Its Friday, and your agent told me he wants you to quit Twitter.
Hello from Los Angeles, where were not inviting Kobe Bryant into the Academy, we are inviting the Conners back into our homes, and we hope to make our way through this towering mountain of Emmy screeners by Monday.
On Saturday, Academy governors will convene a closed-door meeting at their Wilshire Boulevard headquarters to approve a list of new Oscar voters, the third class of new Academy members to be invited since the industry group enacted sweeping inclusion initiatives in 2016. One name that wont be on that list is this years best-animated-short-film winner Kobe Bryant, per news first broken by Amid Amidi of Cartoon Brew. The reason, according to a letter Short Films and Feature Animation Branch governor Bill Kroyer sent to some members of the branch, is that the former Laker, who wrote, produced, and narrated Dear Basketball, needed to show “some evidence of a larger career” in the medium. In many ways, Bryant would seem attractive enough as a potential Academy member to overcome his thin résumé in cinema—the sports legend could help draw an audience to the Oscar telecast, entice donors to the Academy Museum, and bring some needed diversity to an organization that is still 87 percent white. Bryant was the most popular guest at this years Oscar nominees luncheon, posing for selfies with his fellow nominees and inspiring star-struck Academy governor Laura Dern to declare before she called him up to the class photo, “Ladies and gentlemen, Im a Los Angeles native! Kobe Bryant!”
But, as Vanity Fairs Yohana Desta writes, Bryant also brings with him some serious baggage: in 2003, he was accused of raping a 19-year-old woman. The case was dismissed one year later when the accuser wouldnt testify, but the notion of inviting a new member with Bryants history couldnt have seemed appealing to an Academy board that recently expelled Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, and Harvey Weinstein from its membership rolls, and cleared its president, John Bailey, of a misconduct claim. Many longtime Academy members grumble to me about how much “easier” it is to get into the Academy than it was when they joined. You know, back in the day when you had to walk backwards, uphill, in the snow, carrying Charlton Hestons son on your back. As the group draws from an industry where women and people of color continue to be under-represented (more on that lower down), the Academy also still aims to hit targets it set in 2016 to double the number of women and members of color by 2020. “Id rather not say more women, more blacks, more browns,” one longtime executive branch member told me of inviting new members. “Id rather say more people that deserve it.” Certainly, the last two years of larger, more diverse classes reveal an Academy looking outside the usual suspects, drawing more from television and from international cinema, and sometimes inviting members who are at earlier stages in their careers. Is it “easier” to get into the Academy now than it was when the group invited Erik Estrada, Gavin MacLeod, and Jaclyn Smith? Easier than when Meat Loaf joined? I couldnt say. But the idea that the Academy membership, when it was even whiter and maler than it is today, had unimpeachably high credentials, is and always has been a myth. In some ways, Academy members joining now, under the groups new, post-#MeToo code of conduct, and in an era when new members names are published, will face closer scrutiny than did their predecessors.
MEET THE NEW DATA, SAME AS THE OLD DATA
As the Academy grapples with its new-member questions, its worth examining the industry from which they draw. The Directors Guild issued a new study Thursday that indicates the times are not a-changin that much. According to the D.G.A., the number of minority film directors hit a five-year low last year: just 10 percent of live-action American films with box-office takes of at least $250,000 were directed by people of color in 2017—down from 17 percent in 2013. Women saw some improvement: they directed 12 percent of those films, up from 6 percent five years ago. As a percentage of the population, however, women are still woefully under-represented. We are half of the people, people! Opening in L.A. this weekend is a documentary that speaks to this issue, Amy Adrions Half the Picture. As someone who has written umpteen Debbie Downer stories about women directors—and complains about that fact in an interview in this film—I was inspired by Adrions other interviews with defiant, funny, candid, game-changing directors including Ava DuVernay, Jill Soloway, Lena Dunham, and Catherine Hardwicke.
THIS ONES FOR YOU, DARLENE
ABC has given a series order to The Conners, a Roseanne spin-off starring all of the shows original cast members, minus Roseanne Barr. The Conners will debut this fall in the same eight P.M. Tuesday time slot Roseanne held before ABC canceled the family sitcom in response to the comics racist tweet. Vanity Fairs Joy Press, who conducted one of the last major interviews with Barr before her shows cancellation, writes that, “Whether The Conners can slough off the bad feelings engendered by Barr in erasing her from the series remains to be seen. Beyond the bad feelings, there is at stake the legacy of what was originally a groundbreaking, progressive series.”
I had a good long talk recently with one of Hollywoods best conversationalists, Judd Apatow, for Vanity Fairs podcast Little Gold Men. We discussed his longstanding friendship with Garry Shandling and the HBO documentary he made about his comedy mentor, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling. We also touched on Barr, who was another of Apatows early friends in the business—he worked as a writer for one of her stand-up shows in the early 90s. “I think you have a person whos in a moment of success and maybe thats uncomfortable for her, and whatever urges she has to be rebellious have overtaken her in some way,” Apatow told me of Barrs recent tweets and show cancellation. “I havent spoken to her recently to know where her heads at generally, but I see it more as someone whos crying out for help than someone whos a hateful person.” You can listen to the podcast or read the interview here.
Vanity Fairs Hilary Weaver spoke with Orange Is the New Blacks Lea DeLaria about FilmStrucks “Classics of Lesbian Literature” series and what DeLaria calls “the hottest sex scene in any lesbian film ever,” in 1985s Desert Hearts.
TV Academy members have just one more weekend of cramming before their Emmy ballots are due. As a cheat sheet, I suggest Vanity Fairs Emmys page, with deep dives on the greatest characters and scenes of the season, as well as stories from our first-ever Special Emmys Issue.
Thats the news for this week on the Hollywood and awards beat. Tell me what youre seeing out there. Send tips, comments, and Johnny Depps earpiece to Rebecca_Keegan@condenast.com. Follow me on Twitter @thatrebecca.
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Rebecca KeeganRebecca Keegan is a Hollywood Correspondent for Vanity Fair.