"If you think back 10 years ago, the Academy was doing a better job," George Clooney tells Variety

By Jodi Guglielmi
January 19, 2016 04:55 PM
Johns PKI/Splash News

George Clooney has weighed in on the #OscarSoWhite controversy.

In an interview with Variety, Clooney expressed his disappointment in the lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominees, saying that the Academy is “moving in the wrong direction.”

The Oscar winner, 54, pointed to the low number of roles available to minorities in the film industry.

“If you think back 10 years ago, the Academy was doing a better job. Think about how many more African-Americans were nominated,” he said. “I would also make the argument, I don’t think it’s a problem of who you’re picking as much as it is: How many options are available to minorities in film, particularly in quality films?”

Clooney compared the lack of diversity in film to the same struggle women face with gender wage gap. He praised those who have become strong advocates for equality, but said it shouldn’t take people calling out the film industry to make a change – it should already be done.

“I find it amazing that we’re an industry that in the 1930s, most of our leads were women. And now a woman over 40 has a very difficult time being a lead in a movie. We’re seeing some movement. Jennifer Lawrence and Patricia Arquette have made the loud pronouncement about wage disparity, have put a stamp on the idea that we got to pay attention,” he said. “But we should have been paying attention long before this. I think that African-Americans have a real fair point that the industry isn’t representing them well enough. I think that’s absolutely true.”

He concluded by reflecting on how the Academy has praised actors of color in the past, noting that the number of diverse nominees has declined over the years.

“Let’s look back at some of the nominees. I think around 2004, certainly there were black nominees – like Don Cheadle, Morgan Freeman. And all of a sudden, you feel like we’re moving in the wrong direction. There were nominations left off the table,” he said, listing off films such as Creed and Concussion, which he felt were worthy of receiving Oscar nods.

But Clooney said he’s not just talking about African-Americans, he’s considering all minorities.

“By the way, we’re talking about African-Americans. For Hispanics, it’s even worse. We need to get better at this. We used to be better at it.”

Clooney is far from the first Hollywood heavyweight to sound off on the controversy. David Oyelowo expressed similar sentiments, saying the Academy “doesn’t reflect this nation,” while Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith says they’re planning to skip this year’s awards ceremony.

On Monday, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs released a statement saying she was “disappointed” over the lack of diversity represented at this year’s Academy Awards.

“This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes,” she said. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership.”

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