Richard Dreyfuss voiced some strong opinions during a recent interview on the PBS series Firing Line.
Dreyfuss told Hoover that the new rules “make me vomit.” When she pressed him for a reason, he explained to her that, “This is an art form.”
“It’s also a form of commerce and it makes money,” the 75-year-old Jaws actor said. “But it’s an art. And no one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give into the latest, most current idea of what morality is.”
“I don’t think that there is a minority or a majority in this country that has to be catered to like that,” he continued.
Back in 2020, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that starting in 2024, movies have to fit particular representation requirements in order to be eligible for the best picture category.
Films have to include at least two criteria, like the lead actors have to be from marginalized groups or at least 30 percent of the cast and crew are from underrepresented groups.
The new guidelines are a response to the #OscarsSoWhite movement from 2015. Activist and writer April Reign started the hashtag when she saw how few Black people and people of color were nominated for that year’s Academy Awards.
Dreyfuss attempted to contextualize his thoughts by bringing up Laurence Olivier’s performance as Othello in the 1965 epnymous film, where he wore blackface. Dreyfuss explained that Olivier was “the last white actor to play Othello” and that he performed “brilliantly.”
“Am I being told that I will never have a chance to play a Black man?” Dreyfuss added. “Is someone else being told that if they’re not Jewish they shouldn’t play the Merchant of Venice? Are we crazy? Do we not know that art is art?”
Hoover then asked if there’s “a difference between the question of representation and who is allowed to represent other groups…and the case of blackface, given the history of slavery and the sensitives around Black racism?”
Dreyfuss responded, “There shouldn’t be.” He continued, “Because it’s patronizing. Because it says that we’re so fragile that we can’t have our feelings hurt.”