Richard Dreyfuss Is Riled He’ll ‘Never Have a Chance to Play a Black Man’ Because of Oscars’ New Diversity Requirements (Video)

“No one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give in to the latest, most current idea of what morality is,” the Oscar-winner said on “The Firing Line”

Richard Dreyfuss is not a fan of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ soon-to-be implemented diversity requirements for awards eligibility, saying bluntly, “They make me vomit.”

“It’s an art. No one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give in to the latest, most current idea of what morality is,” Dreyfuss told Margaret Hoover on PBS’ “The Firing Line With Margaret Hoover.” “What are we risking? Are we really risking hurting people’s feelings? You can’t legislate that. You have to let life be life. I’m sorry, I don’t think there is a minority or majority in the country that has to be catered to like that.”

The standards to which Dreyfuss is referring were first announced by the Academy in 2020. Starting in 2024, to be eligible for an Academy Awards for Best Picture, a film will be required to have a certain percentage of actors or crew from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

Studios that wish to submit a 2023 film for entry will need to include a Representation and Inclusion Entry Form (RAISE) that shows they met inclusion and diversity standards in two out of four areas: On-Screen Representation, Themes and Narratives; Creative Leadership and Project Team; Industry Access and Opportunities; and Audience Development.

Dreyfuss, an Academy Award winner himself, did not mince words about his thoughts on the new standards. He pointed to Laurence Olivier’s 1965 performance of “Othello,” in which the white actor played the titular character in blackface.

“He played a Black man brilliantly,” Dreyfuss said. “Am I being told that I will never have a chance to play a Black man? Is someone else being told that if they’re not Jewish, they shouldn’t play [in] ‘The Merchant of Venice?’ Are we crazy? Do we not know that art is art? This is so patronizing. It’s so thoughtless and treating people like children.”

When Hoover asked if there should be a difference in sensitivity in regards to Black representation given the United States’ history of slavery, Dreyfuss doubled down. 

“There shouldn’t be,” he said. “It says that we’re so fragile that we can’t have our feelings hurt.”

For the record, the Oscars diversity standards would not prohibit Dreyfuss or any other white actor from playing a Black character on screen. A film that hired a white actor for a Black role might receive criticism from many people, but it would still have many ways to qualify for the Oscars.

The Academy announced its shift in standards following the #OscarsSoWhite criticism, stating the changes are “designed to encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience.”

You can watch the entire interview at the top. The conversation about diversity starts around the 19:40 mark.