LONDON (AP) — The president of Hollywood’s movie academy says criticism of the lack of diversity among Oscar nominees has helped spark a vital global discussion about how to make the entertainment industry more inclusive.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs said “the whole discussion about diversity is a great discussion, because now it’s at the top of everybody’s mind, not just the academy’s.”
“It is now a global discussion, and that’s really important,” she said during a reception at the U.S. ambassador’s London residence for new European members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Wednesday’s event — whose guests included actors Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, directors Ridley Scott and Tom Hooper and former “Dynasty” star Joan Collins — was part of a push to boost the international profile and reach of the organization, best known for handing out the Oscars.
An all-white roster of acting nominees at the 2015 Academy Awards inspired the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite on social media and increased scrutiny of the lack of diversity in the ranks of the organization, whose 7,000 members are largely white and male.
In June the academy announced 322 new members, including actors Benedict Cumberbatch and David Oyelowo, musicians Common and John Legend and actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Boone Isaacs, the first African-American woman to head the academy, called it a more diverse and inclusive list than ever before.
Academy chief executive Dawn Hudson said Wednesday that the invitation-only academy was urging all its branches to look more widely for potential new members.
U.S. ambassador Matthew Barzun praised trans-Atlantic cooperation at the reception, where guests were served canapes, champagne and bourbon-based Cary Grant cocktails amid the chandeliers and ornate Chinese wallpaper of the residence’s Garden Room.
The cocktail choice was apt. Barzun recounted how British-born Hollywood star Grant persuaded his wife, Woolworths heiress Barbara Hutton, to sell her London home to the U.S. government for $1 after World War II. Winfield House, set amid 12 acres (5 hectares) of grounds in Regent’s Park, has been the American ambassador’s residence since the 1950s.
The academy’s forays beyond Los Angeles and New York — with the London reception and a Paris gathering later this week — reflect an increasingly globalized movie industry.
Hudson said 40 percent of nominees for the most recent Oscars were from Europe — half of those from Britain.
British “Star Trek” and “X-Men” star Patrick Stewart said there remains a lack of roles for older women and Black actors, and a “shocking underuse of women directors.” But he said he was struck by how international the movie business had become.
“I wrapped a movie four days ago in New York and of the four leading actors, two were American, two were English,” he told the AP. “But we also had a Brazilian actress, a Portuguese actress, a Canadian and a Spanish female director of photography, which was marvelous.”