Chris Rock will remain Oscars host and plans to address white-only race row

Chris Rock has no plans to quit as Oscars host in the wake of the ongoing storm over all-white lists of nominees, but is planning to attack privilege in his opening monologue, according to a producer of the 2016 ceremony.

Rock has faced calls to walk away from his second stint as host in protest at the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ failure to nominate a single actor from black or ethnic minority backgrounds for the second year running. But ceremony organisers suggests he will, instead, attempt to address the issue on the night.

“Chris is hard at work. He and his writing staff locked themselves in a room,” Oscars producer Reginald Hudlin told Entertainment Tonight. “As things got a little provocative and exciting, he said, ‘I’m throwing out the show I wrote and writing a new show.’”

Chris Rock’s publicist denies claims about changes to Oscars monologue
Read more
Hudlin said audiences next month should expect jokes riffing off the #OscarsSoWhite furore. “The Academy is ready for him to do that,” he added. “They’re excited about him doing that. They know that’s what we need. They know that’s what the public wants, and we deliver what the people want.”

The row over Oscars diversity continued over the weekend, with The Revenant director Alejandro González Iñárritu echoing comments last week by Oscar-winner Whoopi Goldberg and 2012 nominee Viola Davis that the Academy cannot fix Hollywood’s issues with race by itself.

“I think … the Academy has just made … a great step,” said Iñárritu, one of the favourites to win the best director Oscar for his harrowing, Leonardo DiCaprio-led western. “But the Academy really is at the end of the chain. Hopefully, active change, positive change, they can start at the beginning of the chain.

“The complexity of the demographics of this country should be reflected not only at the end of the chain,” added the Mexican film-maker. “Cinema is the mirror where we can all see ourselves.”

Oscar-nominee Don Cheadle told Deadline that moves by the Academy to double the number of female and minority members by 2020, announced on Friday, were “a step in the right direction, a needed step. Speaking at the Sundance film festival, he continued: “But people really have to have access to tell the stories they want to tell. So what we really need is people in positions to greenlight those stories, not a hunk of metal.”

Also speaking at Sundance, Oscar-nominated producer and actor Danny DeVito said the current row was a result of America’s basic inherent prejudice. “It’s unfortunate that the entire country is a racist country,” he said, adding: “Even though some people have given great performances in movies, they weren’t even thought about. We’re living in a country that discriminates, and has certain racial tendencies – racist tendencies.”

So far, efforts to challenge calls for change have met with controversy, notably Charlotte Rampling’s suggestion that boycott calls were “racist to whites” on Friday, which the best actress nominee said on Saturday she regretted. However, some older Academy members have begun to speak out to Hollywood trade websites after it emerged they could lose their voting rights, if deemed to have been inactive in the film industry for more than 10 years, as part of the Academy’s path to reform.

Actor’s branch member Tab Hunter, 84, told the Hollywood Reporter such changes amounted to “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.”

Veteran publicist and Academy member Bruce Feldman expressed outrage that the organisation would move to change the rules without consulting its own membership. “I think they have an obligation to represent us and not to act unilaterally,” he said. “As a long-standing member, I find these actions very, very discouraging. While I understand that changes are necessary, it’s disappointing that the Governors never communicated what they were considering with members and never asked for feedback before they made a decision. I would like to point out that we elect members to represent us and they have very simply failed to do so.”