Richard Dreyfuss says new Oscar diversity rules ‘make me vomit’

‘Jaws’ star also defended Laurence Olivier’s use of blackface

Louis Chilton
Sunday 07 May 2023 09:18 BST
Richard Dreyfuss repeatedly slips off chair in chaotic interview with Bill Maher

Richard Dreyfuss has said that the new diversity and inclusion rules being implemented by the Academy Awards make him “vomit”.

The Oscars’ governing body, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is set to introduce a new set of guidelines that films must adhere to in order to qualify for Best Picture.

Beginning next year, and coming into effect for the 2024 Oscar ceremony, the rules state that films must employ a certain percentage of actors or crewmembers from “underrepresented racial or ethnic backgrounds”.

Asked what he thought about the impending changes in an interview with PBS’s Firing Line, Dreyfuss replied: “It makes me vomit.

“No one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give in to the latest, most current idea of what morality is,” the Jaws actor continued.

“What are we risking? Are we really risking hurting people’s feelings? You can’t legislate that. You have to let life be life and I’m sorry, I don’t think there is a minority or majority in the country that has to be catered to like that.”

In the interview, Dreyfuss also defended Laurence Olivier’s use of blackface in the 1965 screen adaptation of Othello.

“Laurence Olivier was the last white actor to play Othello, and he did it in 1965,” Dreyfuss said. “And he did it in blackface. And he played a Black man brilliantly.

Richard Dreyfuss pictured in 2023
Richard Dreyfuss pictured in 2023 (Getty Images for TCM)

“Am I being told that I will never have a chance to play a Black man? Is someone else being told that if they’re not Jewish, they shouldn’t play the Merchant of Venice? Are we crazy? Do we not know that art is art?”

He added: “This is so patronising. It’s so thoughtless and treating people like children.”

The actor’s comments have provoked controversy on social media, with many people objecting to both his remarks about the Oscars and Dreyfuss’s comments regarding blackface.

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