Rupert Murdoch’s sons -- James and Lachlan Murdoch -- were among 31 people invited to the academy in the executive category.
James Murdoch’s invitation comes after he was elevated last year to chief executive of 21st Century Fox, which owns the Fox movie studio. The Fox film studio is in the process of a major leadership change as the younger generation of Murdochs endeavors to put its imprint on the media company that famous father Rupert built over the last five decades. His older brother, Lachlan Murdoch, serves as executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, a title that he shares with his father. Lachlan primarily works out of Fox’s West Coast headquarters in Century City, and is getting increasingly involved in TV and movie production. James Murdoch is based at the company’s corporate headquarters in New York.
Other invitees in the executive category include: AMC Networks Chief Executive Officer Josh Sapan, longtime Sony Pictures executive Adrian Smith, Imagine Entertainment executive Erica Huggins, Fox Searchlight executive Anikah Elizabeth McLaren, Village Roadshow Pictures executive Bonni Lee and billionaire Gigi Pritzker (“Enders Game” and “The Way, Way Back”), the chief executive of Oddlot Entertainment.
At least a few of the writers and directors recently invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ remarkably wide-ranging class of 2016 seemed like solid bets beforehand. I doubt that many were surprised by the invitations for Lenny Abrahamson and Adam McKay, both recent Oscar nominees for directing “Room” and “The Big Short,” respectively, or Ryan Coogler, whose overlooked work on “Creed” was cited repeatedly in the coverage of #OscarsSoWhite. Nor was it startling to see the inclusions of Phyllis Nagy, a screenplay nominee for “Carol,” or László Nemes, the Hungarian director of the recent foreign-language film winner “Son of Saul.”
What was surprising was the sheer number of filmmakers who were included despite never having been shortlisted for an Oscar, and who, to their credit, have never seemed particularly motivated by the desire to win one. For cinephiles the world over, to read those lists was to be confronted by a startlingly inclusive who’s who of global cinema — and to experience a sense of delight that grew and grew as the genuinely impressive reach of the academy’s undertaking came into focus.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences added 683 new members Wednesday, more than doubling last year’s record number of invitees. The dramatic action spurred many questions. Here are answers to five of them.
How does the academy notify invitees? I saw a bunch of people say that they found out on Twitter.
NAACP national board of directors Chairman Roslyn M. Brock issued a statement Friday commending the academy on its commitment to diversity among the 683 potential new members invited to join the industry group this week, and calling for more action. According to the academy, 46% of the invitees are female, and 41% are people of color.
“The progress that is being made by AMPAS is certainly going in a very positive direction with more that can be done,” Brock’s statement said. “In that regard, the NAACP has ideas that we believe could further enhance what you are currently doing. We would welcome the opportunity to share our ideas with you. We believe the NAACP and AMPAS can play an important and lasting leadership role in making your overall initiative a model for the entertainment industry.”
Time machines exist in many realms, but unfortunately the Hollywood awards show isn’t one of them. (If it were, perhaps Seth MacFarlane’s Oscars opening number might have gone differently.)
Still, it’s tempting to wonder how the Oscars might have looked if the motion picture academy’s recent push for diversity — which on Wednesday resulted in 683 new invitees, highs for both African Americans and women – had happened earlier. We're not talking at the dawn of the civil rights movement, either — just, say, in 2012, after The Times published its landmark report that found the academy was overwhelmingly white and male.
Would the last two years have seen a person of color in any one of its 40 acting nominations? Would the number of female-won best directing awards have been higher than one? And would Latino actors have won more than a single Oscar since the Eisenhower administration?
It’s a first step. And an exceptional one, provided it’s not the only one.
Moving to broaden its ranks by inviting 683 people to join as members, nearly half of them women and 41% of them people of color, the film academy has made good on its promise to create, over the next four years, a substantially different, more inclusive institution.
This initial, historic stride might already be enough in itself to shake up next year’s Oscars. A potential 10% membership boost — from 6,261 voting members to nearly 7,000 — couldn’t help but have some effect.
The last week has been a watershed one for race and Hollywood.
The motion picture academy, responding to the outcry over an absence of minorities in its ranks — and consequently its nominees — invited nearly 700 film professionals to become members. It’s by far the academy’s biggest new class, with more than 40% of the invitees people of color.
Three days earlier, at the BET Awards, “Grey’s Anatomy” star Jesse Williams unleashed a powerful, often frustrated, speech about an imbalance of power.
The academy branch committees that vote on new members approached their task slightly differently this year in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite outcry.
One prominent academy member who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issues said at their meeting some of the usual discussions about applicants were this year differentiated by a committee member noting a candidate’s minority status.
The debate at the level of committees — which vote on acceptance — is not unlike that of a college-admissions board deciding on an incoming class. And though the academy member said that race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality were far from the sole factors in evaluating a candidate, they could be a determining one. An applicant’s minority status did, in a few cases, tip the scales in favor of acceptance, the member said.
Earlier this month, in an effort to assist the academy in accomplishing its daunting goal, the Los Angeles Times released its own list, Our Diverse 100, of women, people of color and members of the LGBT community who we felt could help solve the academy's, and broader Hollywood’s, diversity problem. Readers also offered up their suggestions and the disability community staked its space in the conversation as well.
So, how did we do? Of our 100 suggestions, 36 were invited to be members. If we were in the Major Leagues, we’d be batting .360 — which isn’t too bad at all.
The Hollywood buzzword of the moment has been “diversity,” thanks in large part to the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and its creator April Reign. The former attorney and managing editor of BroadwayBlack.com first began using the hashtag on Twitter following the 2015 announcement of an all-white slate of acting Oscar nominees, and again when the same occurred earlier this year. When the likes of Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith indirectly joined the #OscarsSoWhite movement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science was prompted to react, making a commitment to diversify its ranks by doubling the number of women and people of color by 2020. Wednesday became the first chance for the organization to work toward its goal with the release of their latest list of invitees, and it’s the largest and most diverse class to date.
Moments after the reveal, Reign spoke with The Times via phone about the list and the future of the movement.