George Clooney says Hollywood ‘needs to get better’ at encouraging diversity

Two-time Academy Award winner offers his thoughts on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy

George Clooney has shared his thoughts on diversity in Hollywood as the #OscarsSoWhite controversy continues to rage.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the organisation behind the Oscars, said on Monday (January 18) that she is “heartbroken and frustrated” by the lack of diversity in this year’s nominations.

Highly acclaimed N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton has received just one nomination – for its trio of white screenwriters – and for the second consecutive year, all 20 acting nominees are white. Shortly after the nominations were announced last Thursday (January 14), the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite began trending on Twitter.

“If you think back 10 years ago, the Academy was doing a better job,” two-time Oscar winner Clooney told Variety. “Think about how many more African Americans were nominated. I would also make the argument, I don’t think it’s a problem of who you’re picking as much as it is: How many options are available to minorities in film, particularly in quality films?”

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The actor and film-maker added: “I think around 2004, certainly there were black nominees — like Don Cheadle, Morgan Freeman. And all of a sudden, you feel like we’re moving in the wrong direction. There were nominations left off the table. There were four films this year: Creed could have gotten nominations; Concussion could have gotten Will Smith a nomination; Idris Elba could have been nominated for Beasts Of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton could have been nominated. And certainly last year, with Selma director Ava DuVernay – I think that it’s just ridiculous not to nominate her.

Clooney concluded with a call for Hollywood to improve diversity across the board, saying: “But honestly, there should be more opportunity than that. There should be 20 or 30 or 40 films of the quality that people would consider for the Oscars. By the way, we’re talking about African Americans. For Hispanics, it’s even worse. We need to get better at this. We used to be better at it.”

A number of other high-profile actors and film-makers have also criticised this year’s Oscars nominations, including Spike Lee, who has revealed he will be boycotting the awards ceremony next month, and Jada Pinkett Smith, whose husband Will Smith did not receive the acting nomination many commentators had predicted.