Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss has harshly criticized the Oscars’ new diversity and inclusion standards, saying “they make me vomit.”
In an interview with PBS’s Firing Line, the co-star of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 thriller Jaws told host Margaret Hoover that he disagreed with the new set of rules that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has imposed for films to qualify for best picture nominations.
Hoover said: “Starting in 2024, films will be required to meet new inclusion standards to be eligible for the Academy Awards for best picture. They’ll have to have a certain percentage of actors or crew from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups.
“What do you think of these new inclusion standards for films?”
Dreyfuss bluntly replied: “They make me vomit.”
He added: “No one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give in to the latest, most current idea of what morality is. What are we risking? Are we really risking hurting people’s feelings? You can’t legislate that. You have to let life be life and I’m sorry, I don’t think there is a minority or majority in the country that has to be catered to like that.”
According to the Academy’s new regulations, which will come into effect for the 2025 Oscars, films seeking best picture nominations must meet two out of four requirements.
The requirements include having at least one lead character in the movie be from an “an underrepresented racial or ethnic group”, having at least 30% of the general ensemble cast be from at least two underrepresented groups (women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ people or people with disabilities), or having the movie’s subject focus on one of those groups.
Dreyfuss went on to defend Laurence Olivier, an English actor who wore blackface in the 1965 British film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play Othello.
Blackface is offensive because white performers first started using it to mock enslaved black people in racist minstrel shows across the US in the 19th century.
“Laurence Olivier was the last white actor to play Othello, and he did it in 1965,” Dreyfuss said. “And he did it in blackface. And he played a black man brilliantly.”
Dreyfuss continued: “Am I being told that I will never have a chance to play a black man? Is someone else being told that if they’re not Jewish, they shouldn’t play the Merchant of Venice? Are we crazy? Do we not know that art is art?”
He also said: “This is so patronizing. It’s so thoughtless and treating people like children.”
Earlier this year, the Academy president, Janet Yang, explained the Academy’s decision to implement the new changes, telling Sky News: “It’s finding the right balance. So, we want rules that make sense, that keep people kind of on your toes about it, but not telling people what to make.”
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