Charlotte Rampling, one of this year's Oscar nominees for her turn in the marital drama 45 Years, has called the #OscarsSoWhite controversy "racist to whites."
In an interview with a French radio show Friday morning, the 69-year-old British actress shared her opinion about the current uproar over the fact that, for a second consecutive year, only white actors were nominated for Oscars — which many have blamed on a larger problem of systemic racism in the Hollywood studio system.
"It is racist to whites," Rampling said. "One can never really know, but perhaps the black actors did not deserve to make the final list."
Asked about one potential solution that has been floated — a quota to ensure diversity among nominees — Rampling responded: "Why classify people?
"These days everyone is more or less accepted. People will always say 'Him, he's less handsome. Him, he's too black. He is too white.' Someone will always be saying 'You are too…' But do we have to take from this that there should be lots of minorities everywhere?"
The issue began to snowball after actress and producer Jada Pinkett Smith and filmmaker Spike Lee said they wouldn't attend or watch this year's Oscars in protest against another year of all-white acting nominees. Since then, actor Will Smith and documentarian Michael Moore have also said they wouldn't watch or attend this year's gala.
Some, including rapper 50 Cent and actor Tyrese Gibson, have even called on Oscars host Chris Rock, who is African-American, to step down as emcee of next month's event.
Rampling's comments contrast starkly with what many actors and Academy members have said this week.
Most have acknowledged that the 2016 Oscar nominations slate — which has been called embarrassing and disappointing — points to the wider problem: the lack of diversity in Hollywood itself, stemming from the fact that women, people of different ethnicities and those of different sexual orientation aren't accurately represented onscreen or behind the camera. Nor are they adequately reflected in the ranks of the decision-makers, from filmmakers to executive producers to studio heads.
"I don't think it's a problem of who you're picking as much as it is how many options are available to minorities in film, particularly in quality films," George Clooney told industry publication Variety this week.
"I think we have a lot of points we need to come to terms with," he said. "I find it amazing that we're an industry that in the 1930s, most of our leads were women. And now a woman over 40 has a very difficult time being a lead in a movie."
On the dearth of black nominees, he recalled that a decade ago, "certainly there were black nominees — like Don Cheadle, Morgan Freeman. And all of a sudden, you feel like we're moving in the wrong direction …. There were nominations left off the table. We need to get better at this. We used to be better at it."
Actor Mark Ruffalo, an Oscar nominee this year for his performance in the journalism drama Spotlight, said in a BBC interview this week that the "entire American system is rife with white privilege racism," adding: "It goes into our justice system."
I do support the Oscar Ban movement's position that the nominations do not reflect the diversity of our community.— @MarkRuffalo
Correction. I hope the Oscar Ban movement opens the way for my peers to open their hearts to the #BlackLivesMatter movement as well.— @MarkRuffalo
Best actress nominee Brie Larson (Room), has said that the #OscarsSoWhite conversation "deserves attention," while past Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon noted that she was "so disappointed that some of 2015's best films, filmmakers and performances were not recognized. Nothing can diminish the quality of their work, but these filmmakers deserve recognition. As an academy member, I would love to see a more diverse voting membership."
Viola Davis, a former Oscar-nominee and the first black woman to win a lead actress Emmy Award, blamed the issue on the "Hollywood movie-making system," in an interview Thursday.