Oscar members defended themselves against charges of racism in an online article Wednesday, ensuring that the controversy over this year’s all-white acting nominees will not die down anytime soon.
“I voted for a number of black performers, and I was sorry they weren’t nominated,” the actress Penelope Ann Miller told The Hollywood Reporter. “But to imply that this is because all of us are racists is extremely offensive.” She added, “It was just an incredibly competitive year.”
The article, which quotes three Oscar voters, including one who spoke anonymously, comes in the wake of growing protests over the Oscars’ second straight year of all-white nominees in the acting categories. The snubs for Will Smith, Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan, all overlooked despite strong performances in films last year, revived last year’s disparaging Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and prompted both Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith to announce that they would not attend the ceremony. In response, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, promised to review and alter the organization’s membership.
Pinkett Smith thanked Isaacs, who is African-American, for her “quick response,” but the issue has yet to fade away.
George Clooney weighed in on the lack of diversity, saying that the film industry was “moving in the wrong direction.”
“I think that African-Americans have a real fair point that the industry isn’t representing them well enough,” Clooney said in an interview with Variety that appeared online Tuesday. “We need to get better at this.”
Lupita Nyong’o, an Oscar-winner for her performance in “12 Years a Slave,” posted on her Instagram account: “I am disappointed by the lack of inclusion in this year’s Academy Award nominations... I stand with my peers who are calling for change in expanding the stories that are told and recognition of the people who tell them.”
Spike Lee appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Wednesday to reiterate that he would not attend the Oscars, but said his absence did not signify a “boycott.” Speaking with George Stephanopoulos, Lee called for “top to bottom” change in the film industry. “We can’t say ‘hocus-pocus, presto-chango’ and the membership’s going to change overnight,” he said.
The controversy has also shone an uncomfortable spotlight on the Oscars’ African-American host, Chris Rock, who has so far remained silent. Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais, however, encouraged his colleague to use the situation to his advantage. “I were @chrisrock, I wouldn’t be considering boycotting the Oscars,” Gervais wrote on Twitter. “I’d be thinking, ‘this is live. I can do some serious damage.’”