The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has invited 928 new members to join its ranks, with 49 percent of the invites going to female actors and filmmakers and 38 percent representing people of color as the organization ramps up its efforts to diversify its membership.
Mindy Kaling, Christine Baranski, Dave Chappelle, Taye Diggs, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Audra McDonald are among the industry veterans receiving their invite for the first time. Meanwhile, Timothée Chalamet, Tiffany Haddish, Daniela Vega, Emilia Clarke, Daisy Ridley, Hannibal Buress, Kumail Nanjiani, Daniel Kaluuya, Zoey Deutch, and Amandla Stenberg are among the rising stars coming on board to the actors branch.
The invitees include 17 Oscar winners and 92 Oscar nominees, such as Call Me By Your Name star Chalamet, Get Out breakout Kaluuya, Little Miss Sunshine actress Abigail Breslin, and Quvenzhane Wallis, who became the youngest Best Actress nominee in 2013 for Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino, Dear White People filmmaker Justin Simien, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women writer-director Angela Robinson, and Chinese-American filmmaker Chloe Zhao, who most recently directed The Rider, lead the filmmakers invited to the directors branch. After winning Grammy awards and a Pulitzer Prize this year for DAMN., Kendrick Lamar landed an invite to the Academy’s music branch for his work on the chart-topping Black Panther soundtrack. Other newcomers to the music division include Melissa Etheridge (who won an Oscar in 2007 original song “I Need To Wake Up” from An Inconvenient Truth), Sufjan Stevens (nominated this year for original song “Mystery of Love” from Call Me By Your Name) and The Roots’ drummer Questlove.
The 928 invited members reflect “the Academy’s overall commitment to not only diversifying the Academy for diversity’s sake but for the Academy to reflect the entertainment community at large,” DeVon Franklin, diversity chairman of the executives branch, told EW. “So much of what we’re trying to do is make sure those that may not historically have gotten consideration are now getting the consideration,” he added.
Invitees to the executives brand includes Lisa Nishimura, Netflix’s vice president of original documentary and comedy programming; Palak Patel, executive vice president at Sony Pictures; and Walter Hamada, president of Warner Bros’ DC movies.
The new members would push the Academy’s overall female membership to 31 percent from 28 percent last year, while people of color will make up 16 percent, up from 13 percent last year. While those figures are an improvement over 2017, there’s still a long way to go to achieve parity within the ranks but Franklin said the burden of change rests on the film industry.
“The Academy is only a microcosm of the industry at large,” Franklin said. “We have to work on getting the executive ranks and those behind the camera to begin to reflect the world at large. So when the Academy comes to identify those that are qualified for membership, the pool from which we can actually consider is more diverse and further-reaching.”
The invited members span 59 countries, including South Korean actor Ha Jung-woo (The Handmaiden), Singaporean star Chin Han (The Dark Knight), Nigeria actress Wunmi Mosaku (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Mexican actors Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Sicario: Day of the Soldado) and Eugenio Derbez (Overboard), Spanish actress Marta Etura (The Impossible), and Argentinian actor Ricardo Darín (Wild Tales). Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan, Anil Kapoor, and Madhuri Dixit also made the list, after decades of making movies.
“Every year, it dawns on all of us that the movie business every year increasingly becomes less a domestic United States/North American business, it’s a business for the world, so I’m really excited that the Academy and what you’re seeing in terms of membership is beginning to represent and reflect how global what we do really is,” Franklin said.
The Academy announced its diversity initiative in 2016 to double membership of women and minorities by 2020 after it was heavily criticized for only nominating white actors for two consecutive years, sparking the #OscarsSoWhite movement. The organization stripped some of its older, non-active members of their voting privileges to make room for newcomers and to shake up its predominantly white, male members.
This year’s record 928 new members tops last year’s 774 invitees, pushing the Academy’s overall membership to more than 9,000 people in the film industry.
How the new membership will impact the upcoming Oscars race remains to be seen, Franklin said, but he added that one early standout this year is Marvel’s superhero blockbuster Black Panther. While superhero films rarely get recognized by the Academy in categories outside of the technical and visual effects races, Black Panther may defy the norm.
“There’s a specific sense within the Academy of the need to embrace movie-going and movie culture today and part of that embrace is to look at the superhero genre in maybe a different way than it has historically been perceived,” he said. “When you look at Black Panther, one of the reasons why it’s so powerful and why it deserves utmost consideration is because it takes a familiar genre but it infuses it with specificity, authenticity, originality, and what happens? The world says ‘This is what we need more of, this is what we want,’ and I do think the Academy listens and will hear that.”