This year the build up to the Oscars has not been about which movie is generating the biggest buzz, but who will boycott the ceremony. Already industry heavyweights like Will Smith and Spike Lee have announced they will not attend to protest the fact that for the second year, there are no black actors nominated in any of the acting categories.
But here’s a question: how many openly gay actors have won an Oscar for acting? The answer is none (although Joel Grey who won for Cabaret in 1973 came out last year) and the amount of openly gay actors who have received a nomination could be counted on one hand.
It seems like if the Academy has a problem with race, it is also prejudiced towards homosexuality.
In a land where there are no knighthoods, winning an Oscar is a confirmation that you are what you are
“The voting members of the Academy are predominantly white, predominantly male, and predominantly middle aged and old,” says Sir Ian McKellen. “They’re not representative. If you feel excluded because you’re black or Hispanic or a woman or gay, you’re going to look at that institution and say it doesn’t represent me. No, it doesn’t, that’s a fact. But do you expect it to represent you? It’s just a middle aged, white, male organisation.
“The easy way would be to say, don’t worry about it, forget about Oscars, don’t go, don’t put yourself up for it. But in a land where there are no knighthoods, winning an Oscar is a confirmation that you are what you are.”
McKellen has been nominated for two Oscars but neither time had the opportunity to deliver his prepared speech, which read, “I am proud to be the first openly gay actor ever to receive an Oscar”. He is not optimistic that things will change anytime soon.
“People feel the industry as a whole is unfair to their sort – well who do you blame?” he says. “You can blame the Oscars because it’s an annual event and it represents something – or it should do. The fact that black people are underrepresented in studio movies is undoubtedly the case, no doubt about it. I totally understand the complaints but the other side of me says don’t expect the Oscars to solve problems, that’s not what the Academy does.”