9:56pm PT by Scott Feinberg
Oscar Voter: Don't "Capitulate to a Handful of Whiners" and Punish Me Because I Can't Find Work
This piece by Bill Mumy, a member of the Academy's actors branch who is best known for the TV series Lost in Space, is part of an ongoing series of guest columns by Academy members about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the Academy's response to it.
To Whom it May Concern:
I started working as an actor at the age of five in 1959. I made my debut in a major studio feature film when I was six. I worked prolifically in both features and television and was accepted into the prestigious voting ranks of the actors branch of the Academy in 1975.
Some of the producers, directors and fellow actors I've had the privilege of working for and with include Walt Disney, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Jimmy Stewart, Shirley Jones, Gene Kelly, Rod Serling, Lucille Ball, Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman, Stanley Kramer, John Cassavetes, Judy Garland, Martha Coolidge, Jack Palance, Burt Lancaster, Jack Klugman, Ed Wynn, Brigitte Bardot, Cloris Leachman, Claude Rains, Franklin Schaffner, Irwin Allen... the list goes on and on and on. My point is: I learned my trade from masters and I strongly feel that I am still qualified to view films and share my opinions on them via an Academy ballot.
Sadly, the Academy no longer feels that is true.
I've continued to work as an actor onscreen and as a voiceover artist, but it's been increasingly difficult finding A-level representation. Many agencies have told me they feel my having been a child star so long ago is more of a detriment than a benefit. I simply haven't been interested in working in films I've felt had weak scripts or were of an exploitative, negative nature. Nor do I choose to audition for bit parts or work for basically no money. Like so many other Academy members who have a long history in the film industry, you are now punishing me for a lack of consistent employment, when it is beyond my own ability to cast myself or even find representation who can get me into the meetings and auditions these days for quality roles and films in the first place.
I have careers in music and writing and I chose to stay home for several years when my two children, who have both worked as actors in major studio feature films, were young. I don't see why that should now render my vote unworthy.
I'm deeply saddened and disappointed by the actions the Academy has taken, without any discussion first amongst the members, to capitulate to a handful of whiners who threaten to "boycott" by not dressing up, walking the red carpet and sitting in the audience because they feel the actors branch didn't do our jobs of nominating candidates for Oscars this year to their personal satisfaction.
The nomination process is not racist. Surely you realize that members of the Academy don't get together in clandestine meetings to discuss who they're going to nominate or not nominate. Personally, I was shocked that neither Michael Caine or Harvey Keitel received a nomination for their excellent work in Youth, but I certainly don't consider it a deliberate slight because they're senior citizen Caucasians.
Academy awards are not about the television broadcast, the dresses, the jewelry, the paparazzi and the publicity, regardless of how much the public and industry folks enjoy those parts of it. They are about recognizing outstanding achievements in filmmaking over a year's time, regardless of age, gender or color of skin.
Now I, like so many others, have been relegated to a lesser status by the current administration of the Academy—booted down to a level where our opinions no longer matter, insulted by the organization that once considered us exceptional, some punished for enjoying semi-retirement after working, like myself, for well over half a century. It's ageism, pure and simple.
In the name of progress?