Academy Hopes to Avoid Repeat of #OscarsSoWhite with Record 683 Member Invitations


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited a record 683 new members this year in an effort to increase the diversity of its membership and avoid a repeat of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy the organization has endured for the past two years.

Of the 683 new members, 47 percent are women and 41 percent are people of color, according to the Academy’s announcement on Wednesday. The invitations increase the share of current female Academy members from 25 to 27 percent, and of people of color from eight to 11 percent.

The new class includes 28 Oscar winners and another 98 nominees. They include this year’s acting winners Brie Larson, Alicia Vikander and Mark Rylance and newcomers like Star Wars‘ John Boyega and The Birth of a Nation‘s Nate Parker. Other prominent actors and actresses who made the cut this year include Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Beckinsale, Oscar Isaac, Ice Cube, Regina King, Vivica A. Fox, Dakota Johnson, Rachel McAdams, Eva Mendes, Marlon Wayans and Emma Watson.

Directors joining the Academy this year include Room‘s Lenny Abrahamson, Creed‘s Ryan Coogler, Beasts of No Nation‘s Cary Fukunaga, Anchorman director Adam McKay, The 33‘s Patricia Riggen, Son of Saul winner Laszlo Nemes and this year’s Palme d’Or winner Ken Loach.

The class of 683 new members is the largest in the Academy’s history and more than double last year’s then-record class of 322.

The significant increase in invitations represents an effort by the Academy to counter the #OscarsSoWhite protest movement that began in 2014 and intensified last year, after the organization nominated exclusively white actors and actresses in the four major categories over both consecutive years.

The outrage over #OscarsSoWhite led several prominent actors and directors — including Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Michael Moore and Spike Lee —to boycott the awards ceremony, and also led to a protest outside the Dolby Theatre on the day of the event led by the Rev. Al Sharpton. Chris Rock, who hosted the show in February, joked about the controversy several times on stage.

Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs vowed in November to increase diversity in the organization with a five-year-program called A2020. The program would see the organization “hire, mentor, encourage and promote talent in all areas” of the film industry.

The 2017 Oscars will not be held for nearly a year, but early awards chatter indicates a repeat of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy is unlikely. Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation, about the Nat Turner slave rebellion in the antebellum South — acquired by Fox Searchlight for a record $17.5 million at Sundance earlier this year — is the early odds-on favorite for Best Picture.


Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum


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