The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences continues its quest to diversify its largely white male membership ranks and Wednesday’s announcement of its annual invitation list numbered a record 774.
Among them are “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins and “Get Out” director Jordan Peele. (They can both choose between the writer and director branches.) Writer-actress-producer Brit Marling (Netflix’s “The OA”) also landed an invite from the writers branch, along with British actor Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”).
Indian stars invited include Aimir Khan, Irrfan Khan, Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and his daughter in law, Aishwarya Rai. Other international stars receiving the nod include Monica Bellucci, Maggie Cheung, Gal Gadot, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Naomie Harris, and Rinko Kikuchi.
American adds include Leslie Jones, Kristen Stewart, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Colman Domingo, Viggo Mortensen, Mike Mills, Shari Redstone, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Joss Whedon, Elle Fanning, John Cho, Jon Hamm, Donald Glover, Channing Tatum, Rebel Wilson, Keegan-Michael Key, Gil Birmingham, Adam Driver, and Rami Malek.
Couples making the cut are Anna Faris and Chris Pratt; Carina Lau and Tony Leung; and “Moonlight” producer Adele Romanski and cinematographer James Laxton.
Under the leadership of CEO Dawn Hudson and president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the 90-year-old Academy has been adding more younger members, women, and people of color to its 17 branches. But after the 2016 #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the AMPAS became even more aggressive about asking its branch leadership to recommend new members.
While the Academy seeks candidates who have “demonstrated exceptional achievement in the field of theatrical motion pictures,” it’s trying to move the needle toward inclusion, even while the industry itself continues to predominantly hire white men. It has been slow going.
Joining the august organization is a singular honor, but many of last year’s new members were surprised to learn of their inclusion — mainly because they hadn’t applied for membership.
At the heart of the Academy’s complex diversity issue is how much the Oscars reflect the way that the Academy likes to view itself. And the Academy voters did far better with their 2017 Oscar nominations than they had the year before, when given 20 opportunities, their 6,000 members failed to nominate any actors of color at all.
Last year, they expanded their invite list and the needle actually moved. More than 40 percent were international, from 59 countries around the world. These changes were most dramatic in the Academy’s largest branch, the actors: 29 percent of its 69 invites were white, versus 68 percent of 2015 invites.
So this year, the Academy, which now has a membership of 7,000, invited 774 new members. Many are international, and 39 percent are women, which would move the total membership to 28 percent. People of color comprise 30 percent of the new class, so that they would now represent 13 percent of Academy members. Seven branches invited more women than men.
Now, the question is: What changes will the new membership bring to the Oscar nominations going forward?