"I'm also not 100 percent sure that taking votes away from Academy members who have paid their dues," he told The Hollywood Reporter
While appearing on The Hollywood Reporter‘s “Awards Chatter” podcast, the acclaimed director sounded off on the backlash surrounding the lack of diversity among this year’s nominees, citing the Academy’s recent track record of recognizing minorities while stating that he’s “not 100 percent” behind its new voting guidelines.
“You have to look back a couple of years,” he says, “where Lupita [Nyong’o] was recognized for 12 Years a Slave [and] 12 Years a Slave won best picture, you know? I don’t believe that there is inherent or dormant racism because of the amount of white Academy members.”
But Spielberg, 69, said he was “surprised” that both Straight Outta Compton and Beasts of No Nation actor Idris Elba didn’t receive a nomination.
After the uproar in the weeks following the nominations announcement, the Academy released new guidelines aimed at increasing diversity. That included setting a 10-year cap on voting privileges, allowing active members of the motion picture industry to cast a ballot – and to renew their voting privileges if they remained active.
Spielberg said he doesn’t necessarily agree with the approach.
“I’m also not 100 percent sure that taking votes away from Academy members who have paid their dues and maybe are retired now and have done great service – maybe they’ve not won a nomination, which would have given them immunity to the new rules, but they have served proudly and this is their industry too – to strip their votes?” he said. “I’m not 100 percent behind that.”
Spielberg acknowledged the Academy’s efforts to address the issue and doesn’t think the organization should shoulder sole blame for it. Instead, he points to the studio executives and those who decide who is hired, and what stories get told.
“I do think that what the Academy is doing, in a proactive way, to open up the membership to diversity, I think that’s very, very important,” he said. “But it’s not just the Academy, and I think we have to stop pointing fingers and blaming the Academy.”
“It’s people that hire, it’s people at the main gate of studios and independents. It’s the stories that are being told,” he continued. “It’s who’s writing diversity – it starts on the page. And we all have to be more proactive in getting out there and just seeking talent.”