David Rubin is the 37th president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The decision came Tuesday night at a meeting of the AMPAS board of governors, which also selected a new slate of officers.
Rubin, the casting branch governor and board secretary, will succeed exiting president John Bailey, who served two back-to-back terms that were plagued with a variety of scandals and misunderstandings, from an ill-fated push to change the annual Oscar ceremony with the addition of an Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film category and snipping of televised awards for categories like Best Editing and Best Cinematography, to a leaked sexual harassment investigation (he was later exonerated).
Rubin is the first casting director to hold the position of Academy President. His more than 100 film and television credits include “The English Patient,” “Men in Black,” “Hairspray,” “Lars and the Real Girl,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”
The new president faces multiple challenges, starting with the persistent push to modernize the annual Oscar telecast. While last year’s announced plan was axed before it could be implemented for the 2018 event, the Academy has made it clear it’s still interested in the new award and finding a way to keep the show to three hours.
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But after the PR nightmare that was last year’s announcement of the new plans, the new president and board will have to handle any changes far more delicately. First step: finding a producer for the show, which has been moved up two weeks to early February. (In 2021 and 2022, it will return to its late-February berth.)
There’s also the organization’s long-running museum project, which just this week lost director Kerry Brougher. Brougher has been named as the museum’s founding director and will collaborate with senior staff in the transition. The museum, now set to open in Los Angeles in 2020, has been plagued by scheduling issues, a swelling budget, and pushed-back dates. Now it needs its own new leader.
One thing Rubin can be happy about: the push for inclusion among Academy members. In July, AMPAS sent out a hefty batch of new invites, including 842 artists and executives from 59 countries. People of color (29 percent) and women (50 percent) were among the many invites, as the Academy continues to address its long-term white-male dominance.
While rumors of contenders often leak in the lead-up to the annual election, the Academy has long used a decidedly old-fashioned method of finding candidates, and one that eschews formal announcements. Instead, members (who must also be on the board to be eligible) interested in the gig simply let their cohorts know of their candidacy plans and build support from there.
The 54-member board is comprised of three governors each from 17 branches who serve three-year terms. Academy presidents can serve four one-year terms in a row, but if they have served on the board for a total of nine years (like Bailey), they are termed out and must take a year off before being eligible to run again.
Most AMPAS presidents have hailed from above-the-line positions, including inaugural president Douglas Fairbanks as well as Frank Capra, George Stevens, and Gregory Peck. In the Academy’s history, there have only been three female presidents: Bette Davis, Fay Kanin, and Bailey’s predecessor, Cheryl Boone Isaacs.
Tuesday evening’s board of governors meeting also included the election of a number of other officer positions, including:
Lois Burwell, First Vice President (chair, Awards and Events Committee)
Sid Ganis, Vice President (chair, Museum Committee)
Larry Karaszewski, Vice President (chair, Preservation and History Committee)
Nancy Utley, Vice President (chair, Education and Outreach Committee)
Mark Johnson, Treasurer (chair, Finance Committee)
Bonnie Arnold, Secretary (chair, Membership and Governance Committee)
The 92nd Oscars will take place on Sunday, February 9, 2020.