With the calls for greater diversity at the Academy Awards growing stronger, the president of the group that puts on the awards show vowed it was time for “big changes.”
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, said she was “disappointed” when the nominations for this year’s award celebration saw all 20 acting nominees were white.
Isaacs, who has worked to diversify membership for the academy, promised to “continue the conversation” on diversity. On Monday night, she was more explicit.
In a lengthy statement, Isaacs promised an examination of the academy and a more intense drive to diversify.
“While we celebrate (the nominees’) extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion,” she said. “This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes.”
A statement from Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs pic.twitter.com/Nqhgc7sbqG
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) January 19, 2016
The #Oscarssowhite accusations, both on social media and online, began immediately after the nominees were announced last week. But it took on greater weight on Monday when director Spike Lee and A-list actress Jada Pinkett Smith said they would sit out the upcoming show because of its exclusion of minorities.
A 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times found that the Academy membership, lifetime members who are all handpicked by the board of directors, is overwhelmingly white and male.
Isaacs, the first African American to oversee the Oscars, acknowledged that while there have been changes implemented to diversify membership in recent years, “the change is not coming as fast as we would like.”
“We need to do more, and better and more quickly,” she added.
Her statement came the same day that Lee and Pinkett-Smith announced they would not be attending – or watching – this year’s Oscars in protest, saying it’s time for people of color to disregard the Academy Awards.
This was the second in a row that the nominations in the best actor category failed to include any performers of color.
Many expected Benicio Del Toro’s performance in “Sicario,” Will Smith in “Concussion,” Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson’s roles in “Creed,” Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation” and the actors from “Straight Out of Compton” to be singled out for nods.
Even host Chris Rock, who has not pulled out of the gig despite mounting pressure, commented on the lack of diversity by calling the Oscars “the White BET Awards” on Twitter.
— Chris Rock (@chrisrock) January 15, 2016
The 88th Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 28 and air live on ABC.