The ongoing Oscars controversy has elicited very different responses from the cast and crew of the N.W.A. biopic, Straight Outta Compton.
For the second year in a row, black actors have failed to be nominated in the major acting categories at the Academy Awards, resulting in a strong backlash from certain quarters of the Hollywood community. Jada Pinkett-Smith famously called for a boycott of this year’s ceremony, with directors like Spike Lee also and Oscars host Chris Rock also rallying behind the African-American community to voice its discontent in more explicit ways.
Of course, some consider the Oscars snub of black actors to be legitimate, with their point of argument relying heavily on their belief that no black actor (or actress) has performed well enough to deserve a nomination. Others disagree, pointing to movies like Creed, Concussion, and Straight Outta Compton, arguing that some of the performances in those movies by African-American actors is too good to be ignored by the Academy.
And now, as the controversy heats up on social media and within the Hollywood fraternity, others have started to voice their opinions, too. Interesting as the backlash is, it is even more interesting to see some of the people involved in the same movie reacting very differently to the #OscarsSoWhite saga. Straight Outta Compton is a case in point, with different people involved in the movie having different opinions about the backlash.
O’Shea Jackson Jr., who played his father, Ice Cube, in the biopic, is not mad about the whole issue. Although he agreed that the Academy did fail to qualify some fantastic performances by black actors as being worthy of a nomination in an interview with E! Online, Jackson Jr. said Straight Outta Compton has still been nominated for the Best Original Screenplay.
“The voters, they’re entitled to their own opinions, just like you and I. That doesn’t mean Straight Outta Compton is not being celebrated. We are still up for an award for original screenplay and I will be there to represent Straight Outta Compton.”
And he has better hope for the future of the black community in Hollywood. “[Let’s] just [go] back to the drawing board,” he said. “They’ll be there for years to come and let’s make sure we are, too.”
But while evidently O’Shea Jackson Jr. is not stoked about the whole issue, very much like his father Ice Cube himself, others related to the project feel differently. Will Packer, the producer of Straight Outta Compton, who has worked with Ice Cube in other movies, said the Oscars snub is simply embarrassing for the Academy and what it represents.
“To my Academy colleagues, WE HAVE TO DO BETTER. Period. The reason the rest of the world looks at us like we have no clue is because in 2016 it’s a complete embarrassment to say that the heights of cinematic achievement have only been reached by white people. I repeat — it’s embarrassing.”
But while Packer certainly blamed members of the Academy for the snub, he said the problems in Hollywood run deeper. He said more black talent needs to come forward and stamp its authority within the film-making business. “We need more content produced by, written by, directed by and featuring filmmakers and actors of color being given the greenlight,” Packer said.
Straight Outta Compton’s director F. Gary Gray, however, does not agree completely with his producer. Speaking to MTV, Gray sided more with his star O’Shea Jackson, saying that no changes can be rolled in overnight. Although he expressed a desire to see more black faces in the nomination lists, he said he does not mind Straight Outta Compton being snubbed by the Academy, mostly because more powerful indicators suggest that the N.W.A. biopic was a major hit among audiences all over the world.
“We’re happy to be where we are. When you develop Straight Outta Compton, you just want to stay true and you want it to be authentic, and some people just don’t get it. It’s a very specific experience. It’s harsh to some, but it’s very real,” Gray said, perhaps insinuating that the raw nature of the biopic may have failed to strike a chord with the conservative (read: old, white and male) members of the Academy.
He further said there were other awards which have been more welcoming to Straight Outta Compton, and he is happy with that. “We’ve had a ton of nominations, and the awards are coming in — just from different places. To a certain extent, like Cube says, it’s all gravy from here.”
The controversy might only become more animated as we approach the Oscars, but one thing is certain: Hollywood is unable to decide which side to take.
[Photos by Rich Polk, Rick Diamond. Sara Jaye/Getty Images]