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Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss has drawn some criticism for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ new diversity and inclusion standards, saying the updated requirements for Oscar contention is “making me sick.”
Dreyfuss’s comments came in a wide range interview on PBS’ “Firing Line With Margaret Hoover,” where the actor discussed civics education in the United States, partisan discourse and the Academy’s diversity inclusion initiative.
“It’s an art. No one should tell me as an artist that I have to surrender to the latest, most current idea of what morality is. What do we risk? Are we really in danger of hurting people’s feelings? You can’t legislate that,” Dreyfuss told Hoover. “You have to let life be life. Sorry, I don’t think there is a minority or a majority in the country that needs to be given that way.”
The four new diversity and inclusion standards were first announced in 2020; they will be established for the upcoming 2024 Academy Awards, with two of the four having to be fulfilled for a valid submission for best picture. The four criteria are described as extending the on-screen representation, theme or narrative; expanding representation in creative leadership and department heads; providing access to industry and opportunities to underrepresented demographics; and expanding representation in audience formation.
Dreyfuss’ comments went on to defend Laurence Olivier’s performance in the 1965 feature “Othello,” in which the English actor played the Shakespearean lead in blackface.
“He played a Black man who was brilliant. Am I being told that I’ll never get the chance to play a Black man? Is anyone else saying that if they’re not Jewish, they shouldn’t play [in] ‘The Merchant of Venice’? Are we crazy?” said Dreyfuss. “It’s very patronizing. It’s such nonsense and treating people like children.”
Dreyfuss’ best-known credits include “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “American Graffiti,” “W.,” and “Mr. Opus of Holland.” He won an Academy Award for best actor for “The Goodbye Girl.” The interview with Dreyfuss also touched on renewed efforts to control the curriculum and ban certain books from public schools.
“I think we are cowards. Republicans are sending their children to school hoping and praying that their children will return. “The idea that a parent is going to walk into a public school and say, ‘I don’t want my kids to be exposed to conflicting views.’ That’s wrong.”