LOS ANGELES — Oscar-winning actor George Clooney has weighed in on the swirling controversy over the all-white roster of acting nominations for this year’s Academy Awards, saying the industry is moving backwards and needs to do better. Clooney, one of Hollywood’s biggest and most politically active stars, also said in an interview with industry magazine Variety that beyond nominating actors of color, filmmakers need to provide better roles and opportunities for black actors. “If you think back 10 years ago, the Academy was doing a better job. Think about how many more African Americans were nominated,” Clooney said in comments published Tuesday. “I would also make the argument, I don’t think it’s a problem of who you’re picking as much as it is: How many options are available to minorities in film, particularly in quality films?”
Last week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed the list of actors and films nominated for this year’s Oscars, to be handed out on Feb. 28. For the second year in a row, all 20 acting nominations went to white actors and actresses. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite reappeared, and director Spike Lee — the recipient of an honorary Oscar last year — announced he would boycott the event. “I think around 2004, certainly there were black nominees – like Don Cheadle, Morgan Freeman. And all of a sudden, you feel like we’re moving in the wrong direction. There were nominations left off the table,” Clooney said. He cited four films with black stars that he felt deserved more recognition: boxing drama “Creed,” NFL drama “Concussion,” starring Will Smith, “Beasts of No Nation” with Britain’s Idris Elba and N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton.” “Creed” co-star Sylvester Stallone, reprising his iconic role of Rocky Balboa, earned a nod, but the film’s star Michael B. Jordan did not.
He also highlighted last year’s snub of black female director Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” — nominated for best picture but not for best director, saying: “I think that it’s just ridiculous not to nominate her.” “I think that African Americans have a real fair point that the industry isn’t representing them well enough. I think that’s absolutely true,” Clooney said, adding: “For Hispanics, it’s even worse. We need to get better at this.” Clooney hailed efforts by Oscar-winning actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Patricia Arquette to demand wage equality in Hollywood. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said she was “heartbroken” by the lack of diversity and working to implement change. “We need to do more, and better and more quickly,” she said. The Academy has some 6,000 members, all of whom work in the film industry and are elected by their peers for life. According to a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times, nearly 94 percent of the Academy voters are white and mostly male.