Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and CEO Dawn Hudson sat down with The Hollywood Reporter

By Lindsay Kimble
Updated January 27, 2016 12:45 PM
Credit: Christopher Patey/The Hollywood Reporter

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and CEO Dawn Hudson expected a “pretty big” reaction after receiving this year’s Oscars nominations, but they still weren’t quite prepared for the diversity controversy that has racked Hollywood.

In a new cover interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the women at the top of the drama-embroiled organization say they’re glad the conversation is happening and that it’s led to some sweeping, much-needed changes to the Oscars voting process.

“It’s a conversation that everyone is having anyway,” Hudson said. “It’s happening in corporate America, it’s hap pening in our police departments, it’s happening with our politicians. And films are such an important part of our culture and the connective tissue of our culture. So all of those conversations now can come together around the Academy Award nominations.”

For the second year in a row, no actors of color were nominated in the annual ceremony’s top acting categories, and much of the blame has been directed at the Academy.

“It gets to be a little challenging,” said Boone Isaacs, who previously issued an emotional response to the uproar.

Hudson further explained, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “The Academy Awards are at the tail end of the process, but our members are the moviemaking process. They are the ones writing and photographing and starring in all of these movies, and they were very concerned.”

That concern has prompted the organization’s governors to spring into action and implement considerable changes.

“We could not be silent,” Boone Isaacs explained. “And we had no reason to be silent. It isn’t a smart thing just to sit back and just sort of let the conversation get out of hand when it’s about you. At some point, you need to speak up.”

Some of the new changes will include the appointment of three women and people of color as governors and a wide-scale campaign to recruit new members who the Academy believes “represent greater diversity.”

“They’ve been pretty positive,” Boone Isaacs said of the response to the new regulations. “Some people I haven’t heard from before are saying, ‘Bravo, this is a great step forward, we’re proud of our Academy, we’re proud of our board.’ ”

Still, some stars are planning to skip this year’s ceremony. Both understand, but would welcome them back with open arms.

In addition, they confirmed that host Chris Rock never even considered stepping down – and they look forward to hearing his perspective on Oscars night.

Said Boone Isaacs, “We’ve always known he was gonna go there, right? This is Chris. We know who he is. He is a brilliant, brilliant, observant comedian and performer, and he is a brilliant host. And yes, we want him to, obviously, because way before this, our selection of Chris was to bring some edge and some fun and some funny – intelligent funny – to the telecast. So we know he’s going to do that.”

The initiative for more inclusion in all facets of the Academy has been in place for nearly four years, according to Boone Isaacs, and the pair said nearly everyone is on board – from studio executives to agents.

“Everybody wants to know what they can do to help,” said Boone Isaacs. “You can’t win an Academy Award if your film is not greenlit. You can’t win an Academy Award if you weren’t in a particular role in a movie. So it is about opportunity from the very beginning of this process and the inclusion of different voices from the very beginning.”

Both contend that the Academy is not currently reflective of the moviegoing public, but insist that’s changing – although not to the detriment of older members.

In order to vote, members must now remain active in the industry during a 10-year period. After three 10-year periods of activity, they’ll retain lifetime membership to the organization.

“The point was, there have been people in the Academy, they have been selected as members of the Academy, they were working in the film industry at that time, at one point in their careers, and they’ve moved on to a completely different field, completely different careers, and yet, because we have lifetime membership and lifetime voting rights, they are still voting on what is the best in contemporary film culture,” Hudson shared. “And that’s not even what our original charter said.”