerang," and "Waiting to Exhale" among many others. And he's won two Emmys.
This is Williams' first trip back to the Oscars since the '90s and he's anticipating it will be far less stressful. "This time I think it will be more fun because my wife and I can walk the red carpet and I don't have to worry about my name being called at all, unless I get in trouble," he said, laughing.