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Iñárritu On Oscars Diversity At PGA Nominees Breakfast: The Academy “Is At The End Of The Chain”

Ahead of tonight’s Producers Guild of America Awards, representative producers from the ten nominated movies in the headline Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures category gathered in Hollywood this morning to discuss their respective journeys. Guild president Gary Lucchesi moderated, but it was an audience member who sought comment from the panel on Hollywood’s diversity problem in light of the 2016 Oscar  nominations: What should the industry be doing to highlight more diverse voices?

The loud applause, and some awkward few moments of silence that followed, were broken by The Revenant‘s Alejandro González Iñárritu, who praised Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs for the sweep of changes to membership announced yesterday. But, he pointed out, the Oscars represent “the end of the chain,” and real change has to come from the front. Iñárritu said that racial and cultural diversity are what make the U.S. “so admirable, so incredibly vibrant,” adding that “every race is here, and this kind of thing is what makes the power of this country.” However, he said, “Cinema is a mirror by which we often see ourselves… if that power is not transmitted on the screens there’s something wrong.”

“These changes the Academy has made are a great step, but the Academy, in a way all these awards, all these things, is at the end of the chain…. Hopefully these active changes, these positive changes they are taking. Which is definitely to start getting more and more people in TV and film, in entertainment media, in the magazines, in the reviews. The demographic complexity of this country should be reflected not only at the end of the chain, but since the beginning, in order that more of these people can be… integrated… and their stories can be greenlit, that there’s more choices, that there’s more exhibition and distribution of films, that represent all minorities.”

Iñárritu also drew a huge round of applause for pointing out that the diversity issue is “not only about African Americans.” “I want to say how many Latin Americans… what about Native Americans,” he continued, adding that by starting from the beginning of the chain, the recognition and awards “will come to a balance.”

Scott Bernstein and nominees Dede Gardner and Alejandro G. Inarritu speak at the 2016 Producers Guild Award Nominee Breakfast on January 23, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss for Producers Guild)

Plan B’s Dede Gardner, who produced Selma and 12 Years a Slave and is nominated tonight for The Big Short, concurred. “It’s on us,” she told the producers in the room. “It starts with us… For 12 Years a Slave we had to make that movie undeniable before we even tried to get it financed, which meant working on a script for five years with Steve McQueen and John Ridley for free, and that meant Brad [Pitt] and Chiwetel [Ejiofor] committed to the movie with no deal. You just have to keep going. Every time someone says no, you keep going.”

The Outstanding Producer award at PGA is expected to confirm a frontrunner for the Academy’s Best Picture prize when the envelope is opened tonight. One movie on the PGA ballot that doesn’t make the Academy’s list is Straight Outta Compton, a key focus for the Oscar controversy. Producer Scott Bernstein stepped in for an absent F. Gary Gray, whose flight was delayed by the East Coast snowstorm. “The flashpoint is at the end when it really should be at the beginning,” he said of the brouhaha. “Movies are inclusive, not exclusive. And I’m not saying the Academy is inclusive or exclusive, [but] it’s something that’s born out of 100 years [of history].”

“We’ve all made movies that reflect the world – all of us up here – and Universal Pictures, New Regency, Lionsgate, they’ve all had the ability to make these films and they chose to make them,” Bernstein continued. “Universal didn’t have to make [Straight Outta Compton], and nobody wanted to make a film about five unknown guys who had this dream and carried it out. Cube said, ‘We didn’t make this film to be nominated. We wanted to tell the story for the world to understand.’ This conversation has begun, and it’s a great conversation for us all to have.”

  1. The smartest and most accurate comments yet on this whole Smith-induced faux-debacle. You can’t nominate what’s not on the screen. All of the people yapping about diversity from Clooney to Smith should hire more diverse cast and crew (how many minorities have acted in major roles in Clooney-directed films? How many black directors has Smith brought on to his films? See…?).

    1. Actors don’t hire the cast and crew and even the stars probably have limited input in hiring directors – but I’m sure anyone ‘yapping’ probably would welcome a greater pool of talent from which to make suggestions or recommendations.

      I’m sure there are people who always want the same type of food or flavor of ice cream, but there are also those who like variety and choices. Hence the ‘faux-debacle’ – it’s not all about awards, recognition or even necessarily job availability, but doing a better job reflecting the audiences and their tastes. Which any business needs to do to survive.

        1. Brad Pitt has a production co…w/dede Gardner….. plan B….
          made 25 films why would he have a choice about not committing as she stated, what??????

  2. And when was the last time Alejandro (or the other two amigos Guillermo and Alfonso) cast a Mexican? Babel?

    Who got nominated from Birdman and Revenant? 5 white actors. Seems like he’s part of the problem too.

    1. EXACTLY. This is what I’ve been saying for years. So have lots of people, including Latinos. That’s why you must first DEFINE progress before you can expect it. Director’s like Innaritu, Del Toro, and Cuaron only work with big stars like Clooney and DeCaprio now. Which is fine, but that’s even more reason why “progress” for minority representation in Hollywood should only be defined by those minorities born in America. Sticking with the above three Mexican directors as an example, how many films about Mexican-Americans have they made? ZERO.

      1. You can’t blame them, they are not the ones fronting the money and are only thinking ahead of who will buy tickets — would you rather see a Native American no name actor or a name actor in an action movie. The choices we make as consumers plays heavily on what studios risk money on

        1. the producer hires everyone. They could hire say a native American script writer and then that person is in the bizz. Brad Pitt hired an African American woman director for Selma and an African American male director for 12 Yrs. The Smiths could have been doing this for 3 decades. Theres many ways to get money. Personal investors. Brad Pitt was in 12 Yrs for about 30 seconds. Thats how he got that movie funded. Theres over 300 studios now all over the world. They’re either a film maker or a deal maker. Not everyone makes huge budget movies where they need big studio money. Lets be real. Dr Dre could have funded Straight Outta Compton from his piggy bank.

          1. Yaaaahhhhh
            brad Pitt. Never never does he brag about all that he has done and accomplished. Nobody even knows he had anything to do with those movies.
            Never complains or whines about others limitations.
            25 movies where the hec is his award.

  3. Oh forget the Oscars, it’s just a bunch of movies made for the purpose of getting old white guys to vote for them. The real diversity is happening on TV/streaming. Much more interesting things happening in that realm anyway.

  4. they don’t even need a studio to release a movie. Theres been many producers who’ve made movies and worked with theaters directly. Beasts Of No Nation was in 31 theaters and then had great success when it was released on Netflix. Reservoir Dogs was filmed in a warehouse. Clerks in a Convenience store. John Carpenter’s whole budget for Halloween was Donald Pleasence salary. Everyone else worked for free. Look at that movie now. Still going strong 40 yrs later. With so many options on the internet we’ll probably see a lot more quality films being made and released w/out studios. Will Smith loves working with Sony cause he likes to make big budget movies instead of films.

  5. I don’t think it’s right that a certain group of actors will now automatically get nominated each year regardless of whether they were good or not, just to appease an angry mob of ‘non-whites’.

    1. The Revanant is finally a Hollywood movie where a Mexican director actually uses only aboriginal actors to portray aboriginals with a portrayal of that time in history that was fairly accurate, and it is still not good enough for some people. I hope the fact they were Canadian natives wasn’t an issue as well versus American natives. . Best Canadian movie I have seen with almost all native actors is Maina but it was made by French Canadian filmmakers who may or may not have had any native roots.

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