BAFTA Awards: Joaquin Phoenix, Rebel Wilson Speak Out on Lack of Diversity

BAFTA Award - Getty - H 2017
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The stars and even Prince William were among those to address the subject following the #BAFTAsSoWhite controversy.

Given the controversy that erupted following the BAFTA nominations last month and the return of the dreaded #BAFTAsSoWhite hashtag, it was unsurprising that the subject of diversity — or the lack thereof — reared its head at the BAFTA awards ceremony on Sunday.

The British Academy become embroiled in yet another diversity row last month after nonwhite talent, including the Oscar-nominated Brit Cynthia Erivo, was snubbed from the main acting nominations, while female filmmakers failed to find a single slot in the best director shortlist.

It was Joaquin Phoenix who led the charge at the ceremony, addressing the matter in a passionate acceptance speech for best actor (for Joker). 

“I feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege. I think we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here,” he said.

“I don’t think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment, people just want to be acknowledged, appreciated and respected for their work. This is not a self-righteous condemnation. I’m part of the problem."

Later on, Prince William — BAFTA president — also waded into the debate, during his speech before the final award.

"We find ourselves talking about the need to do more to address diversity in this sector," said the royal. "This cannot be right in this day and age."

Rebel Wilson, meanwhile, tackled the subject in her own unique way while presenting the best director award. "I don't think I could do what they do," she said. "I haven't got the balls."

Prior to the awards, Steve McQueen had been among those urging BAFTA to change, warning that it would have "no credibility at all," while others said that the issue lay in the Academy's voting system, which gives all members the chance to vote for most of the main categories. In response BAFTA said that it was undergoing a "thorough review" that it hoped would be in place next year.