While it’s still January, we’re predicting this year will be one remembered by the film and television industry as the wake up call it received about getting more diverse voices on screen and behind the scenes.
Last week, Jada Pinkett Smith made waves alongside other black artists including husband Will Smith, and filmmaker Spike Lee who have been calling for a 2016 Oscars boycott.
Across the pond, Luther actor Idris Elba told British Parliament in a landmark speech the importance of cultivating distinctive and diverse voices throughout the entire creative sector was never more important.
Now Sir Ian McKellen has added his own voice to the rising contingency of actors speaking out, telling Sky News he has “sympathy” for the black artists working in Hollywood who have felt discriminated against, while adding gay people also continue to be “disregarded”.
“As a representative of the industry they’re in, it’s receiving complaints which I fully sympathise with,” he said.
“It’s not only black people who’ve been disregarded by the film industry, it used to be women, it’s certainly gay people to this day.”
This year’s Academy Award nominations sparked outrage after caucasian actors and actresses were the only ethnicity to feature across all of the major acting categories, prompting an #OscarSoWhite campaign which trended across social media.
And rightly so, according to the 76-year-old actor.
“These are all legitimate complaints and the Oscars are the focus of those complaints of course,” he said.
Actors Mark Ruffalo, Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, George Clooney, Viola Davis and British director Steve McQueen have also spoken of their disappointment with the lack of diversity among the nominees.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has since pledged to introduce a “series of substantive changes designed to make the Academy’s membership, its governing bodies, and its voting members significantly more diverse”.
“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs in a statement.
“These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”