The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been trying to right some of its systemic wrongs, most notably welcoming an unusually large class of new voting members in order to diversify its ranks. But not everyone has been on board with the changes, as evidenced by producer Bill Mechanic’s recent resignation from the Academy’s Governors Board.
“I left the Board after one term, but decided to run again a couple of years ago when many of the decisions of the Board seemed to me to be reactive rather than considered,” Mechanic wrote in a letter to the board, which Variety acquired in full. “I felt I could help provide some perspective and guidance.”
But what Mechanic highlighted as the problems that ultimately led him to leave are telling.
While he has some gripes about the way the board and its priorities are organized, his most explicit complaints have to do with the Academy becoming what he calls “the Moral Police.” He writes that upping the Academy’s diversity numbers is ineffective because inclusion is “the Industry’s problem far, far more than it is the Academy’s.” He complains that the Oscar ceremony ratings are low, blaming in part the fact that “no popular film has won in over a decade.”
He registers his displeasure with how the Academy handled sexual harassment allegations against president John Bailey (allegations an academy committee investigated and dismissed), writing that “we have allowed the Academy to be blamed for things way beyond our control and then try to do things which are not in our purview (sexual harassment, discrimination in the Industry).”
It bears mentioning at this point that Mechanic had previously criticized the Academy’s response to the Harvey Weinstein allegations, again saying that “the moral police were silent” beforehand, and that “this should be left to the companies people work for and to the police.”
Also, Mechanic’s sole Oscar nomination to date is for producing the 2017 Best Picture nominee Hacksaw Ridge. The film won two Oscars (for Film Editing and Sound Mixing) and got six nominations overall — including one for Mel Gibson as Best Director.
Gibson is a particularly interesting — and telling — example of a Hollywood comeback story. He was once ostracized from the industry for the racist vitriol he spouted while drunk and, to a lesser extent, the abusive threats he lobbed at his wife and ex-girlfriend. But after some time and carefully considered responses, he made his way back into Hollywood’s good graces enough to both get an Oscar nomination and star in a wry Christmas comedy.
There very well may be, as Mechanic claims, organizational issues that keep the board and Academy from being its best, most efficient, and conscientious self. But looking at whom he’s chosen to collaborate with adds a substantial wrinkle to his narrative surrounding the Academy’s attempts at progress.