Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss issued some criticism for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ new diversity and inclusion standards, saying that the updated requirements for Oscar contention “make me vomit.”
Dreyfuss’ comments came during a wide-ranging interview on PBS’ “Firing Line With Margaret Hoover,” in which the actor discussed civics education in the United States, partisan discourse and the Academy’s diversity inclusion initiative.
The four new diversity and inclusion standards were first announced in 2020; they will be instituted for the upcoming 2024 Academy Awards, with two of the four needing to be fulfilled for a valid submission for best picture. The four standards are described as expanding on-screen representation, themes or narrative; expanding representation among creative leadership and department heads; providing industry access and opportunities to underrepresented demographics; and expanding representation in audience development.
“It’s an art. No one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give in to the latest, most current idea of what morality is. What are we risking? Are we really risking hurting people’s feelings? You can’t legislate that,” Dreyfuss told Hoover. “You have to let life be life. I’m sorry, I don’t think there is a minority or majority in the country that has to be catered to like that.”
Dreyfuss’ comments continued with a defense of Laurence Olivier’s performance in the 1965 feature “Othello,” in which the English actor played the Shakespeare lead in blackface.
“He played a Black man brilliantly. Am I being told that I will never have a chance to play a Black man? Is someone else being told that if they’re not Jewish, they shouldn’t play [in] ‘The Merchant of Venice’? Are we crazy?” Dreyfuss stated. “This is so patronizing. It’s so thoughtless and treating people like children.”
Dreyfuss’ most prominent credits include “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “American Graffiti,” “W.,” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” He won the Academy Award for best actor for “The Goodbye Girl.” The interview with Dreyfuss also touched on renewed efforts to control curriculum and ban certain books in public schools.
“I think we’re cowards. Republicans send their children schools hoping and praying that their children will come back Republicans and Democrats send their children to school urgently praying that their children come back Democrats,” Dreyfuss said. “The idea that a parent would walk into a public school and say, ‘I don’t want my children exposed to opposing views.’ That’s wrong.”