Among the crop of fresh faces is 36-year-old up-and-comer Nate Parker, who wrote, directed and starred in "The Birth of a Nation," a movie sure to get notice from the Academy when it comes out later this year. Indie darling Greta Gerwig (32) also made the list, alongside America Ferrera (32), Oscar Isaac (37), Freida Pinto (31) and 24-year-old "Star Wars" star John Boyega. He may have played second banana to Daisy Ridley in that movie, but she didn't make the cut.
It's hard to imagine that some of the names on the list weren't already in the Academy. How Idris Elba, Mark Rylance, Eva Mendes and Luis Guzman escaped notice this long is anyone's guess. Ditto for "Matrix" directors the Wachowskis. But there are also curious choices. Former "Melrose Place" star Daphne Zuniga hasn't done much in recent years, and actor Jesse D. Goins has mainly been a guest star on television procedurals.
The Academy appears to be opening up its ranks not just to prolific artists devoted to serious art. Director James Wan is best known for horror movies, including "Saw" and "The Conjuring." And director Marielle Heller was invited even though she has helmed just one movie — "The Diary of a Teenage Girl." The same goes for Gillian Robespierre, the woman behind "Obvious Child."
Meanwhile, the Wayans family has plenty to celebrate. Not only was Keenen Ivory Wayans invited to be a member of the director's group and writer's group (he'll have to choose one), but his brother, Marlon, and nephew, Damon Wayans Jr., were invited into the acting branch.