Hundreds more join Academy as efforts continue to improve diversity

The Academy that hands out the Oscars has taken another step towards improving the diversity of its membership by inviting nearly eight hundred and fifty people to join – half of them are women and nearly a third come from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Letitia Wright as Princess Shuri in Black Panther.
Black Panther star Letitia Wright is one of many British actors, invited to join the Academy this year.

The British stars Claire Foy, Letitia Wright, Gemma Chan, David Harewood, Adele, Jamie Bell, Tom Holland and Tom Hollander are among the new members.

The Billy Elliot star Bell, most recently seen in Rocketman, tweeted that he was “incredibly humbled and grateful to have been invited to join.”

One of the stars of Bend it Like Beckham and San Andreas, Archie Panjabi, tweeted her thanks. “What an honour to be part of the Academy!”

Other Britons on the list include the Solaris and Californication actress Natascha McElhone, Tyranosaur‘s Peter Mullan and the husband-and-wife pair, Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory.

Concerns were raised about diversity through the Oscars So White campaign in 2016, because for the second year in a row, none of the twenty acting nominees came from an ethnic minority background.

In announcing an effort to improve the ethnic diversity of its membership, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences used the opportunity to improve the gender balance at the same time.

The Academy has traditionally extended invitations to people from across the film industry to join the organisation each year, with many of the new members being recent Oscar winners or nominees, but since the controversy over the make-up of the membership, the size of the annual list has grown exponentially – from as few as 134 in 2009 and 271 in 2014 to 928 last year and 842 this year.

The proportion of women in the Academy has risen from a quarter to nearly a third since 2015; the proportion of ethnic minority members has risen from eight to sixteen per cent over the same period.