George Clooney has joined critics of this year’s Academy Awards, writing in an essay that with its lack of diversity among acting nominees, the Oscars are “moving in the wrong direction.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has faced a barrage of criticism from several of Hollywood’s most prolific black entertainers, including Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Oyelowo and Snoop Dogg, after the organization nominated exclusively white actors in Oscar acting categories for a second consecutive year.
Lee, Pinkett Smith, Snoop Dogg, and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore have all vowed to boycott this year’s ceremony. On Tuesday, the Rev. Al Sharpton called on all Americans to “tune out” of the February 28 Oscar broadcast in protest.
Clooney became the latest celebrity to weigh in on the controversy on Tuesday, with a short essay published in industry trade Variety.
“If you think back 10 years ago, the Academy was doing a better job,” the two-time Academy Award-winner writes. “Think about how many more African Americans were nominated. I would also make the argument, I don’t think it’s a problem of who you’re picking as much as it is: How many options are available to minorities in film, particularly in quality films?”
I think we have a lot of points we need to come to terms with. I find it amazing that we’re an industry that in the 1930s, most of our leads were women. And now a woman over 40 has a very difficult time being a lead in a movie. We’re seeing some movement. Jennifer Lawrence and Patricia Arquette have made the loud pronouncement about wage disparity, have put a stamp on the idea that we got to pay attention. But we should have been paying attention long before this. I think that African Americans have a real fair point that the industry isn’t representing them well enough. I think that’s absolutely true.
Clooney added that with nominations and wins for African-American actors like Don Cheadle (nominated for 2004’s Hotel Rwanda) and Morgan Freeman (won for 2005’s Million Dollar Baby) more than a decade ago, he believes the Academy is “moving in the wrong direction.”
The actor also joined critics who have said that this year’s crop of performances in films like Creed, Concussion, Straight Outta Compton, and Beasts of No Nation should have earned recognition.
“And certainly last year, with Selma director Ava DuVernay — I think that it’s just ridiculous not to nominate her,” he added.
“But honestly, there should be more opportunity than that,” the 54-year-old Hollywood veteran concluded. “There should be 20 or 30 or 40 films of the quality that people would consider for the Oscars. 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.”
Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs addressed the controversy in a lengthy statement on Monday, saying she was “heartbroken” and “frustrated” over the lack of diversity among the acting nominees.
“This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes,” Boone Isaacs said. “The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.”