LOS ANGELES – The Oscars have launched a landmark campaign to diversify the ranks of Academy Award voters who decide which actors, movies and filmmakers earn recognition, but Hollywood’s highest honours may remain a predominantly white affair for some time to come.
Amid an outcry against a field of Oscar-nominated performers lacking a single person of colour for a second straight year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a sweeping affirmative action program on Friday, pledging to double female and minority membership by 2020.
But host Chris Rock will not step away from the high-profile job, the show’s producer Reginald Hudlin said on Saturday, telling Entertainment Tonight at an NAACP Image Awards luncheon the comedian has scrapped his material.
“As things got a little provocative and exciting, he said, ‘I’m throwing out the show I wrote and writing a new show’,” Hudlin told ET.
“You should expect [#OscarsSoWhite jokes],” Hudlin said, adding “And, yes, the Academy is ready for him to do that.”
The largely white, male and older makeup of the 6 000-plus film industry professionals who belong to the academy has long been cited as a barrier to racial and gender equality at the Oscars.
“It’s unprecedented for the academy to make this kind of drastic overhaul,” said Tom O’Neil, editor of the awards-tracking website Gold Derby. “It’s a very dramatic announcement and a very welcome breakthrough.”
The changes, unanimously approved on Thursday night by the academy’s governing board, include a program to “identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity”, and to strip some older members of voting privileges.
Under the new rules, lifetime voting rights would be conferred only on those academy members who remain active in the film industry over the course of three 10-year terms or who have won or been nominated for an Oscar.
Actor Will Smith, director Spike Lee and a handful of others vow to skip the February 28 awards. They gave no indication that they plan to call off their Oscar boycott. (Reuters)