Susan Sarandon thinks that the Oscar race has gone off the rails.
“We need campaign finance reform,” said Sarandon. “The campaigns are so enormous…it’s as long as a presidential campaign.”
Sarandon said that the money required to orchestrate this kind of grueling, months-long trek to awards glory, is turning the Academy Awards into a case of haves and have nots. There are festivals to fly to, dinners to host, and hands to press all over the country if an actor wants to have a chance of mounting the stage at the Dolby.
“People have to be available for months and someone has to pay for that,” she noted.
Sarandon’s comments came at a Variety panel during the Cannes Film Festival. The actress, an Oscar-winner for 1995’s “Dead Man Walking,” was joined by Geena Davis, who picked up a best supporting actress statue in 1988 for “The Accidental Tourist.”
When Sarandon was up for “Dead Man Walking,” PolyGram, the indie studio behind the death row drama, barely had enough money to provide screeners to voters. In the modern era, that kind of shoe-string campaign might not be enough to propel a performer over the finish line.
“It’s a subjective, lucky thing that you were in a movie that had someone that’s willing to spend millions of dollars [on campaigning],” said Sarandon.
If studios were limited in the amount of money they could shell out, it would create a more level playing field, Sarandon argued. That would enable films with diverse casts to get recognized. The Oscars have been slammed over the past two years for failing to nominate any actors of color.
“The Academy is agist and racist just like Hollywood,” Sarandon said, adding, “Part of it is how do you change the system so there’s a chance for these films to get seen.”
In response, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has pledged to double the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020. Davis, however, believes that the problem isn’t just that the Oscar voting body is overwhelmingly white. It’s that there aren’t enough movies being made with African-American actors by major studios.
“You can’t completely blame the Academy if there’s so little diversity in what’s getting made,” she said.
As much as she’d like to see Oscar campaigns change, Sarandon believes that there are more important issues to tackle.
“First we should start with campaign finance reform for the presidency,” she said.