THE WIZ (1978)
Lumet's adaptation of the hit Broadway musical remains one of the strangest films on his résumé. Starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, The Wiz was both a critical and commercial bomb. Nevertheless, it was nominated for four Oscars.
''It was a disaster. I had this idea that a great fantasy could be made out of New York that I could make Oz out of reality. We could have the lion statue in front of the New York Public Library come to life and turn into the Cowardly Lion and things like that. But that didn't happen because I didn't know enough technically. Generally I'm pretty good about failure. I don't go hog wild when things are going marvelously and I don't go into despair when they're not. That's why I haven't read a review of one of my films since The Sea Gull in 1968. All the reviews were bad and I thought I had done some of my best work on that movie. So I just figured, What's the point?''
NEXT: Sidney Lumet on Prince of the City
In 2008, we asked the director to look back at about 25 years' worth of his Oscar contenders, from ''12 Angry Men'' to ''Serpico'' to ''The Verdict''; we bring the piece back in tribute after word of his death today at age 86