‘Django Unchained’ Producer on ‘Selma’ Oscar Snubs: Did Voters Have “Racial Fatigue”? (Guest Column)
by Reginald Hudlin The Hollywood Reporter 1/21/2015
I hate whining.
Ironically, when I was asked to write about the Oscar “whiteout,” I was in a planning meeting for the NAACP Image Awards. For those who don’t know, the NAACP created the Image Awards almost 50 years ago in response to the lack of recognition of black talent in front of and behind the camera in mainstream (white) awards shows. You’d think this show wouldn’t be needed by now, but that’s clearly not the case.
Was there Oscar-worthy work in Selma that was overlooked? Absolutely! Why did it happen? One obvious problem is that not enough screeners were sent to the voters. And regardless of race, every Oscar year is full of heartbreaking overlooks of worthy performances and filmmaking. The unknowable question is whether the same voters who supported 12 Years a Slave had racial fatigue after supporting a black film last year. But in a year with a cascading series of racial controversies in Hollywood, the lack of black nominees highlights a bigger problem.
Articles decrying the lack of black presence in the Oscars is an annual event. Every once in a while there will be a miracle like 12 Years a Slave winning big, or Denzel Washington, Halle Berry and Sidney Poitier all winning Oscars. Those exceptional anecdotes don’t make up for the tiny percentages of black and brown people working in entertainment.
Why is our business so behind the rest of the country? It’s easier for a black person to become president of the United States than it is to be president of a movie studio. In the ruthless world of the Fortune 500, there are now black chairmen or CEOs at American Express, Microsoft, McDonald’s, Merck and Xerox. When it comes to executive vps, managing directors and other feeder positions for future CEOs, the entertainment business can’t compare to the banking world, which is perceived to be a far more conservative environment.
Given the shrinking white population in this country, the lack of people of color in the suites and on the screens is just bad business.
In the 1950s, Hollywood was reluctant to make movies with black stars because Southern distributors wouldn’t support them. Now the South is one of the biggest markets for black entertainment product. But the problem still isn’t solved because in the 21st century, Hollywood is reluctant to make movies with black stars because the international market won’t support them.
Samuel L. Jackson told me a story about talking with a distributor in Japan who was telling him how he doesn’t “play” there because no one knew who he was. But as they walked down the streets of Tokyo, Japanese people kept stopping them, excited to see Jackson in the flesh! The executive did not register the irony.
So how do we make things better? By taking action at every point of the food chain.
I know the Academy has already been working very hard to diversify its membership. My agency is bringing more people of color through its internship program. I hope other institutions do the same. Corporations should look at their vendor relationships and do business with companies owned by people of color. Make diversity a metric in annual bonuses.
When three of the biggest new TV shows of the year have black casts and producers, it would be prudent for other networks to follow their lead. It would be prudent for more films to emulate the multicultural casting of the Fast and Furious series, which is more successful with each installment.
And it would be great if the phrase “black film” wasn’t just used when a movie makes less than $100 million. When a movie with a black lead makes more than that, they aren’t black movies but “Will Smith movies” or “Denzel Washington movies” or “Kevin Hart movies.” If a movie makes enough money, then color goes away. It’s kinda like how some people think Egypt isn’t a part of Africa.
Like Martin Luther King Jr., we can all make a difference if we believe the time for action is now.
Reginald Hudlin is an Oscar-nominated producer of Django Unchained who produced the 2014 Governors Awards for the Academy.
Here I am flanked by AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson and President Cheryl Boone Isaacs (with her husband Stanley), with honoree Maureen O’Hara (seated).
Star of the upcoming BLACK PANTHER movie Chadwick Boseman, singer and actress Zendaya and I talked a lot that night.
Sidney Poiter, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, me and Mrs. Poiter.
Governors Awards: Top Contenders Celebrate Legends at Dress Rehearsal for Oscars
by Scott Feinberg
As always, the Academy’s second biggest night was beautifully orchestrated, emotionally moving and attracted dozens of current Oscar hopefuls
Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the Governors Awards
The Academy’s sixth annual Governors Awards was, like the five before it, as special a night as any on the Hollywood awards season calendar.
I refer to it as "special" because it was a beautifully orchestrated and moving ceremony (hat-tip to the evening’s producer, Reginald Hudlin, and Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs) celebrating four remarkable people: Golden Age actress Maureen O’Hara, prolific writer Jean-Claude Carriere and animation master Hayao Miyazaki received honorary Oscars, and 87-year-old actor-activist Harry Belafonte became the 37th recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
Liam Neeson salutes Maureen O’Hara!
Clint Eastwood talks about working with Maureen O’Hara.
I refer to it as part of the "awards season calendar" because it decidedly is. Each year, more and more tables are bought by studios and filled with Oscar-contending talent. They gamely show up, knowing that attendance guarantees them not only a chance to witness history, but also the opportunity to casually (or not so casually) rub shoulders with more Oscar voters and tastemakers than they will encounter in just about any other room prior to voting. Only 600 people are seated in the room, but almost everybody is somebody.
This all provides a close observer with the opportunity to witness some pretty cool things.
Before dinner, Jessica Chastain, a star of Interstellar (as well as A Most Violent Year, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and Miss Julie) and perhaps the most beautiful and talented redheaded actress in the movies today, nervously approached O’Hara, perhaps the most beautiful and revered redheaded actress of Hollywood’s Golden Age. O’Hara happily agreed to pose with her for a photograph, in which Chastain grinned with delight.
Selma’s writer-director Ava DuVernay introduced me to the gorgeous young actress Tessa Thompson, who stars in Justin Simien‘s Dear White People and DuVernay’s forthcoming film. We all had a chuckle upon realizing that both of Thompson’s directors were film publicists until getting behind a camera quite recently. Now DuVernay is the director of one of the most anticipated films of the year.
Jack O’Connell, the star of the forthcoming Unbroken, did a classy thing and snuck away from the event for a few minutes to go downstairs to the Dolby Theatre and surprise an audience attending an AFI Fest screening of another of his films, 71, which will be out next year and could be an awards player.
I was able to introduce Laura Poitras, the director of the acclaimed Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour — who is back from four days of much needed R&R in Berlin — to one of her heroes, the great Sidney Poitier, who was delighted to meet her. I snapped a picture of the two of them together and offered to email it to Poitras, who gave me an address that, she joked, will guarantee that the NSA gets a look at it, too.
Elsewhere around the room, Boyhood‘s young actress Lorelei Linklater and IFC’s chief Jonathan Sehring sat across from each other, surveying the scene. Birdman‘s Michael Keaton squeezed Wild‘s Reese Witherspoon in a big hug as the two Fox Searchlight contenders posed for a pic, with Birdman‘s Edward Norton looking on. And the date of The Gambler star Mark Wahlberg, his young daughter, just wanted to meet The Fault in Our Stars‘ Shailene Woodley — who, as fate would have it, was among the few 2014 Oscar contenders not present.
Once the show got underway, several others showed up onstage as presenters. American Sniper director Clint Eastwood was part of the O’Hara presentation, and John Lasseter, whose Disney-Pixar is distributing Big Hero 6, was at the center of the Miyazaki segment. Out in the audience, one could hear a pin drop as Harry Belafonte delivered his jaw-droppingly eloquent and moving speech — that is, until it ended, at which point whistles of approval from David Oyelowo, who plays Belafonte’s late friend Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, pierced through the applause.
Me talking with SELMA star David Oyelowo.
Once the ceremony concluded, I boarded an elevator full of stars — among them The Judge‘s Robert Downey Jr. and Wild‘s Laura Dern — and headed down to the valet area, where the wait for cars to come around enabled many other contenders to congregate with one another. Dern and Jake Gyllenhaal, who have known each other since costarring in October Sky 15 years ago, chatted. Get On Up‘s Chadwick Boseman was introduced to Mr. Turner‘s Timothy Spall. And Rob Marshall, the director of the forthcoming Into the Woods, bowed before the great director Norman Jewison.
Among those waiting for their cars was The Imitation Game‘s director Morten Tyldum and star Benedict Cumberbatch, who were running late for a nearby post-screening Q&A, so when their film’s distributor Harvey Weinstein got his car, he offered them a lift, remarking of the moving evening, "This is what it’s all about."
Other contenders who were present included The Imitation Game actor Keira Knightley and composer Alexandre Desplat; The Judge actor Robert Duvall; Fury actor Logan Lerman; Fort Bliss actor Michelle Monaghan; Belle actor Gugu Mbatha-Raw; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies actor Andy Serkis; The Theory of Everything actors Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones; Into the Woods actors Emily Blunt and James Corden; Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle and actor J.K. Simmons; A Most Violent Year writer-director J.C. Chandor and actor Oscar Isaac; Obvious Child actress Jenny Slate; Snowpiercer actress Tilda Swinton; Cake actor Jennifer Aniston; Boyhood writer-director Richard Linklater and actors Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette; Two Days, One Night directors Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne and actress Marion Cotillard; Foxcatcher director Bennett Miller and actors Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo; Black and White writer-director Mike Binder and actors Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer; The Homesman actress Hilary Swank and composer Marco Beltrami; Big Eyes actor Christoph Waltz; Wild director Jean-Marc Vallee; Get On Up director Tate Taylor; How to Train Your Dragon 2 director Dean DeBlois; American Sniper screenwriter Jason Hall; The Lego Movie writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller; Inherent Vice actor Katherine Waterston; Gone Girl composer Atticus Ross; and The Human Capital director Paolo Virzi.
A memorable conversation with Mr. Belafonte during rehearsal the day before the show. Thank you to his wife Pamela Belafonte for the photos!
Chris Rock celebrates Harry Belafonte as only he can.
Susan Sarandon introduced Harry Belafonte.
The speech of the night….of the season!
Belafonte Electrifies Governors Awards, Issues Challenge to Hollywood
Tim Gray, Awards Editor, @timgray_variety
Harry Belafonte gave one of the all-time great acceptance speeches at Saturday night’s Governors Awards, citing Hollywood’s often-shameful power to influence attitudes, and challenging the heavy-hitters in the room to instead create works that allow global audiences “to see the better side of who we are as a species.”
The performer, receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, pulled no punches, and his words were all the more effective because of the soft, even tone in his voice and the cautious optimism that concluded his speech.
The occasion was the sixth annual Governors Awards, at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland, an annual gathering that always mixes a celebration of Hollywood’s past, some words of encouragement to the room’s artists, and a heavy dose of awards-schmoozing.
The three recipients of Honorary Oscars — Maureen O’Hara, Hayao Miyazaki and Jean-Claude Carriere — all provided moments that were touching and charming. But, concluding the evening with a long and electric speech, Belafonte took things to a whole other level.
He reminded the crowd about “Birth of a Nation,” the early “Tarzan” films (depicting “inept, ignorant Africans”) and “i,” as well as the industry’s cowardice during the McCarthy hearings. He also referred to the industry’s decades-long treatment of Native Americans in films, “and at the moment, Arabs aren’t looking so good.” The industry doesn’t like trouble-makers and “on occasion, I have been one of its targets.”
But he said that “today’s harvest of films yields sweeter fruit,” citing “Schindler’s List,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “12 Years a Slave” as examples. He also thanked such inspirations as Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Eleanor Roosevelt and Paul Robeson, quoting the latter’s statement that “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth” as well as the radical voice of civilization.
He then called Sidney Poitier to the stage, recognizing the actor’s role in changing public attitudes toward blacks. And he added that he hopes things will improve this century: “Maybe it could be a civilization game-changer.”
The first recipient of the evening was Maureen O’Hara, now 94, who came onstage in a wheelchair and charmed everyone by singing a few lines of “Danny Boy.” She read her thanks and when her escort asked her to stand and take a bow, she said “Oh, no!” saying she intended to stay another 10 minutes onstage and tell her life story. She got partway through it, talking about growing up in the FitzSimons family in Ireland, but eventually her mike was removed and she exited the stage in a bittersweet moment.
Hayao Miyazaki, speaking with a translator, said he feels “lucky to be part of the last era when we can make films with paper, pencils and film.” Introducing him, John Lasseter hailed the Japanese filmmaker as one of animation’s greats, along with Walt Disney, and said Miyazaki has directed 11 animated features, more than anyone else in history.
Jean-Claude Carriere, who boasts 139 credits, said he was particularly pleased that an award was given to a scripter. “Very often screenwriters are like shadows passing through the history of cinema,” he said, accepting the award on behalf of all his fellow scribes throughout the world.
Clips of all the speeches are at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences website, oscars.org.
Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs opened the evening by saluting the four honorees, who represent “the amazing global diversity of our industry.” (Later, Chris Rock got off the evening’s best one-liner by congratulating Boone Isaacs on her work: “It’s nice to see a black president that America still likes.”)
Among those in attendance were Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, the board of governors, Oscar show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, studio honchos and a heavy dose of industry creatives. Megan Colligan, Paramount’s president of worldwide distribution and marketing, summed up the mood by saying “There’s always a real sense of community.”
That’s true even among the many awards hopefuls that were working the room. The event has become a key campaign stop for contenders, a chance to rub elbows with Academy voters and journalists.
There was a lot of cheery schmoozing. Producers Nora Grossman and Ido Ostrovsky (“The Imitation Game”) chatted with Bruna Papandrea (“Wild”), while animation directors Dean DeBlois (“How to Train Your Dragon 2″) palled around with Chris Williams (“Big Hero Six”).
Among attendees were directors Clint Eastwood, Richard Linklater, Rob Marshall, Bennett Miller, Morten Tyldum and Jean-Marc Vallée; and writers Dan Gilroy, Jason Dean Hall and Mike Binder.
There was an all-star lineup of actors, including Jennifer Aniston, Patricia Arquette, Steve Carell, Jessica Chastain, Kevin Costner, Benedict Cumberbatch, Laura Dern, Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ethan Hawke, Felicity Jones, Michael Keaton, Keira Knightley, Logan Lerman, Edward Norton, David Oyelowo, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Ruffalo, J.K. Simmons, Timothy Spall, Octavia Spencer, Hilary Swank, Christoph Waltz and Reese Witherspoon. Composers included Alexandre Desplat, Atticus Ross and John Powell.
Producer of the event was Reginald Hudlin.
Ray Chew and his amazing band, which blew award the crowd with their renditions of Oscar songs, from Moon River to Live and Let Die to West Side Story to Shaft.
Talk about it on HEF – the Hudlin Entertainment Forum