Call for diversity: Spike Lee Calls For Diversity

Published: November 17, 2015

Call for diversity: Spike Lee Calls For Diversity, It was a room full of the creme of Hollywood’s A-list, including Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Daniel Craig, Johnny Depp, Aaron Sorkin, Amy Schumer, and Idris Elba, along with top executives from every major studio. These are people used to being listened to, not sternly spoken to.

But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governors Awards on Saturday night in Los Angeles began and ended with blunt lectures about how much work the film industry needs to do on the issue of diversity.

The seven year-old Governors Awards are the home of lifetime achievement awards that used to be given out on the now slightly less bloated Oscars primetime show every winter. This year’s winners were actresses Debbie Reynolds and Gena Rowlands, and filmmaker Spike Lee — all respected artists who have never before won an Academy Award.

An intimate affair that’s not televised and takes place over dinner with several hundred people, it’s much more of a friendly celebration than the tense end of a sharp-elbowed and costly awards season that the actual Oscars have become.

In her introductory remarks before dinner was served, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs — the first black person to hold that position — urged the crowd to work harder to make the movie business more diverse in terms of ethnicity, gender, age and point of view, among other criteria.

“Words are not enough,” she told the mostly politically liberal, and largely white, crowd. “We need to take action and we have a unique opportunity to do so right now.”

Isaacs also noted that the Academy, itself the target of criticism for a primarily white and male membership, recently inducted its most diverse new class of members to date — a group that included Kevin Hart, Emma Stone and “Fast and Furious” director Justin Lin.

The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award went to Reynolds for her work on behalf of many charities over the years, including The Thalians, an organization that raised money for the treatment of mental illness. To audiences, Reynolds is best known for her role in “Singin’ In the Rain,” as well as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “Divorce American Style.”

In presenting the award, Jane Fonda got one of the biggest laughs of the night by saying that Reynolds “even got her daughter Carrie FIsher to pretend she suffered from mental illness for the good of the cause.”

Currently recovering from surgery, Reynolds was unable to attend the Governors Awards and her Oscar was accepted by her granddaughter Billie Lourd, who is also Fisher’s daughter.

Of all the night’s video montages, the most riveting to the room appeared to be that summarizing the career of Rowlands, an actress worshipped by many peers for her body of work, much of it with her late husband, the director John Cassavetes. The biggest cheer may have come for her performance in “A Woman Under the Influence,” perhaps followed closely by “Gloria.”

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