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James Cromwell may have been all smiles while accepting the honor of Best Picture at Sunday’s Academy Awards, but at The Hollywood Reporter’s Nominees’ Night celebration just days earlier, the actor was eager for awards season to be over.
“It’s a lot of hoopla, which is not really what we do as actors and as artists,” Cromwell told THR on the red carpet. “We like to do the work, and the work stands for itself, and then the industry takes over.”
Though not nominated for his individual role, Cromwell’s The Artist nabbed the night’s top honor, as well as best director for Michel Hazanavicius and best actor for Jean Dujardin. Cromwell was personally nominated for a best supporting actor trophy back in 1995 for his role in Babe.
“The Academy Awards were basically created by the industry to promote pictures. They weren’t really to acknowledge the performances,” Cromwell said. “Then it became sort of this a great popularity contest and now, it’s an incredible show and it’s seen all over the world. But the strain on us to put ourselves up against other people to think that it’s some sort of a contest — and it isn’t a contest — we’re all in this together.”
The actor went on to recall his own experience as a nominee and what then-Academy president Arthur Hiller told him in 1995: “He said, ‘Listen, the Academy Award is just a crapshoot. To be nominated, for your peers to tell you that your film or your performance is one of the five best, that’s the Academy Award.’”
Though Cromwell acknowledged certain monetary benefits to taking home a statue on awards night, he criticized the flawed voting process and suggested a new way to select the winners.
“It is interesting that somebody pointed out the other day that 85 percent of the people that vote in the Academy are old white men,” he said. “So, I don’t think it’s incredibly democratic.” As for his proposed fix, Cromwell continued: “[The nominees] get together to vote for what they think is the best picture. They can’t vote for themselves and they keep going until hopefully they get unanimity. Then when the category is announced, all five of them go up, one of them steps forward and says, ‘We the nominees think that the best film of the year should be…’”
“That way everybody wins, nobody loses, and Americans can learn that this is not about winning and losing, this is about full self-expression and daring to be an artist,” he concluded.
Watch the complete interview in the video above. Since wrapping awards season, Cromwell has returned to rehearsing the Center Theatre Group’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in downtown Los Angeles. The show will run from March 14 to April 22 with Michael Arabian directing. Alan Mandell, Barry McGovern, Hugo Armstrong and LJ Benet also star.
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