“The idea that we could go two years in a row, where 40 actors could be nominated and none of them were black, is just crazy,” says Oscar-winning director
“I absolutely support what they are doing, and I will be happy to join them,” the “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” director said in a passionate late-night phone call. “I thought about this all day, and I don’t plan to go to the show, I don’t plan to watch it and I don’t plan to go to an Oscar party.
“And I say that as a proud member of the Academy, as someone who still sits on the executive board [of the Documentary Branch], as someone who knows full well that [AMPAS president] Cheryl [Boone Isaacs] and [CEO] Dawn [Hudson] are doing their best to fix the situation.”
In fact, Moore said he is a strong supporter of Isaacs, who issued a statement on Monday promising dramatic changes to make the Academy more diverse, and Hudson, who was hired as CEO in 2011, a year after Moore began his three-year term on the Board of Governors.
“I believe Cheryl when she says she is heartbroken,” he said, referencing Isaacs’ statement on her reaction to the all-white makeup of this year’s acting nominations. “I know from being in meetings with her and Dawn that they were insistent in having a diverse Academy long before this year.
“They are not looking for tokenism or symbolism – they want this thing fixed, and I believe they will accomplish that. This is not a PR move on the part of the Academy.
“But the idea that we could go two years in a row, where 40 actors could be nominated and none of them were black, is just crazy. So if it will help to lend my name to what Spike and Jada are doing, I’m hoping to be a symbolic participant in this [boycott].”
Moore said his own experience with diversity in the Academy came when he was elected to the Board of Governors from the Documentary Branch in 2010. “I asked about the racial makeup of our branch, which at the time was about 150 members, and I was told that there were no African-American members,” he said. “They told me that maybe there used to be one, but now there were zero. And I said, ‘I’m not going to represent an all-white branch in the 21st century.'”
Moore pushed for rule changes that eliminated the limits on the number of new members a branch could admit, and said the branch grew during his three years on the board from no black members to about a dozen. Three black members of the branch, he added, were recently appointed to the branch’s executive committee by its chairman, governor Alex Gibney.
The real diversity problem, he insisted, lies less with the Academy than with the industry it serves. “A fish rots from the head down,” he said, “and the head is over there in this industry. The problem has to get fixed in the studio system, which has been a white-dominated, male-dominated industry forever.”
The problem is particularly acute, he added, in the Academy’s hometown of Los Angeles.
“When you’re working in New York, you have a day-to-day existence with African-Americans in the industry here,” he said. “But I can fly to L.A. for two or three days of meetings and literally never encounter an African-American in any position of power. I can very easily leave LAX, go to a West Hollywood hotel, have a meeting in Burbank, another meeting in Century City and another in Santa Monica, go back to LAX and never encounter an African-Americans that isn’t in a service position.
“I love L.A., don’t get me wrong, but the problem has to get fixed there.”
Despite his conviction that the real problem lies in the industry, and that Academy is taking steps to change, Moore said that he considered resigning from the doc branch executive committee on Monday. “I thought about it a lot,” he said. “Do I want to be part of a system that doesn’t change? Or do I stay and try to work to fix it?”
And as an Academy member, will his Oscars boycott extend to not voting for the awards this year?
“I haven’t thought about that,” he said, pausing. “It always feels weird in a democracy to say you’re not going to vote. I don’t know if I can utter words like that.”