Director Steven Spielberg says there is no “inherent or dormant racism” among Oscar voters.
The three-time Oscar winner, whose latest movie, Bridge of Spies, is nominated for Best Picture, told The Hollywood Reporter’s Award Chatter podcast: “You have to look back a couple of years, where Lupita [Nyong'o] was recognized for Twelve Years a Slave, Twelve Years a Slave won Best Picture, you know? I don't believe that there is inherent or dormant racism because of the amount of white Academy members."
The Oscars received much criticism for not nominating black actors or directors for the second year in a row. High-profile black stars such as Spike Lee, Will Smith, and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, have said they will boycott the ceremony.
The Academy has said it will overhaul its voting process, including removing the memberships of artists who have not worked in the film industry for more than a decade.
Spielberg disagreed with that proposal, saying: “I'm also not 100 percent sure that taking votes away from Academy members who have paid their dues and maybe are retired now and have done great service - maybe they've not won a nomination, which would have given them immunity to the new rules, but they have served proudly and this is their industry too - to strip their votes? I'm not 100 percent behind that."
He did say that Straight Outta Compton, the biopic on rap group NWA, should have been nominated for Best Picture.
“We're part of this community but at this current time, we're uncomfortable to stand there and say that this is okay,” Spielberg said. “I think I have to fight for and protect the ideals that make our country and make our Hollywood community great. So when I look at the series of nominations of the Academy, it's not reflecting that beauty."
The Oscars, which take place on February 28, will be hosted by Chris Rock.