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This piece is by Stephen Verona, a member of the Academy’s directors branch who received a best live action short Oscar nomination for 1969’s The Rehearsal, is part of an ongoing series of guest columns by Academy members about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the Academy’s response to it.
I, too, am an outraged Academy member.
I have been in the Academy since I was nominated in 1972. I am a member of the directors branch, serve on the foreign language committee. I’m one of those “old white guys” who was flabbergasted and then outraged when I saw the position taken by Cheryl Boone Isaacs and the Board of Governors.
I produced as well as co-wrote and co-directed The Lords of Flatbush, which brought my discoveries of Sylvester Stallone and Henry Winkler their first screen appearance long before Rocky and Fonzie. I also gave Gladys Knight her first dramatic acting role in Pipe Dreams.
I never, never hire anyone because of their race, religion or political beliefs. To be lumped in as “racist” by the likes of Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith is totally out of line. I believe talent is what should be honored — gifted individuals who help make movies great.
Try telling the NBA to hire more white, Latino, Chinese or Eskimo basketball players and see the backlash. And by the way, why doesn’t Spike Lee return his honorary Oscar if he’s so incensed? If people make better movies, they will be rewarded. That’s as simple as it can be.
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