The absence of nominated actors of color — for the second year in a row — has sparked proposed boycotts of this year’s Oscars, promises of change from the Academy, and the return of the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Joel and Ethan Coen, Oscar darlings nominated again this year for their Bridge of Spies original screenplay, however, believe that while the diversity issue is important, the Oscars are not.
“[That’s] assigning way too much importance to the awards,” Joel told The Daily Beast about the diversity controversy. “By making such a big deal, you’re assuming that these things really matter. I don’t think they even matter much from an economic point of view. So yes, it’s true — and it’s also true that it’s escalating the whole subject to a level it doesn’t actually deserve.”
“Diversity’s important,” Ethan added. “The Oscars are not that important.”
The Coens, who have earned four Oscars and 10 nominations together, are about to release their latest film: Hail, Caesar!, which follows Josh Brolin as a 1950s Hollywood mogul, tasked with solving movie set crises like dealing with a pregnant starlet (Scarlett Johansson), a pretty but stupid actor (Alden Ehrenreich), and a missing leading man (George Clooney).
It’s also an almost entirely white cast, and when The Daily Beast asked the Coens whether it’s important for filmmakers to actively factor in diversity when telling a story, Ethan said, “Not in the least! It’s important to tell the story you’re telling in the right way, which might involve black people or people of whatever heritage or ethnicity — or it might not.”
“It’s an absolute, absurd misunderstanding of how things get made to single out any particular story and say, ‘Why aren’t there this, that, or the other thing?” Joel added. “It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how stories are written. So you have to start there and say, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about.’”
“You don’t sit down and write a story and say, ‘I’m going to write a story that involves four black people, three Jews, and a dog’ — right?” Joel continued. “That’s not how stories get written. If you don’t understand that, you don’t understand anything about how stories get written and you don’t realize that the question you’re asking is idiotic. It’s not an illegitimate thing to say there should be more diversity in an industry. But that’s not what that question is about. That question is about something else.”
Read the full interview at The Daily Beast.