Will Smith confirms Oscars no-show over lack of diversity

LOS ANGELES, USA – Actor Will Smith said Thursday, January 21 he will not attend next month's Oscars ceremony, joining his wife Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee to protest the absence of minorities among the acting nominees. (READ: Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith to boycott Oscars over all-white nominees)

For a second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated only white actors for the 20 slots, causing an outcry. The issue is likely to be front and center when the Academy's board meets on Tuesday. (READ: FULL LIST: Nominees, Oscars 2016)

Smith, a mega-star whose role in NFL drama Concussion was overlooked this year, said he was out of the country when his wife announced on social media that she would not attend the February 28 awards ceremony in Hollywood.

"She's deeply passionate and when she is moved she has to go," Smith said in an interview on ABC's Good Morning America show. "I heard her words and I was knocked over. I was happy to be married to that woman."

"There is a position that we hold in this community, and if we're not part of the solution, we're part of the problem," said Smith, a two-time Oscar nominee for his roles in Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness.

"It was her call to action, for herself, and for me and for our family to be a part of the solution."

Smith said America's diversity was one of its strength, and should be reflected in film.

"Everyone is beautiful and deserving and is fantastic, but it feels like it's going the wrong direction," he said of this year's nominations list.

"The nominations reflect the Academy. The Academy reflects the industry and then the industry reflects America," he said. 

"There is a regressive slide towards separatism, towards racial and religious disharmony and that's not the Hollywood that I want to leave behind."


Hollywood reforms?

Lee has said he and his wife will be skipping the ceremony too, though he has said he is not calling for a wider boycott. (READ: Spike Lee says not calling for Oscars boycott)

Lee, who won an Oscar last year honoring his lifetime achievements as a moviemaker, wrote an open letter to the academy Monday decrying the "lily white" acting nominations.

Lee says the bias lies with the studio executives who decide which movies get made – a point others have made as the #OscarsSoWhite backlash mounts.

Lupita Nyong'o, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for 12 Years A Slave two years ago, said on Instagram: "I stand with my peers who are calling for change in expanding the stories that are told and recognition of the people who tell them."

"Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced." - James Baldwin #manystoriesmanyvoices A photo posted by Lupita Nyong'o (@lupitanyongo) on Jan 19, 2016 at 8:40pm PST

Oscar-winning actor George Clooney, warning the movie industry is moving backwards, said this week the problem was the lack of options available to minorities in quality films. (READ: George Clooney says Oscars moving backwards on diversity)

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is black, said she was "both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion."

Industry magazine Variety suggested a change to the body's membership rules could be on the table when the board meets next week.

The Academy has some 6,000 members, all of whom work in the film industry and are elected by their peers for life. According to a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times, nearly 94 percent of the Academy voters are white and mostly male.

Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo – up for a golden statuette for his role in Spotlight, about journalists at the Boston Globe who uncovered sexual abuse in the Catholic Church – had hinted at the idea of not attending but tweeted he would.

"I will be going to the Oscars in support of the victims of clergy Sexual Abuse and good journalism," said Ruffalo, who is white.

To clear up any confusion. I will be going to the Oscars in support of the victims of clergy Sexual Abuse and good journalism. #Spotlight — Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) January 21, 2016


"I do support the Oscar Ban movement's position that the nominations do not reflect the diversity of our community."

I do support the Oscar Ban movement's position that the nominations do not reflect the diversity of our community. — Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) January 21, 2016

The Oscar Ban movement reflects a larger discussion about racism in the criminal justice system. — Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) January 21, 2016

Correction. I hope the Oscar Ban movement opens the way for my peers to open their hearts to the #BlackLivesMatter movement as well. — Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) January 21, 2016

– Veronique Dupont, AFP/Rappler.com