You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Oscar Voters Ask: Why Are Studios So Silent on Diversity?

In the past few weeks, Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Dawn Hudson have been quietly meeting with Chris Dodd of the MPAA, reps from the NAACP and studio execs, aiming at a more inclusive industry. As Academy voter David Magdael says, “People are tired of just talking. Cheryl and Dawn are at least taking action. And not everyone is happy, but I’m hopeful the studios will see the value in it and also take action.”

Magdael, who head his self-titled PR company, adds, “And why is only AMPAS talking about this? Why aren’t the studios speaking up?”

AMPAS execs have addressed the diversity issue a few times, but have remained mum about their meetings and other actions, despite attacks from outside and within the organization. Variety spoke with nearly 20 film workers and reaction was all over the map about the Academy membership rules. But they unanimously agreed the Academy needs changes and that AMPAS and Oscar noms are a symptom of the real problem: the film industry.

Virginia Madsen, nominated for “Sideways,” says that for many under-represented groups, “It’s exactly what Viola Davis said in her Emmy speech: lack of opportunity. We have to start that conversation, not just talk about who was nominated.” Madsen adds that the gender/racial imbalance is not just an issue in tentpoles, but in independent films as well: “Just try making a film centered on a woman or an Asian family.”

Sonny Skyhawk is an industry veteran of nearly 50 years and is founder-president of American Indians in Film and Television. He’s also a new Academy member. He tells Variety, “The industry is now in crisis mode and reform is absolutely required. Telling a wider spectrum of stories and presenting a more representative array of faces will lead to increased profits. It’s really that simple.”

Magdael adds, “At the end of the day, it comes to the product. If we don’t have the films to vote on, if the studios are not greenlighting enough films made by people of color, this will happen.”

For AMPAS, it’s been the perfect storm. Not only were the 20 acting contenders all Caucasian when nominations were announced Jan. 14, but subsequent awards have shown more inclusion, making Oscar look bad in comparison. Winners at the SAG Awards touted the diversity; however, aside from Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation,” all the SAG’s non-Caucasian wins were from television.

Actress and Academy voter Shohreh Aghdashloo praised the strides made in TV, such as those in her Syfy series “The Expanse.” She says it’s an example of actors and crew of “all different colors and backgrounds, from all corners of the world.” As for the film industry, she adds, “I’m really happy at the steps Cheryl Boone Isaacs and the Academy have taken but it doesn’t end there. Making movies with diversity is not happening on the scale it should. This is just the beginning of a very important conversation — not just in the States but elsewhere in the world.”

Boone Isaacs and Hudson have spoken out about getting the Academy’s house in order, hoping that this can set an example for the industry. They stopped short of pointing fingers at studios, financiers and agencies, knowing that things could get really ugly if Hollywood workers increase the accusations.

Madsen says that in the short term, “The conversation is becoming louder and right now it’s dividing people. But the goal is raising awareness; speaking out does make a difference.”

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Charlie Rose Sexual Harassment

    Charlie Rose Sued for Sexual Harassment by Longtime Makeup Artist

    A makeup artist who worked for Charlie Rose for 22 years has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit, accusing the former CBS and PBS host of years of unlawful behavior toward female employees. Gina Riggi alleges that Rose was verbally abusive with her and would often make derogatory comments about her weight. She also alleges that [...]

  • Rob Stringer

    Sony Music Chief Rob Stringer on Sustaining Growth and Recovering From the 'Dark Times'

    The Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference, now in its 28th year, gives top executives at major companies the opportunity to make their case to investors — and the Goldman analysts the opportunity to keep things on the up and up. While the analysts don’t necessarily grill the executives, they don’t lob softball questions either. That was [...]

  • Frank Grillo'Avengers: Endgame' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Matt Phelps Tapped as President of Joe Carnahan, Frank Grillo's Warparty

    Frank Grillo and Joe Carnahan’s Warparty productikon banner has appointed Matt Phelps president of the company. Phelps will head the Los Angeles office and be responsible for overseeing all film and television projects. “We searched long and hard to find the right fit for Warparty and felt that Matt embodied everything that we were looking [...]

  • Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent,

    Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent, Dies at 88

    Jack Gilardi, a longtime ICM Partners agent who represented such stars as Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Jerry Lewis, Charlton Heston and Shirley MacLaine, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88. Gilardi was known for his gentlemanly style, love of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his skill at representing top actors. He [...]

  • Nexstar Completes Tribune Acquisition, Sean Compton

    Nexstar Completes Tribune Acquisition, Sean Compton to Head Programming

    Nexstar Media Group has become the nation’s largest owner of TV stations after completing its $4.1 billion acquisition of Tribune Media. The deal creates a broadcasting colossus with more than 200 stations serving more than 100 markets, although a number of stations will be divested to keep Nexstar in compliance with FCC ownership limits. Nexstar, [...]

  • Leaving Neverland HBO

    Judge Sides With Michael Jackson Estate in 'Leaving Neverland' Dispute

    A federal judge is leaning towards granting the Michael Jackson estate’s move to take HBO to arbitration in its dispute over the documentary “Leaving Neverland.” Judge George Wu issued a tentative ruling on Thursday in which he denied HBO’s motion to dismiss the estate’s case. Wu is expected to make the ruling final by the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content