Helen Mirren: criticising Oscars over race is 'unfair'British Hollywood star laments failure of Academy members to reward Idris Elba, but suggests #Oscarssowhite row reflects need for deeper change in Hollywood
Thursday 4 February 2016 10.11 GMT
Helen Mirren has defended the Oscars against “unfair” accusations the world’s most famous film ceremony has become a closed, all-white club.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, Mirren denied the failure to nominate a single actor of colour for any acting awards for the second year running was a failure of relevance on the part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“I think it’s unfair to attack the Academy,” she told presenter Jon Snow. “It just so happened this year it went that way.”
|Helen Mirren by T.A.|
Hackney-born Idris Elba was widely expected to receive a nod in the best supporting actor category for his performance in Netflix child-soldier drama Beasts of No Nation. at the weekend and has also received a Golden Globe nomination, but Mirren, who won the in 2007 for her turn as Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears’s The Queen, said too few Academy members had seen ’s acclaimed war drama.
“He [Idris] wasn’t nominated because not enough people saw, or wanted to see, a film about child soldiers in Somalia or the Congo or somewhere like that,” said the 70-year-old, who was promoting her role as Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in new film Trumbo. “They just couldn’t face watching that movie and so not enough people saw that movie. It wasn’t in the cinema for long enough.”
Mirren added: “The thing is all of these things count, people don’t really realise how much these things matter. And because of all of that he wasn’t nominated – which he absolutely should have been. And if he’d been nominated we wouldn’t be having this discussion, but we should be having this discussion.
“The conversation is incredibly important,” she continued. “It forced the conversation.”
Mirren said the wider issue was not which actors were being rewarded with Oscars recognition, but how to improve diversity in Hollywood so that more people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds were given opportunities within the film industry.
“I’m saying that the issue we need to be looking at is what happens before the film gets to the Oscars,” she said. “What kind of films are made, and the way in which they’re cast, and the scripts … So it’s those things that are much more influential ultimately than who stands there with an Oscar.”
In related news, an organisation called the Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition has announced plans to target Hollywood over diversity. The campaigning body, which speaks on behalf of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition and American Indians in Film and Television, said it hoped to persuade producers to encourage participation from professionals of colour in the wake of the #Oscarssowhite storm, having mounted a similar campaign aimed at TV executives.
“Individuals from all of our communities have been denied meaningful opportunities for their work to be considered for Academy awards,” said Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “Studios need to know that representation matters – for recognition of hard work and talent, for combating negative stereotypes in our public discourse and for the next generation of our future leaders in the film industry.”
Sonny Skyhawk, founder of American Indians in Film and Television, said the group hoped to repeat the success of its diversity campaign in television.
“Each year, [the TV networks] provided data on the minorities they’ve hired as writers, producers, directors and actors, and we’ve discussed how accurately their series are reflecting reality,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “The great improvements you’ve seen on the small screen have been due in large part to our efforts. Now, we’re setting our sights on meeting with the top six movie studios and asking them to do the same on the big screen.”