David Oyelowo on Lack of Black Oscar Nominees: ‘The Academy Has a Problem’

By Sameer Rao Jan 20, 2016

As the controversy around #OscarsSoWhite grows and incorporates more viewpoints from prominent Black film stars, David Oyelowo had his own piece to say. 

The British actor, best known for portraying Martin Luther King Jr. in Ava DuVernay’s "Selma," went off script at a gala on Monday (January 18) dedicated to Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs. As The Hollywood Reporter states, Oyelowo commented on his non-recognition for "Selma" last year and emphasized that the Academy does not represent the diversity of its members:

He revealed that Boone Isaacs had met with him privately to discuss his omission from the nominations. “A year ago, I did a film called ‘Selma,’ and after the Academy Awards, Cheryl invited me to her office to talk about what went wrong then,” he said. “We had a deep and meaningful [conversation]. For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors of color, actresses of color, to be missed last year is one thing; for that to happen again this year is unforgivable.”

While urging the audience to pray for Boone Isaacs, he continued: “The reason why the Oscars are so important is because it is the zenith, it is the epitome, it is the height of celebration of artistic endeavor within the filmmaking community. We grow up aspiring, dreaming, longing to be accepted into that august establishment because it is the height of excellence. I would like to walk away and say it doesn’t matter, but it does, because that acknowledgement changes the trajectory of your life, your career, and the culture of the world we live in.”

He said of the current Academy: “This institution doesn’t reflect its president and it doesn’t reflect this room. I am an Academy member and it doesn’t reflect me, and it doesn’t reflect this nation.”

Oyelowo also commented on how the current box-office leaders, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," and "Ride Along 2" are anchored by Black actors. 

His remarks coincided with Boone Issacs’ own statements on the Academy’s institutional issues with diversity and plan to make its leadership more diverse. 

Don Cheadle and "Straight Outta Compton" producer Will Packer are among the latest to add their voices to the #OscarsSoWhite criticism. 

(H/t The Hollywood Reporter, BBC)