Nate Parker apologized Sunday at the Venice Film Festival for his past comments on a resurfaced rape allegation.
“The last three years have been such a learning experience for me,” the writer-director said during a news conference, according to Variety. “I feel like I have gained so much wisdom from people in my circle.”
After three years out of the spotlight and the disappointing reception of his 2016 film The Birth of a Nation, Parker is eyeing a comeback. He traveled to Venice to promote his latest film, police-brutality drama American Skin.
“Three years ago I was pretty tone deaf to the realities of certain situations that were happening in the climate. And I’ve had a lot of time to think about that, and I’ve learned a lot from it,” he added. “Being tone deaf, there were a lot of people that were hurt in my response, in the way I approached things. I apologize to those people.”
Parker said he’s grown from the experience.
“I’m continuing to learn,” he said. “I’m 39 years old now. Hopefully, I have a long way to go. The hope is that I can continue taking the wisdom from people who care enough… and help me to be introspective about where I am and what I’ve been through.”
NATE PARKER APOLOGIZES: @NateParker says he’s sorry for the way he handled a rape allegation from his college days and – with #SpikeLee’s support – he’s back with #AmericanSkin, a film about police brutality. pic.twitter.com/xBykZMunmz
— AP Entertainment (@APEntertainment) September 2, 2019
Spike Lee joined Parker in Venice to show support for the director and his film.
Parker rose to prominence with roles in the films Red Tails, The Great Debaters and Arbitrage. Then he segued into directing with The Birth of a Nation.
The slave revolt drama earned rave reviews at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, and sold to Fox Searchlight for a record $17.5 million. But the film’s box office prospects and awards momentum faded after a decades-old rape allegation against Parker began to make headlines.
In 1999, Parker and his Birth of a Nation co-writer, Jean Celestin, were accused of raping a fellow Penn State student. Parker was acquitted. Celestin was convicted and given jail time, but the conviction was later overturned on appeal.
In 2016 while doing press for Birth of a Nation, Parker was accused of making insensitive remarks about the case and the alleged victim, who committed suicide. He addressed the controversy in national TV interviews, but was criticized for refusing to apologize.
“I was falsely accused, I was proven innocent and I’m not going to apologize for that,” he told Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts.
There were also whispers around Hollywood that Parker had gone rogue and ignored advice on how best to handle what had become a public relations disaster, particularly after questions were raised about a rape scene in Birth of a Nation.
The film made just $16 million at the box office, and received no major awards after Sundance.