Sir Michael Caine, a British actor perhaps best known for his role as “Alfred” in The Dark Knight(2008), urged black actors to be “patient” over their lack of representation at the Oscars and declared that ethnicity should not be a factor in the nominations. On Thursday, celebrated actor Will Smith confirmed that he will boycott the Oscars next month, along with his wife Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee (Malcolm X, 1992), over the lack of black nominees among the 20 in top four categories.
Smith, who was twice nominated for his performances in Ali (2001) and The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), said that “there is a regressive slide towards separatism, towards racial and religious disharmony and that’s not the Hollywood that I want to leave behind.” Lee, who won an Oscar last year honoring his lifetime as a moviemaker, wrote an open letter to the Academy Monday decrying the “lily white” acting nominations.”
“There’s loads of black actors,” Caine told the British Radio 4 Today program. He explicitly denounced the idea of “affirmative action” for the Oscars, saying, “You can’t say ‘I’m going to vote for him, he’s not very good, but he’s black, I’ll vote for him.”
Caine emphasized that Oscars should be given out solely based on acting merit, not at all on race or notions of diversity. “You have to give a good performance and I’m sure people have. I saw Idris Elba (in Beasts of No Nation, 2015). I thought he was wonderful.”
Caine, winner of two Academy Awards, offered advice to black actors: “Be patient.” He insisted that their persistence will pay off. “Of course it will come. It took me years to get an Oscar, years.”