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Film academy invites 395 new members, including Steven Yeun, Laverne Cox, Issa Rae and Robert Pattinson

The cast of the movie “Minari” at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
“Minari” director Lee Isaac Chung, clockwise from left, Han Ye-ri, Steven Yeun, Yuh-Jung Youn, Alan Kim and Noel Cho at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Chung, Han, Yeun and Youn are among this year’s invitees to the film academy.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

As movie theaters across the country continue to reopen for business, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Thursday that it is opening its doors to 395 new members, the latest step in its ongoing push to diversify its ranks.

Representing 50 countries, the list of invitees includes such boldface names as Leslie Odom Jr., Jurnee Smollett, Steven Yeun and H.E.R. as well as many performers, filmmakers and below-the-line professionals whose names would be unfamiliar to even the most hardcore cinephiles. The group includes 89 Academy Award nominees, such as “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” star Maria Bakalova, as well as 25 past Oscar winners, including “Promising Young Woman’s” Emerald Fennell.

With the academy continuing to look for ways to boost inclusion both within the organization and in the industry as a whole, 46% of the members of the 2021 class are women and 39% are from underrepresented ethnic/racial communities. Slightly more than half are from outside the United States.

Including the new class, according to the academy, 33% of its members identify as women, while 19% are from underrepresented ethnic/racial communities, on par with last year’s benchmarks. In a landmark 2012 analysis, The Times reported that Oscar voters were at that time 94% white and 77% male.

The film academy will present honorary Oscars to Samuel L. Jackson, Elaine May and Liv Ullmann, and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Danny Glover.

Seven branches invited more women than men this year, including casting directors, costume designers, documentary, executives, marketing and public relations, music and producers. Five drew the majority of their candidates from underrepresented ethnic/racial communities, including costume designers, directors, music, writers and actors, by far the largest of the academy’s branches.

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In the directors branch, the invitees include several filmmakers whose movies earned best picture nominations in last year’s Oscar race, including Fennell, Shaka King (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Darius Marder (“Sound of Metal”), Florian Zeller (“The Father”) and Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”). Three of the stars of “Minari” — Yeun, Ye-ri Han and supporting actress winner Yuh-Jung Youn — were among the invitees in the actor’s branch.

Having achieved its goal last year, set in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, of doubling the number of women and people of color in its membership ranks, the organization has slowed down the pace of growth of recent years.

While still significantly larger than the annual groups of invitees in previous decades, which were generally limited by quotas to around 100 members, this year’s class is less than half the size of last year’s class of 819, which was itself smaller than the record-setting 2018 class that weighed in at a whopping 928.

In a press release announcing the new invitees, the academy said it is returning to more limited numbers “to enable steady future growth and ensure the necessary infrastructure, staff resources and environment to support all academy members.”

The academy’s announcement comes as issues of inclusion remain at the center of the Hollywood conversation and follows months of blistering controversy over the makeup of the voting body behind the Golden Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.

A Feb. 21 Times investigation highlighted the fact that the tiny group of foreign journalists who hand out the Globes includes no Black members, touching off a firestorm that eventually led NBC to announce last month that it was pulling the awards off the air for 2022.

Facing a boycott from Hollywood talent and studios, the HFPA has pledged to bring in at least 20 new members in 2020 with a focus on recruiting Black members, and it has committed to other “transformational changes” addressing issues of ethics, governance and transparency highlighted in The Times investigation.

If all accept their invitations, the film academy will grow to roughly 10,700 members.

The 2022 Oscars look to get out from the Super Bowl and Olympics and will now take place a month later than originally planned.


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