The #OscarsSoWhite controversy has rightfully exploded in the aftermath of this year’s whitewashed nominations. So many actors, filmmakers and influences have spoken out in the past few days — including Spike Lee, George Clooney, David Oyelowo, Academy President Cheryl Boone Issacs and more — that the Academy almost has no choice now but to rethink its nominating rules and membership requirements. For this reason, next week’s previously scheduled board meeting is coming under extreme pressure to deliberate potential changes.
As first reported by The New York Times, the Academy is expected to announce changes as early as next week to combat the current diversity crisis. While specifics will have to wait until after the board meeting, many publications are speculating that changes will range from modifying the amount of nominees per category to changing requirements within the Academy to diversify the ages and races among its members.
The Times’ anonymous sources say the most likely change will be expanding the best picture field to 10 mandatory nominees, with the hopes that more nomination spots will prevent favorites like “Straight Outta Compton” from missing out on the top award. Other category changes could find the acting fields expanded as well, though the Times claims that’s less likely. If acting fields were expanded, however, the chance of performances like Will Smith in “Concussion” and Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation” earning nominations would be higher.
While altering the amount of nominees will certainly open each field up to more diverse choices, it’s becoming pretty clear in many of the open letters and speeches given by actors and influencers this week that the Academy itself has to undergo big changes, which makes potential new membership rules one of the biggest tossups of next week’s meeting. Isaacs said earlier this week the Academy was “taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of [its] membership,” so all eyes will be on how exactly it plans on doing so in the weeks ahead. Considering the Academy is known for remaining traditional, it’s still quite a mystery as to how open it will be to changing its own rules, which includes being an Academy member for life, meaning some members haven’t actually been working in the industry for years.
As Variety’s Awards Editor Tim Gray notes, “Since AMPAS is an honor society that puts a premium on experience, a lot of its 6,261 voting members want to stick to the status quo. That’s also true of many governors. However, other governors realize that they are in the spotlight, and they need to take dramatic action now so that the Academy doesn’t lose credibility.” It’s clearly anyone’s guess as to what happens next.
One thing that’s clear, however, is that the Academy has to do something big if they’re going to calm the international controversy that’s been growing by the day. Joining the long list of celebrities taking a stand against the Oscars is Will Smith, who told “Good Morning America” earlier today that he won’t be attending the Oscars and is standing by his wife’s decision to boycott the event.
“We’re part of this community,” he said, “but at this current time, we’re uncomfortable to stand there and say this is okay.”
Putting even more pressure on the Oscars is Tyrese Gibson. As first reported by PEOPLE.com, the “Fast and Furious” star is urging Chris Rock to step down as Oscars host. “There is no joke that he can crack,” he told PEOPLE. “There is no way for him to seize the moment and come into this thing and say, ‘I’m going to say this and say that I’m going to address the issue but then I’m still going to keep my gig as the host.’ The statement that you make is that you step down.”
Rock has yet to comment on the controversy, but the show must go on. The Academy Awards will take place February 28.