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John Bailey Elected President of the Motion Picture Academy

The cinematographer has been a vocal critic of Academy leadership in his time on the board


John Bailey has been elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy announced on Tuesday.

The 74-year-old cinematographer was chosen by a vote of the Academy’s Board of Governors, which met on Tuesday evening at the Academy’s Beverly Hills headquarters.

Other officers elected at the board meeting were Lois Burwell, first vice president; Kathleen Kennedy, Michael Tronick and Nancy Utley, vice presidents; Jim Gianopulos, treasurer; and David Rubin, secretary. Kennedy, Utley, Gianopulos and Rubin occupied the same positions last year.

Bailey will succeed Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who leaves office after serving the maximum four consecutive terms and was the face of the Academy during the #OscarsSoWhite furor and the subsequent push to broaden and diversify Academy membership.

Bailey’s films include “American Gigolo,” “Ordinary People,” “The Big Chill,” “Groundhog Day,” “The Way, Way Back” and “A Walk in the Woods.” He has been a longtime representative of the Cinematographers Branch on the board, and will be the first member of that branch to serve as president.

He has never been nominated for an Oscar for his work.

He assumes the position at a time when the Academy’s diversity is still a hot-button issue, and as construction continues on the lavish Academy Museum project at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. AMPAS has been forced to borrow heavily to continue financing the museum, a rare and troubling occurrence to many members of the Academy and its board.

Bailey is also known to be a vocal critic of Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, and his election must be considered a victory for a contingent of the board that has been critical of Hudson’s leadership.

Other governors who had expressed interest in the position — though open campaigning is frowned upon at the Academy — included documentarian Rory Kennedy and casting director David Rubin.

Numerous media accounts had actress Laura Dern as the frontrunner for the position – but according to members of the board, Dern had second thoughts about running for the job at a time when her acting career is extremely active. TheWrap has confirmed that Dern, who would have been Hudson’s preferred candidate, did not in fact run for the office.

At the meeting to elect a new president, any member of the board can be nominated for the position. This year’s election was the most wide-open going into the board meeting since Tom Sherak became a surprise choice in 2009. And judging by the time it took to announce the new president, it took far longer than usual for a candidate to reach 50 percent of the 54 votes.

Since the Academy was launched in 1927, the Actors Branch and the Writers Branch have supplied the most presidents, seven each. But over the past two decades, presidents have often come from the Public Relations and Executive Branches, as the Academy has moved away from filmmakers and actors and toward strategists and boardroom types.

The position has also become more active and time-consuming. The last few Academy presidents, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Hawk Koch, Tom Sherak and Sid Ganis, all of whom turned what was once a part-time job at best into a full-time gig.