The biggest stunner of the Academy Award nominations? Not a single actor of color or female director was included, sparking immediate criticism about Hollywood’s failure to include minorities in its most elite ranks.
The director Ava DuVernay of “Selma,” the critically acclaimed Martin Luther King Jr. biopic, did not receive a nomination. Neither did any black members of the movie’s cast, including David Oyelowo for his role as King. “Selma” entered the Oscars race as a strong contender for multiple awards. “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” tied for the most nominations with nine each.
Critics say such results are no surprise given that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which votes on nominees and winners, is overwhelmingly white. An L.A. Times analysis in 2013 found that the overall academy was 93 percent white and 76 percent male.
The lack of diversity among nominees showed the limits of how far Hollywood will go to support minorities, who don’t often have the connections and get films made or get cast into leading roles.
Hannah Ehrlich, director of marketing for minority book publisher Lee and Low released a study to show the low numbers. She added that even though there is critical acclaim for “Selma” and “12 Years a Slave,” most films made by minority directors and featuring minority actors are limited to certain genres.
“What’s disheartening is that it seemed like things were improving after ’12 Years a Slave’ won last year but now it seems like the Academy is saying, ‘Because we did that, we’re good for a while,” Ehrlich said.
“These topics, slavery and civil rights, are hugely important but in almost any other category of films the casts are all white. Over and over people say that things are getting better but the numbers don’t show improvement and in fact this year we are moving backward,” she said.
The nominations for best leading and supporting actors did not include any minorities.
Best actor nominations went to Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”; Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”; Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”; Michael Keaton, “Birdman”; Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything.”
Cooper was a surprise to some critics because he wasn’t nominated for the Golden Globes.
Best actress nominees include: Marion Cotillard, “Two Days One Night”; Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”; Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”; Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”; and Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”.
The glaring lack of diversity immediately drew criticism.
A horrible year for diversity for the Academy: all white actors/actresses; no female writers or directors in Oscar race. Shameful. @Variety
— Claudia Eller (@Variety_Claudia) January 15, 2015
The lack of diversity at the Oscars only underscored problems routinely faced by black directors and casts. In our story last month, we looked into how many recent critical hits — “12 Years a Slave,” “The Butler,” “Dear White People,” and “Top Five” struggled to find financing and distribution.
“Part of the problem is it’s an incredibly insular industry,” said Darnell Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. “The people who make decisions, who green-light projects, tend to surround themselves with people pretty much like themselves.”
But for these executives, he added, “it’s becoming harder and harder to bury their heads in the sand and pretend there’s not this demographic earthquake happening. At some point, it’s not going to be sustainable. They’re going to have to start making movies that people of all colors will want to see.”