Hollywood Scrambles to Up Diversity in Wake of #OscarsSoWhite Controversy

Mark Rylance, winner of the award for best actor in a supporting role for “Bridge of Spies," from left, Brie Larson, winner of the award for best actress in a leading role for “Room”, Leonardo DiCaprio, winner of the award for best actor in a leading role for “The Revenant”, …
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Now that Oscar season is over, major Hollywood studios are getting behind a concerted, industry-wide effort to increase the diversity of talent both in front of and behind the camera.

With the #OscarsSoWhite controversy (and host Chris Rock’s admonishment) still ringing in their ears, Hollywood decision-makers are recruiting diverse acting and directing talent for upcoming projects in the hopes of creating an entertainment industry more representative of the American population (and avoiding what would be an embarrassing #OscarsSoWhite three-peat next year).

The Hollywood Reporter details the steps studios are taking to cast more women and people of color in prominent projects.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

The biggest star to take the stage during the Academy Awards arguably was the #OscarsSoWhite controversy as Chris Rock hammered home Hollywood’s diversity issues during the three-plus-hour telecast. But now that the curtain has closed, the question becomes how the industry will avoid a repeat.

The wheels already might be in motion: Since the Oscar nominations were announced Jan. 14, a slew of diverse stories and color-blind castings have gained momentum. Newly announced projects include the young Barack Obama movie Barry and Disney’s immigrant story Dr. Q. (Those come on the heels of the record-breaking $17.5 million Sundance deal for Nate Parker’s slave drama The Birth of a Nation).

The Zero Dark Thirty team of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal next will make a film set during the 1967 Detroit riot that will cast several actors of color. And Fox 2000 and Chernin are developing Hidden Figures, a movie about the African-American women who helped NASA launch its first space missions (Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer recently were cast).

Black filmmaker Ava DuVernay (Selma) has signed on for two big studio projects during recent weeks: Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time and Universal’s sci-fi film Intelligent Life, starring Lupita Nyong’o. Life also is a big get for Oscar winner Nyong’o: Sources say the lead character in Life, with a script by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, was not written with a certain ethnicity in mind but rather a “unique” look.

Several other actors of color have nabbed high-profile roles in recent weeks: Idris Elba is in talks to star in Fox’s romantic drama The Mountain Between Us in a lead role that originally was written for a white actor (Charlie Hunnam was in talks at one point); Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda will star in Disney’s Mary Poppins sequel as a character similar to that played by Dick Van Dyke in the original; and Michael B. Jordan will star in MGM’s remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, playing a role previously inhabited by Steve McQueen and Pierce Brosnan.

Read the full story at The Hollywood Reporter here.


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