Michael Caine on Oscars diversity debate: ‘You can’t vote for an actor because he’s black’

Legendary actor says he thought Idris Elba would earn a nomination for 'Beasts Of No Nation'

Michael Caine has become the latest A-list actor to share his thoughts on the debate about diversity at the Oscars.

For the second consecutive year, all 20 Academy Award acting nominees are white, which has prompted criticism from actors including George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon and Will Smith, who has announced he will be boycotting the awards ceremony next month (February).

Asked about the controversy by Nick Robinson on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Caine replied: “Yeah, but there’s loads of black actors. You can’t vote for an actor because he’s black. You can’t just say, ‘I’m going to vote for him. He’s not very good, but he’s black. I’ll vote for him.’ You have to give a good performance.”

Caine went on to reveal that he thought Idris Elba’s performance in war drama Beasts Of No Nation would secure a nomination, saying: “I saw Idris, and I thought he was wonderful. I thought he would get… Did he not get nominated?”

When Robinson confirmed that Elba had in fact not been nominated, Caine replied: “Well, look at me. I won the [European Film Award] for best actor, and I got nominated for nothing else.” Caine was referring to his performance in Youth, out today, which attracted early awards seasons buzz but failed to secure the actor a Golden Globe, BAFTA or Academy Award nomination.

“The great thing about it is you don’t have to go,” Caine then said of the Oscars jokingly. “I love Leonardo [DiCaprio], he played my son in a movie, but I don’t want to travel that far. I’m too old to travel that far to sit in an audience and clap for someone else.”

Asked if he had any advice for black actors frustrated by their lack of Oscar nominations, Caine said: “Be patient. Of course it will come. It took me years to get an Oscar.”

Caine won his first Oscar in 1986, a Best Supporting Actor prize for his role in Hannah And Her Sisters. He then won a second Oscar in 1999 for his performance in The Cider House Rules, once again for Best Supporting Actor.

Meanwhile, Best Actress nominee Charlotte Rampling has also shared her thoughts on this year’s Academy Awards nominations, saying the debate about diversity is “racist to whites”.