David Oyelowo and George Clooney have added their voices to the growing outcry over the lack of diversity in Hollywood after only white actors and actresses received nominations for performance Oscars this year.
“For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors of color, actresses of color, to be missed last year is one thing — for that to happen again this year is unforgivable,” Oyelowo said at a Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award Gala in Los Angeles Monday, while presenting an award to Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Oyelowo was shut out last year for his portrayal of King in Selma, and recalled a “deep and meaningful” conversation with Isaacs, who is also black, about the snub afterwards. Still, the actor remained adamant that Hollywood needed to solve this problem, saying he felt the Academy “doesn’t reflect its president… it doesn’t reflect me, and it doesn’t reflect this nation.”
He added: “The reason why the Oscars are so important is because it is the zenith, it is the epitome, it is the height of celebration of artistic endeavor within the filmmaking community. We grow up aspiring, dreaming, longing to be accepted into that august establishment because it is the height of excellence. I would like to walk away and say it doesn’t matter, but it does, because that acknowledgement changes the trajectory of your life, your career, and the culture of the world we live in.”
Clooney echoed Oyelowo’s statements in an interview with Variety. “I think that African Americans have a real fair point that the industry isn’t representing them well enough,” he said. “I think that’s absolutely true… all of a sudden, you feel like we’re moving in the wrong direction.”
Clooney pointed out that 10 years ago, black actors enjoyed a flurry of regular nominations and wins: Jamie Foxx and Morgan Freeman won Best Actor and Supporting Actor, respectively, in 2005, and over the next five years Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson and Mo’Nique all took home trophies. But like the gender pay gap Patricia Arquette and Jennifer Lawrence recently spoke out against, Clooney said Hollywood’s problems with diversity should have been dealt with long ago.
While Clooney agreed that films like Creed, Beasts of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton were all deserving of nominations this year, the real problem, he said, was the continued lack of opportunities for people of color in the film industry.
“There should be 20 or 30 or 40 films of the quality that people would consider for the Oscars,” Clooney said. “By the way, we’re talking about African Americans. For Hispanics, it’s even worse. We need to get better at this. We used to be better at it.”