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Film Academy Announces New Diversity Requirements For Best Picture Nominees


The Oscars have announced new diversity requirements for best picture nominees, and critic Bob Mondello has details.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: The Motion Picture Academy has long relied on the film industry to make diversity central to its process and has long been embarrassed at the results. Hashtags #OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSoMale have greeted recent telecasts, but it's hardly a new problem. Back in 1988, Eddie Murphy took a moment while announcing the best picture nominees to say he almost didn't agree to do it because in 60 years, the Oscars had only three times honored Black performers - Hattie McDaniel, Sidney Poitier and Lou Gossett, Jr.


EDDIE MURPHY: And I'll probably never win an Oscar for saying this, but, hey, what the hay. I got to say it. Actually, I might not be in any trouble 'cause the way it's been going, it's about every 20 years we get one. So we ain't due for about - till about 2004.

MONDELLO: In 2018, Frances McDormand did something similar when accepting the award for best actress, asking all the women nominees to stand and, when they did, saying...


FRANCES MCDORMAND: We all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. I have two words to leave with you tonight - inclusion rider.

MONDELLO: That's a contractual clause requiring diversity in hiring, all to little avail. The Academy, pledging to do better, has made strides in diversifying its membership, including doubling the number of persons of color in three years, though the organization is still overwhelmingly white and male. Now it's taking action to ensure that at least one category, best picture, is more inclusive. Starting next year, it will phase in requirements for diversity with regard to race, ethnicity, gender and the differently abled in four areas - representation on-screen, leadership off-screen, apprenticeship opportunities and diversity in marketing and distribution.

To be eligible for best picture in 2024, a film will not have to satisfy all those standards, just two of them. It's worth noting that there has always been one smidgen of diversity at the Oscars - the statuette itself, likely modeled on Latino screenwriter and "Wild Bunch" actor Emilio Fernandez. Everyone who's ever taken home an Academy Award can be said to have won an Oscar.

I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.