All-white nominees in major Oscar categories prompts debate, boycott

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

LOS ANGELES -- Spike Lee says the outcry over an absence of minority Oscar nominees is a "misdirection play."

"This goes further than the Academy Awards. It has to go back to the gatekeepers," the Hollywood studios that determine which movies to make, Lee said on ABC's "Good Morning America" Wednesday morning.

The acclaimed filmmaker said "we need the Rooney Rule," a reference to the National Football League requirement that football teams interview at least one minority candidate every time a senior position opens up.

The rule applies to head coaching and senior operating positions. It has "increased the number of minority coaches and executives in the NFL," Lee told George Stephanopoulos.

"We can't go to that old tired well -- 'Well, we can't find any qualified candidates' -- that's B.S.," he added.

For the second year in a row, members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences nominated an all-white slate of actors in major categories. The omission of minority actors has caused a torrent of criticism on social media -- and some soul-searching in Hollywood.

Lee, who has long criticized the academy, said earlier this week that he would not attend the awards show in Los Angeles in February 28. He told Stephanopoulos that he'd be watching his beloved New York Knicks play the Miami Heat instead.

Lee had sold his tickets for that night, but "I bought my tickets back," he said.

Spike Lee says the outcry over an absence of minority Oscar nominees is a "misdirection play." The acclaimed filmmaker said "we need the Rooney Rule," a reference to the National Football League requirement that football teams interview at least one minority candidate every time a senior position opens up. For the second year in a row, members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences nominated an all-white slate of actors in major categories. The omission of minority actors has caused a torrent of criticism on social media -- and some soul-searching in Hollywood.

Spike Lee says the outcry over an absence of minority Oscar nominees is a "misdirection play." The acclaimed filmmaker said "we need the Rooney Rule," a reference to the National Football League requirement that football teams interview at least one minority candidate every time a senior position opens up. For the second year in a row, members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences nominated an all-white slate of actors in major categories. The omission of minority actors has caused a torrent of criticism on social media -- and some soul-searching in Hollywood.

Speaking on "GMA," Lee emphasized that he never called for a boycott of the Oscars. "All I said was ... we're not coming." Asked whether he wants others to follow his lead, Lee said, "Do you."

"Everyone else can do what they want to do," he said, adding that he'll support the show's host Chris Rock either way.

On Wednesday morning, film critic Shawn Edwards further explained Lee's argument.

"This is not an issue of racism," said Edwards. "It's about a dirty four-letter word. Jobs."

"In order to become a member of the academy so you can vote, you have to have a job in the industry. So it starts right there. If blacks, Hispanics, Asians aren't being hired as directors, set decorators, costume designers, editors, they're not going to ever be eligible to become members of the Academy," Edwards said.

Edwards said he is supporting the boycott of the Academy Awards.

"I believe in boycotting because I would not be able to shop in stores, eat in restaurants, or stay at hotels if it weren't for the boycotts that happened back in
the day. As long as it's peaceful," Edwards explained.

Lee's focus is on what movies get made and what actors get hired to be in those movies. He invoked a show-tune from the Broadway hit "Hamilton," "The Room Where It Happens," with the lyrics "I wanna be in the room where it happens, the room where it happens," where key decisions are made.

"We're not in the room. We are not in the room," Lee said, describing the place "where they have these green-light meetings quarterly, where they at the scripts and look at who is in it and decide what we're making, what we're not making."

The Oscars, on February 28, will air on ABC.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.