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Will Smith boycotts Oscars in row over lack of diversity

HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 24: Actor Will Smith arrives at the Los Angeles World Premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures ‘Focus’ at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 24, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)


Will Smith boycotts Oscars in row over lack of diversity


Will Smith has announced that he will not be attending the Academy Awards next month, joining his wife Jada Pinkett Smith in a boycott over the all-white list of nominees.

Smith’s decision comes as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences faces mounting pressure to solve what many are calling the organization’s “diversity crisis.”

The “Concussion” star shared Jada Pinkett Smith’s worries about the lack of ethnic diversity among this year’s Academy Award nominations.

Smith remarked, “It would be awkward for me to show up with Charlize. [Jada and I] have discussed it, and we’re part of this community but at this current time, we’re uncomfortable to stand there and say that this is okay,” In an interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America.

He explained, “So many different people from so many different places adding their ideas to this beautiful American gumbo. At its best, Hollywood represents and creates the imagery for that beauty. But for my part, I think I have to protect and fight for the ideals that make our country – and make our Hollywood community – great.”

The 20 acting nominees are all white for the second year in a row. Smith’s performance in the sports drama “Concussion” garnered Oscar attention this season.


Despite his support for Pinkett Smith, the 47-year-old joked that he had no idea she was intending to skip Hollywood’s most important night, which she revealed in a Facebook video this week.

“I was out of the country at the time. And I came home, ‘What happened?’ “ he laughed. “She’s deeply passionate, and when she is moved, she has to go.”

“I heard her words and I was knocked over. I was happy to be married to that woman,” he continued.

According to Smith, the absence of diversity in Oscar nominees is a reflection of the country’s fundamental inequities.

“When I look at it, the nominations reflect the Academy. The Academy reflects the industry, reflects Hollywood and then the industry reflects America. It reflects a series of challenges that we are having in our country at the moment.

“There’s a regressive slide towards separatism, towards racial and religious disharmony and that’s not the Hollywood that I want to leave behind. That’s not the industry, that’s not the America I want to leave behind.”

His remarks reflect those made by George Clooney earlier this week, who stated that the film business is “moving in the wrong direction” when it comes to diversity.

Smith has been nominated for best actor twice before, for “Ali” in 2001 and “The Pursuit of Happyness” in 2006.

He lost both times to other black actors: Denzel Washington for “Training Day” and Forest Whitaker for “The Last King of Scotland.”

“To me, that was huge,” Smith said. “So when I see this list and series of nominations that come out – and everybody is fantastic. That’s the complexity of this issue. … But it feels like it’s going in the wrong direction.”

The Hollywood heavyweight addressed a chorus of naysayers who accused Pinkett Smith of boycotting the Oscars just because her spouse was not nominated.

“There’s probably a part of that in there,” he said, “but for Jada, had I been nominated, and no other people of color were, she would’ve made the video anyway.”

Spike Lee has joined the chorus of critics who have spoken out about #OscarsSoWhite, announcing that he will not be attending this year’s ceremony – but he claims he is not advocating for a boycott. “But, how is it possible for the second consecutive year all 20 contenders under the acting category are white?” he said in an Instagram post.

There have also been calls for Chris Rock, the comedian, to step down as host.

The membership of the Academy is kept secret, although according to a 2012 LA Times study, the group is 94 percent white and 77 percent male. The lack of diversity has left Cheryl Boone Isaacs, head of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), which organizes the Oscars, “heartbroken,” and AMPAS will be taking “dramatic steps” to change the balance of its membership to include more black and ethnic minority filmmakers. The extension of categories to accommodate more nominees is one of the changes being examined.

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