Motion Picture Academy aims for diversity, invites 271 to join

Actress Lupita Nyong'o.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

One of the young stars of “The Hunger Games” franchise, a stand-up comedian and former Oscar host, and a muscle-bound action hero were among the 271 people invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Josh Hutcherson, Chris Rock and Jason Statham’s fellow invitees include Oscar-winning “12 Years a Slave” star Lupita Nyong’o; Oscar-nominated, Somali-born actor Barkhad Abdi; “Happy” crooner Pharrell Williams; octogenarian actress June Squibb; composer and recently crowned EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner Robert Lopez and maverick producer Megan Ellison.

Including this week’s new invitees, the academy said it has 6,417 members. In recent years the academy has been trying to widen the reach of its largely white, older membership — an effort that continued this year, according to academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

“The academy is committed to bringing new voices into our ranks,” Isaacs said Thursday shortly after the invitee names were announced.

“We are encouraging our members to be our ambassadors, looking for folks of color, gender and international status to become members. This has been an initiative here for a number of years, and some are a little better than others — but we’re committed to diversify.”


A 2012 Times study found that the academy’s membership was overwhelmingly white and male: 94% of Oscar voters were Caucasian, while 77% were male. Academy members were found to have a median age of 62.

In December — after adding 432 voting members over two years — the overall academy was 93% white and 76% male, The Times found. The median age inched up to 63.

The academy does not release demographic information on its members. But a survey of those asked to become academy members this year found that 72% are men and 28% are women. The Times was also able to confirm the race of 265 of the 271 invitees and found that in that group about 89% are white non-Hispanic.

Isaacs, elected the academy’s first African American president in August, acknowledged that the academy invited fewer women and minorities into the group this year. “But that has actually given us even more of a push,” she said, “to encourage a more diverse membership.”

This year’s class is five fewer than in 2013, when the academy admitted 276 members to its ranks — about 100 more than in 2012. After The Times’ initial study, the group softened its membership quotas last year. Previously, the academy would invite about the same number of people as those who had died, retired or resigned.

The most new invitees this year (22) came from the newly created casting directors group. The second largest was the acting group with 20.

Notable invitees this year include actors Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Straithairn, directors David Gordon Green and Gina Prince-Blythewood, singer-songwriter Eddie Vedder, actor-writer Steve Coogan and writers Terence Winter and John Ridley.

Individuals gain entry to the academy by earning an Oscar nomination, getting two members to pen recommendations, or receiving an endorsement from an academy membership committee or the organization’s staff.

While the academy is eager to represent different perspectives, Isaacs said the qualifications for an ideal member have not changed.

“A good academy member is a filmmaker in front or behind the camera who has excelled in their career,” she said.

Times staff writers Oliver Gettell and Haley Goldberg contributed to this report.