Will Smith to stay away from Oscars in diversity protest

Will Smith arrives for the New York premiere of Concussion.
Will Smith arrives for the New York premiere of Concussion.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Will Smith on Thursday joined director Spike Lee and his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith in deciding not to attend the 2016 Oscars ceremony in February in protest over the absence of actors of colour among the nominees.

Smith, star of football head trauma movie Concussion, was the highest-profile black actor to be snubbed by Oscars voters when nominees were announced last week.

"My wife's not going... We've discussed it. We're part of this community. But at this current time, we're uncomfortable to stand there and say this is OK," Smith told ABC television's Good Morning America.

"I've been nominated twice for Academy awards and I've never lost to a white person. The first time I lost to Denzel (Washington) and the second time I lost to Forest Whitaker," Smith said.

"When I see this list and series of nominations that come out - and everybody is fantastic and that's the complexity of this issue, everyone is beautiful and deserving and it's fantastic - but it feels like it's going the wrong direction."

Lee, who was awarded an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement this season, and Pinkett-Smith have both said they will sit out the Feb 28 ceremony after no actors of colour were nominated in any of the 20 acting categories for a second straight year.

Lee on Wednesday said he had never used the word "boycott"to characterise his protest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YtVBxD0VvI

Lee, Smith, Pinkett-Smith and documentary director Michael Moore are the only major stars so far to have announced they will not attend the biggest night in the movie industry.

Their protest has sparked a major debate over the lack of diversity both at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose majority white male members vote on the Oscars, and in Hollywood at large.

Oscars host Chris Rock has also come under pressure from rapper 50 Cent and Fast & Furious actor Tyrese Gibson to quit, although the black comedian has made no public statements on the issue.

"There is no joke that he can crack. There is no way for him to seize the moment and come into this thing and say, 'I'm going to say this and say that I'm going to address the issue but then I'm still going to keep my gig as the host,'" Gibson told People magazine.

"The statement that you make is that you step down."