Following anger over the all-white list of actors nominated for this year’s Oscars, the president of the film academy said on Monday that she was heartbroken by the lack of diversity. She also said she's working to implement change.
“This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes,” Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said in a statement.
Isaacs said that while it was important to acknowledge the work of the actors nominated this year, the lack of inclusive is still frustrating.
On Wednesday, Oscar-winning actor George Clooney weighed in on the controversy, saying the industry is moving backwards and needs to do better. "If you think back 10 years ago, the Academy was doing a better job," he said. "I think around 2004, certainly there were black nominees - like Don Cheadle, Morgan Freeman. And all of a sudden, you feel like we're moving in the wrong direction. There were nominations left off the table."
He said four films with black stars deserved more recognition: boxing drama Creed, NFL drama Concussion with Will Smith, Beasts of No Nation with Idris Elba, Straight Outta Compton, a biopic of hip hop group NWA.
Other stars have also weighed in on the issue.
Actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who voices Gloria in DreamWorks' Madagascar series, said in a video message on Facebook that she would not attend the Oscars, out of principle.
“Begging for acknowledgement or even asking diminishes dignity and diminishes power, and we are a dignified people and powerful.”
Documentary-maker Michael Moore is also joining the boycott, while Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o - who took home Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 12 Years a Slave in 2014 - took to social media to express her disappointment over the lack of diversity in the Academy's nominees.
Earlier Monday, filmmaker Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith said they would boycott the Oscars ceremony because of the all-white selection of nominees. Their nomination last week set social media abuzz with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
Isaacs, who is black, has pushed for more diversity in the Academy’s ranks since her election in 2013.
According to a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times, nearly 94 percent of the Academy voters are white and mostly male. The Times found that blacks account for two percent of the Academy and Latinos are less than two percent.
In announcing he would snub the Oscars ceremony, Lee said in a message on Instagram that he could not support the “lily white” awards show.
“How is it possible for the 2nd consecutive year all 20 contenders under the actor category are white?” Lee said in his open letter to the president and board of governors of the Academy Awards.
Lee, who won an Oscar last year for his lifetime achievements as a filmmaker and actor, blamed the executives who run Hollywood studios for the absence of minorities in Oscar-contending roles.
“People, the truth is we ain’t in those rooms and until minorities are, the Oscar nominees will remain lily white,” wrote Lee, who is well known for his outspoken comments.
He suggested that Hollywood follow the lead of the National Football League, which requires that minorities be interviewed for head coach and senior executive positions when those are being filled.
Last year, the Academy also came in for heavy criticism over the lack of diversity among the Oscar winners.