Joaquin Phoenix
Actor Joaquin Phoenix attends the 85th Academy Awards nominees luncheon in Beverly HillsReuters

Joaquin Phoenix delivered a hard-hitting speech while accepting the lead actor award at British Academy Film Awards and condemned 'systemic racism' prevalent in the film industry.

Phoenix won BAFTA lead actor award for his role in the critically acclaimed movie 'Joker', CNN reported. The event took place at Royal Albert Hall with an audience in huge numbers which included members of the British Royal Family like Prince William.

Prince William and Kate Middleton
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge arrive to attend the EE British Academy Film Awards at Royal Albert Hall.Getty images

As he accepted the award, in which all five nominees were white, Phoenix said he felt honoured.

Joker trailer screenshot
Joker trailer/ Warner Bros. Youtube

"But I also feel conflicted," he said. "So many of my fellow actors that are deserving don't have that same privilege.

"I think we are sending a very clear message to people of color that you're not welcome here. That's the message we are sending to people who have contributed so much to our medium and our industry in ways that we have benefitted from.

"I don't think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment, although that's what we give ourselves every year."

"I think people just want to be acknowledged, appreciated and respected for their work," said Phoenix.

The 'Joker' actor was brave enough to say that he was ashamed to be part of the problem.

The actor has since been praised for calling out the awards and the industry as a whole for its lack of diversity.

Later in the event, Prince William, the British Academy's president, also spoke about diversity, Al Jazeera reported.

"We are lucky to have incredible filmmakers, actors, producers, directors and technicians - men and women from all backgrounds and ethnicities enriching our lives through film," he said as per a report by Al Jazeera.

"Yet in 2020, and not for the first time in the last few years, we find ourselves talking again about the need to do more to ensure diversity in the sector and in the awards process - that simply cannot be right in this day and age," William concluded.