The Academy Awards, the glitziest night in show business, takes place on Sunday, but the biggest drama may be not on the Dolby Theatre stage but behind-the-scenes moves to tackle the sexual misconduct scandal that has rocked the industry.
After moving swiftly to expel Oscar-winning film producer Harvey Weinstein last October after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has still to take action against other people in its ranks who have been accused of impropriety.
They include actor Kevin Spacey, director Roman Polanski and comedian Bill Cosby.
Weinstein, who has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone, was only the second person in the academy’s 90-year history to be thrown out.
His expulsion made the publicity-averse Academy, whose 8,000 members vote on the Oscars, the moral guardian in the #MeToo scandal that has led to dozens of Hollywood figures stepping down or being dropped from creative projects.
“The academy has always wanted to be the symbol of Hollywood, the glamour and excitement and creativity. But now this awful stuff is being told about Hollywood and it’s like, you’re going to be the symbol of the downside too,” said Tim Gray, awards editor of Hollywood trade publication Variety. “This is new territory for them. I think they haven’t quite figured it out,” said Gray.
The job of policing accusations against filmmakers, agents and actors among the academy’s members has proved slow and difficult.
The academy issued its first-ever code of conduct in December and set up a task force to handle allegations on a wide range of potential violations. Chief Executive Dawn Hudson told members in a January email that it was “a challenging process that will not be solved overnight.”
Hudson’s email said the Academy’s goal was “not to be an investigative body but rather ensure that when a grievance is made, it will go through a fair and methodical process.”
The academy is developing an online form for submitting claims of misconduct that go beyond sexual behaviour to include abuses in matters of gender, sexual orientation, race, age, and religion.
According to the guidelines, claimants must supply evidence of alleged behaviour and an accused person has 10 days to respond before the academy’s membership committee reviews the matter. Only the board of governors can make a decision whether to suspend or expel a member.
“Traditionally it’s up to the employer to monitor bad behaviour—in this case the studios, TV networks and the agencies,” said Gray. “It’s a slippery slope to get into that. Where do you draw the line?”The membership list of the invitation-only academy has never been published but the academy said that Spacey, Polanski and Cosby are still members.
Double Oscar-winner Spacey has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 30 men. He apologised to the first accuser and has retreated from public life.
Polanski won an Oscar in 2003 despite being wanted in the United States to serve time for his 1977 admission of the rape of a minor. Cosby faces retrial in Pennsylvania in April on a charge of sexual assault and has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 60 other women. He denies the allegations.
Director and actor Woody Allen, who won Oscars for Annie Hall and Midnight in Paris, has repeatedly denied a resurfaced 1992 accusation that he molested his stepdaughter when she was a child.. Allen has never been a member of the academy, it said.
Dave Karger, special correspondent for entertainment website IMDB.com, says he doesn’t expect any quick action.
“My sense with the academy is that they act judiciously, carefully and deliberately. I can see them making moves to expel certain members, but I see that happening as a multistep process,” Karger said.