When the Oscar nominations were announced Thursday morning, it didn't take long for people to notice that for the first time since 1995, every single one of the 20 actors contending for the prestigious award were white. There was also not a single woman represented in the writing or directing categories. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite began trending almost immediately as more and more critical thinkpieces were released discussing the lack of diversity in this year's race, and particularly the glaring snubs of Selma, the biopic about Martin Luther King, Jr.
On Friday night, the film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs responded to the backlash in an interview with The Associated Press, saying the all-white acting slate has only inspired her to further push for diversity in the Academy, but that she remains proud of this year's nominees.
"In the last two years, we've made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members," said Boone Isaacs, the Academy's first black president. "And, personally, I would love to see and look forward to see a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories."
But while Boone Isaacs insists that the academy is "committed to seeking out diversity of voice and opinion," according to a survey conducted by The Los Angeles Times, the academy is nearly 94% white and 77% male with a median age of 62.
Speaking of the controversy over Selma failing to earn Ava DuVernay a directing nod or star David Oyelowo an acting nod, Boone Isaacs insisted this wasn't a reflection of a strong racial bias in the academy. "What is important not to lose sight of is that Selma, which is a fantastic motion picture, was nominated for best picture this year, and the best picture category is voted on by the entire membership of around 7,000 people," Boone Isaacs said.
She also said the academy is proud of all their acting nominees and that the five men up for best actor - Steve Carell, Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne - "are all at the top of their game."
"There are quite a few actors this year at the top of their game," she said. "There are five nominees and this year; these were the five."