Brie Larson, John Boyega, America Ferrera, Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman were among 683 invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Wednesday in what the nearly 90-year-old organization touted as its largest and most diverse new class ever.
The group represents the latest and most dramatic sign of the academy leadership’s effort to diversify the historically overwhelmingly white and male institution, an effort that took on heightened urgency this year in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite uproar that reached a fever pitch in the run-up to this year’s awards telecast.
This year’s class of actors, directors and other movie professionals is more than double the number invited in 2015, when the academy brought 322 members into its ranks.
According to the academy’s figures, the new class is 46 percent female, bringing the representation of women in the organization from 25 percent to 27 percent. Forty-one percent of the invitees are people of color, bringing minorities’ share of total academy membership from 8 percent to 11 percent.
Other new members include Idris Elba, Emma Watson, Tina Fey, Oscar Isaac, Ice Cube and directors Ryan Coogler, Julie Dash and Patty Jenkins.
In January, facing blistering criticism over the lack of nominations for any actors of color for the second year in a row, academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced sweeping changes aimed at doubling the number of women and minorities _ then about 1,500 and 535, respectively _ in the academy’s ranks by 2020.
“The academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” Boone Isaacs said in a statement announcing the initiative.
But hitting the stated targets won’t be easy. In 2012, The Times reported that Oscar voters were 94 percent white and 77 percent male, and by this year those numbers had budged only slightly.
To achieve its diversity goals, the academy would have to invite at least 375 women and more than 130 people of color each year for the next four years, The Times estimated earlier this year.
Given the historical under-representation of women and minorities in Hollywood, some have wondered whether such goals can realistically be achieved without lowering the stringent membership requirements _ something the academy’s leadership has vowed not to do.
In an interview with The Times in February, former academy President Hawk Koch called the targets “impossible” to reach, saying, “There aren’t that many qualified people, period, of any race or gender, to invite each year.”
To help broaden the pool of possible candidates, the academy supplemented its traditional membership process with a global recruitment campaign. The Academy says the new class includes 283 international members from 59 countries.
“There are qualified people out there,” Boone Isaacs told The Times in February. “We’re going to do everything in our power to meet our goals, because we know that this is the right thing to do. We’re going to make it happen.”