Academy member, 91, threatens to sue if Oscar voting privileges withdrawn


Older Academy members are continuing to voice their disquiet in the face of a possible cessation of their right to vote for the Oscars.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the 91-year-old screenwriter Robert Bassing has said that he plans legal action against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for age discrimination. This follows the January announcement by the Academy that it would be reviewing Oscar-voting rights as part of a drive to increase the diversity of voting members.

Bassing has been a member of the writers branch for 57 years and was informed in a letter from Lorenza Muñoz, managing director of membership and awards at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, that he was one of an unspecified number of members who may lose their ability to vote on the grounds of industry inactivity.

Bassing passed the letter to the Hollywood Reporter, who quote it as stating that he may qualify for emeritus status, which appears to involve the removal of voting rights. The letter asks Bassing – who mostly worked for TV in the 1960s and whose last screen credit was the 1977 horror film Evil Town – to pass on any information which might influence a decision, and says that members will have a chance to appeal any decision. However, the Academy is said to be confident it can see off any such action as it is a private organisation that can change its rules as it see fits.

Asked how he interpreted the offer, Bassing replied: ’We’re going to put you in a very comfortable cattle car’.

In June, the body invited an unprecedented number of new members to join its ranks, 46% of whom were women and 41% people of colour. President Cheryl Boone Isaacs has issued a target of doubling female and minority members by the end of the decade. Bassing said: [They’re] trying to reduce the number of old white men so they can meet their numbers, and that’s not right.

One film-maker, Creed and Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler, was among the 683 to receive invitations; on Wednesday it was reported he had turned down the offer – though it isn’t known for what reasons.

Since January’s announcement, a number of veteran film-makers have questioned the justice of such action. Actor Tab Hunter described the move as bullshit, adding: Obviously, it’s a thinly veiled ploy to kick out older white contributors – the backbone of the industry – to make way for younger, politically correct voters. The Academy should not cave in to media hype and change the rules without talking to or getting votes from all members first.

In February, Steven Spielberg said that he did not support taking votes away from Academy members who have paid their dues and maybe are retired now. He added: Maybe they’ve not won a nomination, which would have given them immunity to the new rules, but they have served proudly and this is their industry, too. To strip their votes? I’m not 100% behind that.

News Source TheGuardianNews

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