Exactly a week ago is when it all started. The Academy announced its Oscar nominees and #OscarsSoWhite has since dominated the conversation. You think Leo is pissed that the year he finally wins his Best Actor there might be an asterisk beside the achievement?
Cheryl Boone Isaacs has already spoken out about her disappointment in the lack of diversity. Yesterday Dawn Hudson, the Academy’s CEO, wrote a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter co-signing her disappointment and promising quick changes. She also noted that the Academy is “almost at a point of crisis”.
Tyrese Gibson and 50 Cent are both calling for Chris Rock to step down from hosting. Others, like Arsenio Hall, insist that this is the perfect time and platform for Chris to be front and centre. And many Academy members are starting to get kinda defensive.
Penelope Ann Miller told The Hollywood Reporter that:
"I voted for a number of black performers, and I was sorry they weren't nominated. But to imply that this is because all of us are racists is extremely offensive. I don't want to be lumped into a category of being a racist because I'm certainly not and because I support and benefit from the talent of black people in this business. It was just an incredibly competitive year."
Several other Academy members shared similar sentiments. Basically the concern is that they don’t all want to be branded racists without acknowledging that prejudice had something to do with it? Ummm… it’s not about you? But making it about you is how we got here in the first place? I mean if the preoccupation here is that they don’t want to be called racist, instead of recognising that there is a problem that must be addressed, immediately, what does that say? You’ll note, in his comments to Variety, George Clooney put it right up on the table – yes, we have to do better – instead of leading with, um, oh hi, I’m George Clooney and I’m not a racist.
As expected, the Academy has been reaching out to presenters in their efforts to make the Oscar show more diverse than its nominees. Quincy Jones has confirmed that he’s been asked to be there that night but that he will only accept if they “let me speak for five minutes on the lack of diversity”. This is new for the Academy. Normally it’s the Academy handing out conditions. Normally the Academy is all-powerful, wielding its influence over Hollywood’s most elite. What happens when this is all over? Will the Academy keep grudges?
What’s interesting too is that this is normally a time for nominees to be out campaigning, positioning themselves in the most favourable light, hoping for every vote they can get. Now though, on every carpet, at every event, they’re going to be asked, and likely first, about #OscarsSoWhite. That’s what happened to Mark Ruffalo in London yesterday at the premiere of Spotlight.
The Sundance Film Festival begins today. And the Oscar question will undoubtedly be asked of as many actors at as many premieres as possible in Park City. There are several movie junkets happening in Hollywood this weekend too. How do the stars avoid it? And do they look like dicks if they tell their publicists to give the word that they want that question off the table?
Click here for a roundup on the Oscar controversy.