In its latest step to address the sexual misconduct scandals that have roiled the film industry in recent months, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Thursday that it had expelled comedian Bill Cosby and director Roman Polanski from the group’s ranks.
The decision by the academy’s 54-member board of governors, which includes such luminaries as Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Kathleen Kennedy, was reached at a May 1 meeting “in accordance with the organization’s Standards of Conduct,” the academy said in a statement.
Cosby was convicted of three counts of sexual assault on April 26, capping a stunning fall from grace for the once beloved comic who starred on such TV hits as “I Spy” and “The Cosby Show” as well as in movies like “Uptown Saturday Night.”
Polanski, who directed such films as “Chinatown” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” pleaded guilty in 1977 to unlawful sex with a minor. While awaiting sentencing, he fled the country and remains a fugitive from the U.S. criminal justice system. A five-time Academy Award nominee, Polanski won the director Oscar for the 2002 drama “The Pianist” and received a standing ovation.
In October, in response to unfolding sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the academy expelled the film mogul and announced new standards of ethical conduct that its members would be expected to uphold. Those standards were officially adopted in December, with the group declaring: “There is no place in the academy for people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates recognized standards of decency.”
At the time, many people in and out of Hollywood wondered how Cosby and Polanski could be allowed to remain in the academy, but how exactly those standards will be enforced has been the subject of some debate among the academy’s leadership, with some arguing that the group should not police its members’ behavior. The first test of the new standards came in March, when reports surfaced of an accusation of sexual harassment against the group’s president, John Bailey. After an investigation, Bailey was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Last month, producer and former studio executive Bill Mechanic resigned from the academy’s board with an inflammatory letter that in part criticized the group over its handling of the issue. “The academy has no right to be in people’s lives,” he said in an interview with The Times. “It’s not its role and it has no skill in it and it’s not set up for it. And then the first time they even do anything [with the allegation against Bailey], they not only stub their toe, they allowed somebody to weaponize it.”
Mechanic’s views were deemed outlier by some within the academy.
In the statement announcing the expulsion of Cosby and Polanski, the group reiterated its commitment to holding members to certain standards of behavior.
“The board continues to encourage ethical standards that require members to uphold the academy’s values of respect for human dignity,” the academy said.