Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg On Oscars Diversity Issue: ‘It Starts On The Page’, We Must ‘Be More Proactive’

Award-winning director Steven Spielberg opened up recently about the diversity issues and racial controversies surrounding the Oscars nominations and overall ceremony.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the three-time Oscar winner did not hesitate to express his strong opinions that the fingers of blame should not be directed at the Academy.

However, he did express that he had a shocking reaction to some of the snubs that occurred when the Oscar nominations were first announced, including Idris Elba and Straight Outta Compton.

“I’m a huge supporter of the Academy Awards. I was surprised at some of the individuals who were not nominated. I was surprised at [the exclusion of] Idris [Elba] — I was surprised at that. I think that was one of the best performances in the supporting actor and the actor category, was Idris. I’ve seen Straight Outta Compton — my wife and I saw it when it first opened, the first weekend, and it just rocked our world. It was incredible. I was very surprised to see that omission.”

Since the Academy is making strides to opening up its membership to welcome more diversity, quite a few celebrities, including Will Smith, have openly expressed their support.

Spielberg himself stated in his interview that he believes what the Academy is doing “in a proactive way to open up the membership to diversity” is “very, very important.” However, the Bridge of Spies director is admittedly not in favor of taking away votes from other members to do so.

“I don’t believe that there is inherent or dormant racism because of the amount of white Academy members. I’m also not 100 percent sure that taking votes away from Academy members who have paid their dues and maybe are retired now and have done great service — maybe they’ve not won a nomination, which would have given them immunity to the new rules, but they have served proudly and this is their industry, too — to strip their votes? I’m not 100 percent behind that.”

The controversy behind the Oscars nomination and the underlying racial issues of Hollywood in general have definitely made headlines in recent months. Since this is the second consecutive year of the #OscarsSoWhite debate, it has also led many fans, critics, and celebrities to pay close attention to who is being featured in front of and behind the Hollywood camera on major motion pictures.

During the interview, Steven Spielberg addressed this particular topic by stating he has “been colorblind [his] entire life,” allowing his personal and professional track record do the talking on his behalf.

In addition to raising two black children, he was worked with a wide variety of racially diverse actors, actresses, and crew members over the years. Raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, it is understandable why he had so much pride in his work in the 1993 Oscar-winning film Schindler’s List.

However, he also was the director that brought The Color Purple and Amistad to the big screen, in addition to a number of other memorable films with racially diverse casts, including Hook, Jurassic Park, and several Indiana Jones films.

Therefore, many fans and critics wholeheartedly agree with Steven Spielberg when he says that he has “always” had diversity on his sets both in front of and behind the camera.

What is the issue, then? Where should the focus be placed when it comes to diversifying the Oscar nominations and list of winners? According to Steven Spielberg, the focus needs to be driven far past the Academy.

“It’s not just the Academy and I think we have to stop pointing fingers and blaming the Academy. It’s people that hire, it’s people at the main gate of studios and independents. It’s the stories that are being told. It’s who’s writing diversity — it starts on the page. And we all have to be more proactive in getting out there and just seeking talent.”

In addition to his extensive resume as a director, Steven Spielberg has also worked as a screenwriter and executive producer on numerous projects. Therefore, his strong opinions about paying attention to “the page” and being “more proactive in getting out there” to seek talent come along with the credibility of his own proven track record in Hollywood.

[Image Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images]

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