Academy Promises 'Historic' Changes to Diversify Membership

Danny DeVito, Don Cheadle, Ice Cube and more comment on Oscars boycott

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The Academy unanimously voted to make "historic" changes in its membership in the face of an industry-wide boycott over the Oscars' lack of diversity Mark Ralston/AFP

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences unanimously voted to make "historic" changes to its membership in the face of an industry-wide boycott of the Oscars over the lack of diversity among nominees. As part of the plan, the Academy promises to double its number of women and minority members by 2020. 

"The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up," Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs in a statement. "These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition." A 2012 Los Angeles Times poll found that 94 percent of Oscar voters were white and 77 percent were men, USA Today reports.

Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and Reverend Al Sharpton are among those who called for a boycott of the 2016 Oscars after - for the second straight year- all 20 nominees in the acting categories were white, snubbing awards-caliber performances by Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation), Michael B. Jordan (Creed) and Smith (Concussion). "If we're not part of the solution, we're part of the problem," Smith said of the boycott.

In an interview at the Sundance Film Festival, actor Danny DeVito said that what's happening at the Oscars is representative of the country as a whole. "The entire country is a racist country, so this is one example of the fact that even though some people had given great performances in movies, they weren't even thought about," DeVito said. "We are living in a country that discriminates and has certain racist tendencies, so sometimes it manifests into things like this and it's illuminated. But just generally speaking, we're a bunch of racists."

Actor Don Cheadle added of the boycott, "This is dealing with the symptom, not starting at the root cause of how we even get to results like this, which has to do with inclusion and access and the ability for people of color, women, minorities to get an entry level position where you can become someone who can green-light a movie."

Ice Cube, who served as producer on Straight Outta Compton - which was shut out in the major Oscar categories, though it did score a Best Original Screenplay nod - also commented on the boycott. "You can't boycott something that you never went to anyway," the rapper told the Graham Norton Show Friday. "I think an older generation got an understanding of why we do that kind of music, and the younger generation got a history lesson, and we got so much praise for the movie, it's like how could you be mad because one other academy or guild or somebody didn't say it's the number one? It's crying about not having enough icing on the cake. It's just ridiculous."

Meanwhile, Best Actress nominee Charlotte Rampling, who was criticized Friday after commenting that the Oscars boycott was "racist to whites," stepped back from those remarks in an interview with CBS This Morning Saturday. The 45 Hours actress said her comments to a French radio station "could have been misinterpreted," adding that "I simply meant to say that in an ideal world every performance will be given equal opportunities for consideration."

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