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Academy President Speaks Out on Diversity

January 19, 2016 08:59 | By

Behind the Score

Cheryl Boone Isaacs (Photo by Todd Wawrychuk/©A.M.P.A.S.)

Cheryl Boone Isaacs (Photo by Todd Wawrychuk/©A.M.P.A.S.)

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) president Cheryl Boone Isaacs released a statement yesterday saying that she was “heartbroken and frustrated” by the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscar nominations, and indicating that “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.”

The announcement comes after director Spike Lee (who received an honorary Oscar at the Academy’s Board of Governors Awards in November) and actress Jada Pinkett Smith announced that they would boycott the Oscars. Meanwhile, the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite surged in popularity after the Academy nominated all white actors and actresses for the second year in row.

Among those overlooked were director F. Gary Gray’s NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton, which topped many critics’ lists for best picture, and Will Smith for best actor in the NFL film Concussion.

“I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees,” said Boone Isaacs. “While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership.”

“As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years,” she continued. “But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly.”

She added that this membership review isn’t unprecedented for the Academy. “In the ’60s and ’70s it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation,” she said.

According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter, actor David Oyelowo, who was snubbed by the Academy last year for his role as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, took Boone Isaacs to task over the issue at a gala in her honor last night in Los Angeles. “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,” he said.