Home Arts, Style & Entertainment Viola Davies joins Oscar diversity row

Viola Davies joins Oscar diversity row

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Two-time Oscar nominee Viola Davis has added her voice to the ongoing row over diversity at the Academy Awards.

“It’s not the Oscars,” she said, “the Oscars are a symptom of a much greater issue and that’s the issue of the Hollywood movie-making system.”

She argued there should be more films with roles for actors of Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

“The opportunity does not match the talent. There needs to be more opportunity. You have to invest in it.”

Last year, Davis became the first black actress to win an Emmy for best actress in a leading role on a TV drama, for her performance in How to Get Away With Murder.

At the time, The Help star gave an emotional acceptance speech which echoed her comments this week: “The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”

Davis is among a growing body of stars who have spoken out after all 20 acting nominations at this year’s Academy Awards went to white performers.

Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon expressed her “disappointment” on her Facebook page: “So disappointed that some of 2015’s best films, film-makers and performances were not recognised,” she wrote.

“Nothing can diminish the quality of their work, but these film-makers deserve recognition. As an Academy member, I would love to see a more diverse voting membership.”

But double Oscar-winner, Sir Michael Caine, advised black actors to “be patient”.

“There’s loads of black actors. In the end you can’t vote for an actor because he’s black. You can’t say ‘I’m going to vote for him, he’s not very good, but he’s black, I’ll vote for him’,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

“You have to give a good performance and I’m sure people have. I saw Idris Elba [in Beasts Of No Nation]… I thought he was wonderful.

“Of course it will come. It took me years to get an Oscar, years,” he added.

On Thursday, former Oscar nominee Will Smith joined his wife Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee in boycotting this year’s Oscar ceremony on 26 February.

Speaking at Davos, musician and actor Will.i.am was asked if he considered there to be diversity problem in the music and film industry: “I have a very long answer to that. The things that they’re rallying against are true, there is… diversity issues… but… the people that are actually rallying are very powerful, and they could create their own Academy, so I go for – start your own Academy.”

Actors Mark Ruffalo and Dustin Hoffman have backed colleagues boycotting the Oscars, while Quincy Jones has demanded to “speak for five minutes on the lack of diversity” at the ceremony, or he will refuse to fulfil his role as a presenter.

Fast and Furious star Tyrese Gibson and rapper 50 Cent have called on Chris Rock to step down as Oscars host in the wake of the furore.

 

At the opening of the Sundance Film Festival, founder Robert Redford – who is himself an Oscar winner and four-time nominee – refused to be drawn directly on the Oscars controversy, but stressed one of the fundamental tenets of Sundance was diversity.

 

“There’s always a tendency, it seems, to label things and speak out against things, but I want to make it clear that I’m not against the mainstream,” he said.

 

“I’ve been a part of that and very happy to have been a part of that. I’m not against mainstream, this is just meant to broaden the film industry … give audiences more choices.”

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