Academy president urges Oscar nominees to 'stand up' politically

LOS ANGELES — Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs gave an impassioned appeal to fellow members to "stand up" in politically turbulent times during her speech at Monday's Oscars nominees' luncheon.

Boone Isaacs devoted her time in front of the more than 165 Oscar nominees at the annual event to urging them to go political in their work and words, although no specific politicians were mentioned.

The academy has reacted strongly to President Trump's executive order suspending immigration from seven predominately Muslim countries, which would have prevented Oscar-nominated Iranian director Asghar Farhadi from attending the Feb. 26 Oscars before a federal judge overturned the ban. Farhadi, a vocal critic of the policy, wasn't at the luncheon at the Beverly Hilton hotel and has said he won't attend the Oscars.

"Each and every one of us knows there are some empty chairs in this room, which have made academy artists activists," Boone Isaacs said. "There's a struggle globally today about artistic freedom that feels more urgent now more than any time since the 1950s. Art has no borders and doesn't belong to a single faith. The power of art is that it transcends all of these things and strong societies don't censor art. They celebrate it."

Boone Isaacs told the room filled with the biggest stars in Hollywood — Ryan Gosling, Denzel Washington, Nicole Kidman, Matt Damon, Emma Stone, Justin Timberlake, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer among them — that America should not be "a barrier, but a beacon."

"We stand up to those who try to limit our freedom of expression," Boone Isaacs said to applause. " And we stand up for this principle: That all creative artists around the world are connected by that unbreakable bond more powerful and permanent than nationality and politics. And, just as our work does not stop at borders, borders cannot be allowed to stop any of us."

She noted the many films honored by the academy that address social change and tackle societal wrongs from "religious intolerance to racism to sexism."

"When we bring to the screen stories from around the world, we become agents of change," Boone Isaacs said.

USA TODAY


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