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George Clooney rues Oscar nominations and lack of opportunity in Hollywood

The Monuments Men

Story by Jack Foley

OSCAR-winning actor George Clooney has added his views to the current debate surrounding the absence of a single actor of colour among this year’s Oscar nominees.

In an interview with trade publication Variety the actor-director said he felt the Academy was “moving in the wrong direction”. But he also pointed out that the failure does not merely lie with that organisation but with Hollywood as a whole for a wider lack of opportunity.

This year’s nominations were immediately greeted with uproar when it emerged that for the second year running 20 white actors had been shortlisted in the acting categories, leading to calls for a boycott of the event led by director Spike Lee and actor Jada Pinkett Smith. They have since been joined by documentary maker Michael Moore.

And the debate has now been going on for over a week, with last year’s snubbed actor David Oyelowo describing the Academy’s failure as unforgivable and even Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs putting out a statement expressing her frustration and disappointment, as well as plans to reform the Academy.

Clooney has agreed that the situation is disappointing, saying: “I think around 2004, certainly there were black nominees – like Don Cheadle, Morgan Freeman. And all of a sudden, you feel like we’re moving in the wrong direction.”

But he went on to point out that he felt the issue was broader than just the Oscars, saying that people of colour needed more opportunities in Hollywood, even going so far as to comment on the current pay disparity between male and female actors, as well as the woeful opportunities afforded to Hispanic filmmakers.

“I think that African Americans have a real fair point that the industry isn’t representing them well enough. I think that’s absolutely true,” he said.

“[But] I think we have a lot of points we need to come to terms with. I find it amazing that we’re an industry that in the 1930s, most of our leads were women. And now a woman over 40 has a very difficult time being a lead in a movie.

“Jennifer Lawrence and Patricia Arquette have made the loud pronouncement about wage disparity, have put a stamp on the idea that we got to pay attention. But we should have been paying attention long before this.

“[So] I don’t think it’s a problem of who you’re picking as much as it is: how many options are available to minorities in film, particularly in quality films? There should be 20 or 30 or 40 films of the quality that people would consider for the Oscars. By the way, we’re talking about African Americans. For Hispanics, it’s even worse.”

This year’s Oscars take place on February 27 and are hosted by comedian and filmmaker Chris Rock.

View the nominations