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Billie Eilish, Ariana DeBose among newest members of the film academy

Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
 2022-06-28
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Billie Eilish backstage after winning the original song Oscar for "No Time to Die" earlier this year (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

With the movie business still regaining its footing after more than two years of pandemic upheaval, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Tuesday that it is opening its ranks to 397 new members in the latest step in its ongoing effort to diversify its membership.

Representing 54 countries, the list of invitees includes such boldface names as Ariana DeBose, Billie Eilish, Jamie Dornan and Anya Taylor-Joy, as well as many performers, filmmakers, executives and below-the-line professionals whose names have never graced the marquee at a multiplex. The group includes 71 Academy Award nominees, such as “The Lost Daughter” star Jessie Buckley and “The Power of the Dog” nominee Jesse Plemons, as well as 15 past Oscar winners, including “CODA” supporting actor winner Troy Kotsur.

With the academy continuing to push for greater inclusion both within the organization and in the industry as a whole, 44% of the members of the 2022 class identify as women and 37% are from underrepresented ethnic/racial communities. Half are from outside the United States.

The announcement comes as the academy finds itself at a crossroads with an impending leadership transition, as Academy Museum director Bill Kramer prepares to take over next month as the organization’s chief executive from current CEO Dawn Hudson, who has led the academy through 11 transformative and at times tumultuous years.

Having achieved its goal in 2020, set in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, of doubling the number of women and people of color in its membership ranks, the organization has slowed down the pace of growth in recent years. This year’s group of invitees is nearly the exact same size as last year’s, which numbered 395.

While still significantly larger than the annual groups of invitees in previous decades, which were generally limited by quotas to around 100 members, this year’s class is less than half the size of 2020’s class of 819, which was itself smaller than the record-setting 2018 class that weighed in at a gargantuan 928.

Last year, the academy announced it planned to return to more limited class sizes “to enable steady future growth and ensure the necessary infrastructure, staff resources and environment to support all academy members.”

Including the new class, according to the academy, 34% of its members identify as women, while 19% are from underrepresented ethnic/racial communities, on par with last year’s benchmarks. In a landmark 2012 analysis , The Times reported that Oscar voters were at that time 94% white and 77% male.

Seven branches invited more women than men this year, including casting directors, costume designers, documentary, producers and marketing and public relations. Three branches drew the majority of their candidates from underrepresented ethnic/racial communities, including documentary, directors and actors, by far the largest of the academy’s branches.

In the directors branch, the invitees include Sian Heder , who won the adapted screenplay prize this year for “CODA,” which took home the best picture Oscar, as well as Reinaldo Marcus Green , whose “King Richard” also earned a best picture nod. In the music branch, the invitees include Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell, who won the original song Oscar for the title tune to the James Bond film, “No Time to Die.”

The academy’s announcement comes as issues of inclusion continue to loom over Hollywood’s all-important awards season. Last year, a Times investigation highlighted the fact that the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., the tiny group that hands out the Golden Globes, includes no Black members , touching off a firestorm that eventually led NBC to announce last month that it was pulling the awards off the air for 2022.

The HFPA has since added new members, including six who are Black. But with some in the industry continuing to hold the group at a distance, it is still unclear whether the Globes will make a televised comeback in 2023.

If all accept their invitations, the film academy’s total membership will grow to 10,665, including 9,665 voting members.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times .

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