These days, no one would like to thank the Academy. The 2016 Oscar nominees caused major drama after it was revealed in January that for the second year in a row, every single acting nominee was white. The outrage over the exclusion of people of color caused the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to start trending on Twitter, and Jada Pinkett Smith subsequently called for a boycott of this year’s Academy Awards.
The situation intensified as celebrities increasingly chimed in on the scandal throughout the course of awards season, which ultimately resulted in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences making modifications to its voting process. Here, Us Weekly takes a look back at all of the celebrities who’ve weighed in on the scandal thus far. See a timeline of reactions.
Staying out of the controversy while still acknowledging it, Oscars host Chris Rock tweeted an ad for the annual show, writing, “The #Oscars. The White BET Awards.”
Jada Pinkett Smith
Pinkett Smith was the first to tweet about boycotting the Oscars, writing, “At the Oscars … people of color are always welcomed to give out awards … even entertain, but we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments. Should people of color refrain from participating all together?” Pinkett Smith’s husband, Will Smith, was snubbed at this year’s ceremony after landing a Golden Globe nomination for his role in Concussion.
On Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Jada shared a follow-up video of herself on Facebook, officially calling for the boycott. “I can’t help but ask the question — Is it time that people of color recognize how much power, influence that we have amassed? We no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere,” she said. “The Academy has the right to acknowledge whoever they choose. To invite whoever they choose. And now I think that it’s our responsibility now to make the change.”
Actor Don Cheadle called out host Rock on Twitter, writing, “@chrisrock Yo, Chris. Come check me out at #TheOscars this year. They got me parking cars on G level.”
That same day, honorary Oscar-winning director Spike Lee joined Pinkett Smith’s call with an Instagram post of a young Martin Luther King Jr. After thanking Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and the board for his past award, he went on to say that he would not be attending the show this February.
“We Cannot Support It And Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy,” he captioned the photo. “But, How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let’s Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can’t Act?! WTF!!”
Will Smith’s former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air aunt, Janet Hubert, bashed Pinkett Smith’s boycott with her own video message.
“First of all, Miss Thing: Does your man not have a mouth of his own with which to speak?” Hubert asked in the clip. “The second thing, girlfriend, there’s a lot of s–t going on in the world that you all don’t seem to recognize. People are dying. Our boys are being shot left and right. People are hungry. People are starving. People are trying to pay bills. And you’re talking about some motherf–king actors and Oscars. It just ain’t that deep.”
Across the pond, British actor Idris Elba, who was snubbed this year for his role as an African warlord in the critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation, lent his voice to the cause, speaking to Parliament about the struggles actors of color face daily.
“The reason I went to America is because the USA has the most famous diversity policy of all, and it’s called the American dream,” he told Parliament. “The problem is the gap between the dream and the reality … to champion diversity is to champion the American dream. That’s the guarantee I want here in Britain. Where’s the British dream?”
And fellow Brit David Oyelowo, who was snubbed at last year’s show for his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, also spoke out against the Academy’s picks.
“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,” he said.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs
The President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, released an official statement on January 19 about the lack of diversity in this year’s nominees.
“I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees,” Isaacs shared in her statement to Us Weekly. “While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.”
Following Isaacs’ statement, Pinkett Smith tweeted her appreciation, writing, “I would like to express my gratitude to the Academy, specifically Cheryl Boone Isaacs, for such a quick response in regard to the issue at hand. I look forward to the future.”
The View cohost Whoopi Goldberg — who won her own Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1990’s Ghost — took time on the talk show to slam the Oscars boycott.
“You wanna boycott something? Don’t go see the movies that don’t have your representation. That’s the boycott you want,” she said. “To me, we have this conversation every year. It pisses me off.”
Furious 7 actor Tyrese Gibson called out host Rock in an Instagram post, writing, “Chris Rock do the right thing make a statement – were relying on you to DO the right thing….. There is NO JOKE YOU CAN CRACK TO EVER CHANGE THE WAY WE ALL FEEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Oscar winner Clooney also addressed the topic in an interview with Variety, saying, “If you think back 10 years ago, the Academy was doing a better job. 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?”
After winning her first Oscar in 2014 for her raw role in 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyong’o also spoke out against the Academy in an Instagram post.
“I am disappointed by the lack of inclusion in this year’s Academy Awards nominations,” she wrote. “It has me thinking about unconscious prejudice and what merits prestige in our culture. The Awards should not dictate the terms of art in our modern society, but rather be a diverse reflection of the best of what our art has to offer today. I stand with my peers who are calling for change in expanding the stories that are told and recognition of the people who tell them.”
GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump weighed in on the issue in January, during a taping of Fox & Friends, calling it a “tough situation.”
“I saw somebody on your show today say, ‘What do we do with BET, Black Entertainment, right?'” Trump said, praising actress Stacey Dash’s earlier interview. “The whites don’t get any nominations. And I thought it was an amazing interview, actually. I’ve never even thought of it from that standpoint. But with all of that being said, it would certainly be nice if everybody could be represented properly. And hopefully that’s the case, but perhaps it’s not the case. It’s a difficult situation.”
The 2005 Oscar winner chimed in on the controversy during his speech at the American Black Film Festival Awards in Beverly Hills on February 21. “All these Oscar talks, I don’t even trip about that,” he joked. “I mean, what’s the big deal? I was sitting at home with my Oscar, like ‘What’s all the hubbub?'”
The director, 69, weighed in on the controversy in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m a huge supporter of the Academy Awards,” he said. “I was surprised at some of the individuals who were not nominated. I was surprised at [the exclusion of] Idris [Elba] — I was surprised at that. I think that was one of the best performances in the supporting actor and the actor category, was Idris. I’ve seen Straight Outta Compton — my wife and I saw it when it first opened, the first weekend, and it just rocked our world. It was incredible. I was very surprised to see that omission.”
Chill, everyone. Ice Cube shared his take on the controversy on the Graham Norton Show on January 22, and said he didn’t get the hullabaloo. “You can’t boycott something that you never went to anyway,” the Straight Outta Compton producer, 46, told Norton. “That’s kinda weird. I look at it like a horse race. Once your horse loses the race, you tear up the ticket, go home. Back on out. … We don’t do movies for the industry, we do movies for the fans, for the people. And you know, the industry, if they give you a trophy or not, if they pat you on the back or not, it’s nice but it’s not something you should dwell on.”
Matt Damon shared his take on the ongoing 2016 Oscars boycott while speaking to Us Weekly and other reporters at the Sundance Film Festival. “You know, it’s shameful and embarrassing,” Damon, 45, told Us. “There’s two years in a row that there are no people of color nominated. That’s insane.” Damon, a member of the Academy, praised president Cheryl Boone Isaacs for taking action as the scandal blew up. “It’s a strong first step but that is all that it is, it’s a first step,” he told Us of the Board of Governors’ proposal to double minority membership by 2020. “This is going to be a very long road . . . I was very happy that they did that.”
President Barack Obama offered his two cents on the controversy in January, and noted that it was just one part of an underlying societal issue. “I think when everybody’s story is told, then that makes for better art,” he said. “It makes for better entertainment. It makes everybody feel part of one American family. So I think, as a whole, the industry should do what every other industry should do, which is to look for talent, provide opportunity to everybody.”
The Oscar-winning actress, 49, commented on the scandal at the AOL MAKERS Conference in Rancho Palos Verde, California, in early February. Berry won a Best Actress Oscar in 2002 for her role in Monster’s Ball. “It’s heartbreaking, because I thought that moment was bigger than me. It’s heartbreaking to start to think maybe it wasn’t bigger than me. Maybe it wasn’t,” said Berry, who was the first African-American woman to win the honor. “And I so desperately felt like it was.”
The 2016 Academy Award nominee told reporters at a luncheon in early February that he thought about sitting out of the annual awards show to stand on behalf of his Creed director, Ryan Coogler, and costar Michael B. Jordan. “I remember I spoke with Ryan Coogler when this happened. I said, ‘Ryan, how do you want to handle this? Because I really believe you are responsible for me being here,'” Stallone, 69, recalled. “I said, ‘If you want me to go, I’ll go. If you don’t, I won’t.’ He said, ‘No, I want you to go.’ That’s the kind of guy he is. He wants us to go and represent the film.”
Anderson joked about the controversy during his opening monologue at the 47th annual NAACP Image Awards in early February. “Listen, y’all, I don’t mean to sound cocky, but the movie’s called Creed, not Rocky,” Anderson, 45, rapped in the initial moments of his monologue. Later, the tone turned more serious. “Hollywood needs to know that this is what diversity is supposed to look like,” the evening’s host told his peers.