Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs 'heartbroken' over lack of diversity amongst nominees

By Karen Butler   |   Jan. 19, 2016 at 7:48 AM
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LOS ANGELES, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, says she is "heartbroken" by the lack of diversity amongst recent Oscar nominees.

For the past two years, all 20 of the nominees in the Oscar acting categories were white.

African American actress Jada Pinkett Smith and filmmaker Spike Lee announced Monday they would not be attending this year's Chris Rock-hosted Oscars ceremony -- and encouraged other artists of color to also boycott the event -- in protest of the omission of critically acclaimed films such as Creed and Straight Outta Compton from the Best Picture race, and actors like Will Smith and Idris Elba from the acting nominations shortlists.

"I'd like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year's nominees," Isaacs said in a statement Monday night. "While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it's time for big changes. The academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond. As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly. This isn't unprecedented for the academy. In the 1960s and 1970s it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together."

The survival story The Revenant is going in to the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony with a leading 12 nominations, followed by the post-apocalyptic blockbuster Mad Max: Fury Road with 10 nods.

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