Morgan Freeman is the latest Hollywood heavyweight to speak out about the ongoing Oscars-diversity controversy. The 78-year-old black actor is calling on writers of color to fight to get their stories made.
Freeman's comments come on the heels of a raging debate in Hollywood about diversity. For the second straight year, all of the Academy Award nominees in the Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress categories are white. The lack of diversity has led to widespread criticism from some of the biggest names in the business, with some even calling for a boycott of the Feb. 28 broadcast.
On Jan. 22, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a list of reforms designed to address the issue, including amending its membership criteria and promising to double the number of women and minority members by 2020.
Freeman, though, says the problem is much bigger than the Oscars.
“We need to go way back before the Academy Awards. We need to go back to [who is] behind the camera, who’s helping to make movies," the actor told USA Today.
Freeman says the inherent problems in the industry will be solved only if the stories Hollywood is telling — not just the actors — diversify. He believes that only writers of color can make that happen.
"I personally would try to encourage, and do try to encourage, writers," he continued. "We need writers. If you’ve got stories to tell, that helps. That’s your biggest input. It’s unrealistic to me to say to a white studio, owned by white people, run by white people, ‘Well, why don’t you tell my story?’ [They're going to say] 'F--- you. Tell your own story. You tell it.'”
Freeman's comments echo those of African-American actors and filmmakers who claim outrage over the Oscars is focusing a symptom, not the cause.
On "Good Morning America" in January, "Chi-Raq" director Spike Lee said the controversy over the Oscars is a "misdirection play," explaining that the problem lies further up the chain, in the studios where the big movies are greenlit.
"We're not in the room," Lee told the show.
Fans will next see Morgan Freeman in the upcoming documentary series "The Story of God" on Nat Geo. The 2016 Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 28.