Academy chiefs weigh in on Oscar changes: ‘We could not be silent’
In the wake of this year’s Oscar nominations, which failed to nominate a single actor of color for the second consecutive year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently announced massive overhauls to its membership and voting practices. “We could not be silent,” Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs told the Hollywood Reporter, during a wide-ranging interview explaining exactly how the organization came to its decision. “And we had no reason to be silent. It isn’t a smart thing just to sit back and just sort of let the conversation get out of hand when it’s about you. At some point, you need to speak up.”
AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson added that she wanted to address critics who said the Academy was only pursuing these changes in the name of political correctness, saying that accusation “makes me a little crazy.”
“[The Academy] is not trying to be politically correct, never has been,” Hudson said. “We are the best of the best in the film industry. We don’t feel that we have looked far and wide enough for the best of the best. It’s not about political correctness, it’s about building the best team, the best institution, the best artists. Because unless you have the best artists as members, unless you have the best artists voting on the Academy Awards, you don’t have a real reflection of the best of our film culture.”
Hudson and Boone Isaacs elaborated on the current state of diversity within the Academy. Because the Academy hadn’t publicly provided detailed membership numbers in the past, the most widely-reported number came from a 2012 Los Angeles Times investigation, which found that only 6 percent of Oscar voters were people of color, and only 23 percent were women. But according to Hudson, that number is now up to 7 percent people of color and 24 percent women, and the Academy hopes to double that before 2020.
Under the new Academy rules, members will no longer receive automatic lifetime voting rights. Instead, they’ll be able to vote for 10 years, and they can renew their membership for another 10 years if they’ve worked in motion pictures during that time. Members will receive lifetime voting rights after three 10-year terms, or if they’ve been nominated for an Oscar.
Many were surprised by how quickly the Academy unveiled its new practices; the initial announcement was made on Jan. 22, about a week after this year’s Oscar nominations. Boone Isaacs emphasized that these changes have actually been in the works for a while — in November, she unveiled the Academy’s A2020 initiative at the Governors Awards, a five-year plan to aggressively increase diversity. According to Boone Isaacs and Hudson, these changes were already being discussed as part of the A2020 initiative, and they chose to accelerate the announcement after the outrage over this year’s nominees.
Boone Isaacs also shut down rumors that Chris Rock had considered quitting as host, adding that audiences should expect him to crack plenty of jokes about #OscarsSoWhite.
“Well, we’ve always known he was gonna go there, right?” Boone Isaacs said. “This is Chris. We know who he is. He is a brilliant, brilliant, observant comedian and performer, and he is a brilliant host. And yes, we want him to, obviously, because way before this, our selection of Chris was to bring some edge and some fun and some funny — intelligent funny — to the telecast. So we know he’s going to do that.”
Read the full interview at The Hollywood Reporter.