Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss ranted over the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences new inclusion rules in a May 5, 2023 interview with Firing Line host Margaret Hoover.
The Jaws actor said:
“They make me vomit."
The Oscars implemented representation and inclusion standards to redefine eligibility in the Best Picture category.
In an effort to improve the underrepresentation of marginalized groups–including women, LGBTQ+ individuals and people of color–the Academy endeavored to recognize achievements in film for individuals both in front of and behind cameras "to better reflect the diverse global population."
However, Dreyfuss argued filmmaking as an "art form" should be allowed to continue to favor White men like him and insisted he, as a White male actor, should not be subject to any rules.
He also defended blackface in his rant.
"No one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give into the latest, most current idea of what morality is."
"And what are we risking? Are we really risking hurting people’s feelings?"
"You can’t legislate that. And you have to let life be life.”
"I don't think that there's a minority or majority in the country that needs to be catered to like that."
He went on to refer to four-time Oscar-winning British actor Laurence Olivier to defend blackface.
“You know, Laurence Olivier was the last white actor to play Othello, and he did it in 1965, and he did it in blackface, and he played a Black man brilliantly."
"Am I being told that I will never have a chance to play a Black man?”
The act of White performers caricaturing stereotyped Black people in minstrel shows by darkening their skin with black ash or shoe polish to depict enslaved people for entertainment has long been recognized as blatantly racist.
So when Dreyfuss mentioned Laurence Olivier as an excuse to legitimize blackface, it backfired.
Fans were disheartened by his comments.
The Academy's inclusion rules were first announced in 2020 in response to years of criticism over an overwhelming majority of winners and nominees being White men.
The new benchmarks required to meet the nomination criteria only apply to the Best Picture category and go into effect in 2025.