By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The president of the group that hands out the annual Oscars declared on Monday that some of the worst abuses in the movie industry were finally being "jack-hammered into oblivion."
John Bailey, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, told more than 200 Oscar nominees that the Academy was working hard toward a greater diversity.
The Oscars, the highest honors in the movie business, have been criticized in recent years for excluding people of color from nominations. In response to the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign, it has broadened its white, old and male-dominated membership to invite more women and people of color into its 8,000-strong ranks.
Addressing the class of 2018 nominees at an annual luncheon, Bailey said the 90-year-old Academy was reinventing itself with programs committed to inclusion and diversity "in today's era of a greater awareness and responsibility in balancing gender, race, ethnicity and religion.'
As a 75-year old white man, Bailey said he was gratified that "the fossilized bedrock of many of Hollywood's worst abuses are being jack-hammered into oblivion."
Nominees for this year's Oscars, to be handed out in March, include female director Greta Gerwig and African-American director Jordan Peele, Rachel Morrison as the first Oscar-nominated female cinematographer, four black actors, and movies that range from female-driven stories to romantic fantasy, war films and contemporary reflections on race.
Bailey did not directly refer to the sexual misconduct scandal that has jolted Hollywood and led to dozens of actors, directors, producers and agents being fired, forced to step down or dropped from creative projects.
The Hollywood awards season has consequently been dominated by passionate speeches about female empowerment, calls for equal pay and better opportunities for women in front of and behind the camera, and solidarity with victims of sexual harassment.
The Oscar winners are voted on by the 8,000 members of the Academy of Motion Pictures and will be handed out at a ceremony in Hollywood on March 4.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Sandra Maler)