Actor Will Smith said Thursday he will not attend next month’s Oscars ceremony, joining his wife Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee to protest the absence of minorities among the acting nominees.
For a second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated only white actors for the 20 slots, causing an outcry. The issue is likely to be front and centre when the Academy’s board meets on Tuesday.
Smith, a mega-star whose role in NFL drama Concussion was overlooked this year, said he was out of the country when his wife announced on social media that she would not attend the February 28 awards ceremony in Hollywood.
“She’s deeply passionate and when she is moved she has to go,” Smith said in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America show. “I heard her words and I was knocked over. I was happy to be married to that woman.”
“There is a position that we hold in this community, and if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem,” said Smith, a two-time Oscar nominee for his roles in Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness.
“It was her call to action, for herself, and for me and for our family to be a part of the solution.”
Smith said America’s diversity was one of its strength, and should be reflected in film. “Everyone is beautiful and deserving and is fantastic, but it feels like it’s going the wrong direction,” he said of this year’s nominations list.
“The nominations reflect the Academy. The Academy reflects the industry and then the industry reflects America,” he said. “There is a regressive slide towards separatism, towards racial and religious disharmony and that’s not the Hollywood that I want to leave behind.”
Lee has said he and his wife will be skipping the ceremony too, though he has said he is not calling for a wider boycott. Lee, who won an Oscar last year honouring his lifetime achievements as a moviemaker, wrote an open letter to the academy Monday decrying the “lilly white” acting nominations.
Lee says the bias lies with the studio executives who decide which movies get made -- a point others have made as the #OscarsSoWhite backlash mounts.
#OscarsSoWhite... Again. I Would Like To Thank President Cheryl Boone Isaacs And The Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences For Awarding Me an Honorary Oscar This Past November. I Am Most Appreciative. However My Wife, Mrs. Tonya Lewis Lee And I Will Not Be Attending The Oscar Ceremony This Coming February. We Cannot Support It And Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy. But, How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let's Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can't Act?! WTF!! It's No Coincidence I'm Writing This As We Celebrate The 30th Anniversary Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday. Dr. King Said "There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It's Right". For Too Many Years When The Oscars Nominations Are Revealed, My Office Phone Rings Off The Hook With The Media Asking Me My Opinion About The Lack Of African-Americans And This Year Was No Different. For Once, (Maybe) I Would Like The Media To Ask All The White Nominees And Studio Heads How They Feel About Another All White Ballot. If Someone Has Addressed This And I Missed It Then I Stand Mistaken. As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The "Real" Battle Is. It's In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To "Turnaround" Or Scrap Heap. This Is What's Important. The Gate Keepers. Those With "The Green Light" Vote. As The Great Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Sings And Dances In The Game Changing Broadway Musical HAMILTON, "I WANNA BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS". People, The Truth Is We Ain't In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White. (Cont'd)
Lupita Nyong’o, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for 12 Years A Slave two years ago, said on Instagram: “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.”
Oscar-winning actor George Clooney, warning the movie industry is moving backwards, said this week the problem was the lack of options available to minorities in quality films. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is black, said she was “both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion.”
Industry magazine Variety suggested a change to the body’s membership rules could be on the table when the board meets next week.
The Academy has some 6,000 members, all of whom work in the film industry and are elected by their peers for life. According to a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times, nearly 94 percent of the Academy voters are white and mostly male.
Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo -- up for a golden statuette for his role in Spotlight, about journalists at the Boston Globe who uncovered sexual abuse in the Catholic Church -- had hinted at the idea of not attending but tweeted he would.
“I will be going to the Oscars in support of the victims of clergy Sexual Abuse and good journalism,” said Ruffalo, who is white. “I do support the Oscar Ban movement’s position that the nominations do not reflect the diversity of our community.”
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