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Fraser Heston has responded to an email from the Academy with a rebuke that invokes father Charlton Heston’s presidency of the Screen Actors Guild and his marching with Dr. Martin Luther King.
“I cannot begin to tell you with what consternation I received this missive. But I will try,” Heston writes in a letter to Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and the Board of Governors.
The “missive” Heston refers to is an email sent to Academy members informing them that, in an effort to diversify its ranks, the voting status of members will be revoked if they are not “active in motion pictures” during a decade.
The Academy’s move is a response to criticism that, for a second straight year, all white actors were nominated in the four acting categories. While some praised the Academy’s new rules, others accuse it of presuming that its older, white members are taking skin color into account when voting.
Fraser Heston, a voting member of the Directors Branch of the Academy, says the term “inactive” is “disturbingly Orwellian,” according to his letter, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
“I am proud to say that my father led the Arts Contingent for Dr. Martin Luther King during the March on Washington in 1963,” Fraser Heston writes. “As three-term president of the Screen Actors Guild he worked tirelessly for the rights of minority actors, at a time when it was not popular to do so.”
Fraser Heston makes the point, as others have, that he has never taken race into account when voting and that he doubts others have, either. He writes that the Academy’s “knee-jerk changes in the bylaws in response to a media feeding frenzy” will do more harm than good.
“This move was ill-advised, ill-considered, possibly illegal, and in essence just all kinds of wrong,” Fraser Heston writes of the new rules. “I Implore you, President Isaacs and the honorable members of the Board of Governors, to reconsider. If you do not, I assure you, Spike Lee will not be the only person boycotting the Academy Awards this year.”
Fraser Heston has been active in the film industry since he was a baby, given in 1956 he played the infant Moses in The Ten Commandments, which starred his father as adult Moses. His most recent project is a documentary he directed and produced called, The Search for Michael Rockefeller.
Fraser Heston is actually a second-generation member of the Academy, given that his dad was also a member.
Charlton Heston was one of the most politically active actors of his generation, first as a Democrat supporting John F. Kennedy for president then as a participant in the Civil Rights movement. Later, he was active in conservative politics, working for President Ronald Reagan and as president of the National Rifle Association.
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