Just days before the 87th annual Oscars Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley) suddenly wants to take Hollywood to task for what he says is his “shock at the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscars nominees.” CC-ing half of Hollywood, the fairly representative of California’s 29th District sent wide a letter today to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs requesting a meeting to discuss what Cárdenas says is the “unfortunate” situation of “such a revered American institution fail to fully reflect our nation.” (Read the entire letter below.)
The politician cc’d studio bosses including Warner Bros’ Kevin Tsujihara, Disney’s Sean Bailey, Universal’s Donna Langley, Columbia’s Doug Belgrad, Fox’s Jim Gianopulos and Paramount’s Brad Grey. AMPAS did not comment on the letter when contacted by Deadline. Cárdenas’ office tells us the letter was put in the mail today so it might not even be showing up at anyone’s offices until tomorrow at the earliest.
This year’s nominations and snubs did provoke outrage — trending topics included #WhiteOscars #OscarsSoWhite on noms day. But that was January 15, making Cárdenas’ timing today seem opportunistic, with silence on the matter for weeks and Oscar voting ending today at 5 PM PT. The congressman’s office sent out a wide press release announcing the letter as opposed to picking up the phone to talk with Boone Isaccs or the Academy privately about the issue.
Cárdenas has been working to place himself in the middle of Hollywood issues since he was elected in November 2012. Today’s Academy call-out comes a day before he is set to host a panel on the negative effects of the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger in conjunction with the WGA West. His office says he will make “an important policy announcement” related to the merger, which if it goes through will reach 96% of L.A. County residents.
The former LA City Councilman holds a seat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee that Henry Waxman once chaired and sat on until his recent retirement. The committee is expected to be near the epicenter of upcoming debates on net neutrality, changes to the Affordable Care Act, energy policy and media consolidation, such as the Comcast-TWC merger. Cárdenas is the first Latino elected to represent the San Fernando Valley.
Here is the letter the congressman sent out today:
Ms. Cheryl Boone Isaacs
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
8949 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, California 90211
Dear President Boone Isaacs:
I write to express my shock at the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscars nominees. While the issue of diversity in the entertainment industry is a much deeper problem, without an easy solution, it is unfortunate to see such a revered American institution fail to fully reflect our nation.
Hollywood and film portray who we are as a people and what we value as a culture. When we fail to include diverse, talented faces, reflecting both today and tomorrow’s America, we send a poor message to our youth and the world. We are not celebrating the diversity that makes this country unique. I believe we must do better.
I represent a district with one of the greatest amounts of spending on film industry vendors, so I appreciate just how important the industry is to our local and national economy. I want to work with you to improve diversity in the entertainment industry and in Academy membership. I understand this endeavor will take time to achieve, but I am committed to working with you to make sure the industry is more reflective of the rich diversity of the city it calls home.
I am also interested in learning about the actions you are taking to promote diversity and add new and varied voices to the current media conversation. You are in a unique position to help influence this change in Hollywood and the entertainment industry as a whole. As an ambassador for the industry, you can support and ensure the diversification of our schools, stages, board meetings and production rooms.
As a Latino and an engineer, I know what it’s like to be in a work environment full of people who don’t look like me. Throughout my career as a small business owner and as an elected official, I have surrounded myself with a diverse environment and promoted policies and hiring practices that are reflective of our community’s vast diversity. I have always been conscious of making sure that opportunities are available to talented and qualified people. I want to work with you to improve diversity in the Academy membership and the entertainment industry in a similar fashion.
I would like to meet with you to begin a dialogue on how to build a more diverse entertainment industry to better represent the diversity of our nation and the world.
Please contact my Chief of Staff Sam Jammal at (202) 225-6131 to set up a time to meet. I look forward to working together on finding solutions to this problem that affects us all.
Member of Congress
John Bailey, Cinematographers Branch
Curt Behlmer, Sound Branch
Annette Bening, Actors Branch
Kathryn Bigelow, Directors Branch
Jim Bissell, Designers Branch
Jon Bloom, Short Films and Feature Animation Branch
Dick Cook, Executives Branch
Richard Edlund, Visual Effects Branch
Leonard Engelman, Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Branch
Rob Epstein, Documentary Branch
Charles Fox, Music Branch
Rob Friedman, Public Relations Branch
Mark Goldblatt, Film Editors Branch
Kathleen Kennedy, Producers Branch
Jeffrey Kurland, Costume Designers Branch
Phil Robinson, Writers Branch
David Rubin, Casting Directors Branch
Kevin Tsujihara, Chairman and CEO, Warner Bros. Pictures
Sean Bailey, President, Walt Disney Pictures
Donna Langley, Chairman, Universal Pictures
Doug Belgrad, President, Columbia Pictures
Jim Gianopulos, Chairman and CEO, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Brad Grey, Chairman and CEO, Paramount Pictures