Os­cars group seeks a leader

Some big names are be­ing ru­mored for the next pres­i­dent of the movie acad­emy.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Josh Rot­ten­berg

The Acad­emy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences is get­ting ready to an­nounce a new big win­ner — though this time, for bet­ter or worse, there will be no en­ve­lope to open in front of mil­lions of TV view­ers.

On Tues­day at 6 p.m, the acad­emy’s 54-mem­ber board of gov­er­nors — in­clud­ing such bold­faced names as Tom Hanks, Steven Spiel­berg, Kathleen Kennedy and Whoopi Goldberg — will meet at the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Bev­erly Hills head­quar­ters to choose a pres­i­dent from among its ranks to succeed Ch­eryl Boone Isaacs, who has led the nearly 90-yearold in­sti­tu­tion through four of the most tu­mul­tuous and trans­for­ma­tive years in its his­tory.

In decades past, the job of acad­emy pres­i­dent, which is un­paid, was largely cer­e­mo­nial, a kind of un­of­fi­cial may­oralty of Hol­ly­wood’s glit­terati. But who­ever steps

into the shoes of Boone Isaacs — the first African Amer­i­can to hold the of­fice — will in­herit a hand­ful of thorny chal­lenges, from an on­go­ing cam­paign to di­ver­sify the acad­emy’s over­whelm­ingly white and male mem­ber­ship to an am­bi­tious and costly mu­seum project, as the proudly tra­di­tion-bound in­sti­tu­tion con­tin­ues to give it­self a makeover in full pub­lic view.

“It’s al­ways dif­fer­ent when you sit in the chair,” Boone Isaacs told The Times in May, re­flect­ing on the in­tense scru­tiny di­rected to­ward the acad­emy in re­cent years. “Cer­tainly there’s in­ter­est in the acad­emy in a way that there didn’t use to be — holy mack­erel, it’s re­ally changed. And I’m as­sum­ing that’s not go­ing to go away.”

Ac­tively cam­paign­ing for the job of pres­i­dent has tra­di­tion­ally been frowned upon, but in re­cent weeks a few names have cir­cu­lated in the acad­emy ru­mor mill, in­clud­ing doc­u­men­tary film­maker Rory Kennedy, cast­ing di­rec­tor David Ru­bin and, per­haps most no­tably, actress Laura Dern.

Cur­rently serv­ing a first term as a gov­er­nor for the ac­tors branch, Dern — a twotime Oscar nom­i­nee and a mem­ber of a sto­ried act­ing fam­ily — would bring a fresh de­gree of star power to the role of pres­i­dent, which in years past has been held by prom­i­nent ac­tors and film­mak­ers like Dou­glas Fair­banks, Bette Davis, Frank Capra and Gre­gory Peck as well as less-well-known be­hind-the-scenes in­dus­try power play­ers.

The acad­emy is look­ing to move past a se­ries of con­tro­ver­sies and pub­lic mis­steps, in­clud­ing two con­sec­u­tive years of #Os­carsSoWhite furor, re­peated de­lays and cost over­runs with the mu­seum project and this year’s highly em­bar­rass­ing Oscar-night gaffe, in which the wrong film was ini­tially an­nounced as best pic­ture.

At a time when many fear the movie in­dus­try as a whole is los­ing the cul­tural high ground to tele­vi­sion and stream­ing, some be­lieve mak­ing a well-re­garded lu­mi­nary like Dern the pub­lic face of the acad­emy could help bur­nish its image.

Speak­ing to The Times in the spring, Dern brushed off talk of her vy­ing for the job of pres­i­dent. “It’s just spec­u­la­tive at the mo­ment,” she said, not­ing that she did won­der if the gavel that the acad­emy pres­i­dent wields in meet­ings would come in handy with her two chil­dren. “They’d prob­a­bly tune it out like they do the sound of my voice,” she joked.

Who­ever as­sumes the job of pres­i­dent will have to work closely with acad­emy CEO Dawn Hud­son, who has her­self been a light­ning rod since be­ing hired as the group’s chief ex­ec­u­tive in 2011 and whose con­tract was re­cently re­newed through June 2020.

A vo­cal sup­porter of Hud­son, Dern told The Times that the acad­emy CEO is “doing a great job” and that the “mu­seum is go­ing to be in­cred­i­ble, both for the acad­emy and the city of Los An­ge­les,” adding, “The deep at­tempt to bring di­ver­sity and fe­male power into the acad­emy has been in­spir­ing.”

As she comes to the end of her fourth and fi­nal term as acad­emy pres­i­dent, hav­ing weathered more than the usual share of con­tro­versy and pub­lic-re­la­tions headaches along the way, Boone Isaacs said she has con­fi­dence that who­ever next as­sumes the role will have the req­ui­site skills to take on the chal­lenges ahead.

“This group of men and women who have been in­volved in this or­ga­ni­za­tion, who have taken on this re­spon­si­bil­ity and have the backing of the dif­fer­ent branches — they’re all up for the job,” she said. “It just de­pends on who wishes to ac­tu­ally be­come pres­i­dent or first vice pres­i­dent, be­cause all of the of­fi­cers have a lot to do at this time — and cer­tainly the board does. We’re evolv­ing in so many won­der­ful ways.”

Michael Tran FilmMagic

OUT­GO­ING Pres­i­dent Ch­eryl Boone Isaacs over­saw ma­jor changes.

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