January 21, 2016 / 10:30 PM / 2 years ago

Silence is golden for big Hollywood stars on Oscar boycott

Actor Mark Ruffalo poses at the BAFTA Los Angeles Awards Season Tea Party in Beverly Hills, California, January 9, 2016.Danny Moloshok

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Will Smith and Spike Lee may be shunning the Oscars party next month but while the absence from the contest of actors of color for a second year has sparked hand-wringing in Hollywood, few other celebrities plan to follow their lead.

A week after nominations were announced for the highest honors in show business, only four stars - Smith, Lee, director Michael Moore, and Jada Pinkett-Smith - have announced their intention to stay away from the Feb. 28 ceremony in protest over long-running lack of diversity in the movie industry.

Be it concern over causing offence, opting to lobby for change behind the scenes, or a chance to attend the world's biggest showcase, big stars among 2016 nominees have been largely silent.

Others, like Oscar winners George Clooney and Lupita Nyong'o, have called for change but have signaled no intention to stay at home.

"I think a lot of people in the industry know that the real problem is with movie studios and agencies. It's not the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences," said Variety reporter Tim Gray, who has covered the Oscars for more than 30 years.

Of the class of 2016, Mark Ruffalo, supporting actor nominee for Catholic Church abuse probe film "Spotlight," said on Thursday that while he supported calls for diversity, "I will be going to the Oscars in support of the victims of clergy sexual abuse and good journalism."

Brie Larson, a first time Oscar nominee for her role in abduction drama "Room," on Wednesday shared her Hollywood Reporter magazine cover with Twitter's #Oscarssowhite feed. "This is a conversation that deserves attention," added Larson, 26, but said nothing to suggest she would boycott the ceremony.

While Chris Rock has come under pressure from some black celebrities to step down as Oscars host, the acerbic black comedian may feel he can do more good by remaining in the game.

"I think this is a great opportunity to reach a worldwide audience and talk about this issue," Gray said.

Some Latino groups, whose movie talent is also vastly under-represented historically during awards season, don't support a boycott.

"Many of the actors who can barely get a role are not about to bite the hand that feeds them," said Felix Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.

African American Film Critics Association president Gil Robertson opposed a boycott, calling the Oscars a well-respected institution that does a lot of good work.

And double Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman suggested that the United States has bigger issues to tackle. Hoffman told the BBC "there's a bigger problem with young black individuals being killed on our street by police."

Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy and Reuters Television in Los Angeles, and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Sandra Maler

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