The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has invited 271 individuals to become members, with the list reflecting the org's determination to bring more diversity to its ranks.
Every year, the list of invitations includes several recent Oscar nominees. That's true this year as well, with letters going out Wednesday to a cross-section of people including 2013 contenders Barkhad Abdi, Lupita Nyong'o, Hayao Miyazaki, Pharrell Williams, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, plus such creatives as Megan Ellison, Chris Rock, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Steve Coogan, Jason Statham, William Chang Suk Ping, Joan Sobel, Tracey Seaward, Mads Mikkelsen and Chantal Akerman.
In 2012, the L.A. Times published research showing Academy statistics that were troubling but not surprising: According to the news org, Oscar voters were 77% male, 94% white and predominantly American. While those demographics reflect the realities of the film industry, Academy execs vowed to broaden their membership and to work with Hollywood to similarly bring about changes in the workforce.
This week's invitations continue a movement that began last year. Of the 276 people invited in 2013, the "different voices" included at least one-third of that number. And the number of invites was aggressive: The org had averaged half that number, or 133 new invitations, per year between 2004 and 2012.
Asked if the push for "new voices" means a change in Academy standards for membership, Boone Isaacs gave an emphatic no. "Our standards have always been high and will remain so. The goal remains to find the best of the best in the filmmaking world. This is about recognition and inclusion. It's great for the Academy and for the industry."
While the total numbers represent a small fraction of the 6,000 Academy voters, they could make a big difference in Oscar outcome. Some would argue that changes have already begun. In the past few years, voters have made it more difficult to define a "typical Oscar movie": Such titles as "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "District 9," "Amour" and "Her" landed best-picture nominations, while "Oscar-bait" films like "Saving Mr. Banks" and "Lee Daniels' The Butler" did not. Strategists will continue to target the Academy's "swing voters" in their campaigns (Variety, Nov. 15, 2013).
Nominations for the 87th Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 15, and the ceremony will be held Feb. 22 at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland.
The 2014 invitees are:
Barkhad Abdi - "Captain Phillips"
Clancy Brown - "The Hurricane," "The Shawshank Redeption"
Paul Dano - "12 Years a Slave," "Prisoners"
Michael Fassbender - "12 Years a Slave," "Shame"
Ben Foster - "Lone Survivor," "Ain't Them Bodies Saints"
Beth Grant - "The Artist," "No Country for Old Men"
Clark Gregg - "Much Ado about Nothing," "Marvel's The Avengers"
Sally Hawkins - "Blue Jasmine," "Happy-Go-Lucky"
Josh Hutcherson - "The Hunger Games," "The Kids Are All Right"