Richard Dreyfuss Criticizes New Diversity Requirements for Oscar Contention: 'They Make Me Vomit'

The Oscar winner candidly shared his views on the guidelines — which go into effect at next year's awards ceremony — on Firing Line with Margaret Hoover

Presley Ann/Getty Images for TCM Richard Dreyfuss
Presley Ann/Getty Images for TCM Richard Dreyfuss

Richard Dreyfuss isn't embracing the new diversity and inclusion requirements for next year's Oscars.

"They make me vomit," the Mr. Holland's Opus actor, 75, said in an interview on PBS' Firing Line with Margaret Hoover. "Because this is an art form. It's also a form of commerce, and it makes money. But it's an art. And 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 initiative, which was announced back in 2020, requires nominees for Best Picture to meet certain standards, including "on-screen representation, themes, and narratives; creative leadership and project team; industry access and opportunities; and audience development," the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences said at the time.

Related:Academy Awards Announce Dramatic New Inclusion Requirements for Best Picture Oscar Contenders

To satisfy the demand, one of three criteria needs to be met, the Academy said. At least one actors actor from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group must be cast in a significant role; the story must center on women, LGBTQ people, a racial or ethnic group or the disabled; or at least 30 percent of the cast must be actors from at least two of those four underrepresented categories.

For Dreyfuss, the new guidelines are "patronizing."

Presley Ann/Getty Images for TCM Richard Dreyfuss
Presley Ann/Getty Images for TCM Richard Dreyfuss

Related:Steven Spielberg Says He Regrets How Jaws Caused 'Decimation of the Shark Population'

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

The Jaws actor went on to point out that Laurence Olivier portrayed Othello in blackface in 1965, which was controversial even at the time.

"He played a Black man brilliantly," Dreyfuss said. "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 [in] The Merchant of Venice? Are we crazy? Do we not know that art is art?"

He added, "This is so patronizing. It's so thoughtless and treating people like children."

Bobby Bank/Getty Images Richard Dreyfuss
Bobby Bank/Getty Images Richard Dreyfuss

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Elsewhere in the interview, Dreyfuss also shared strong feelings about movie sequels.

In 1978, he won an Oscar playing a struggling actor in The Goodbye Girl. The same year, he chose not to appear in Jaws 2.

"We're going through this strange need to not create but to create sequels," he said, laughing. "Sequels are death. Oh, there was a sequel to Jaws. But there wasn't, no, never it never came close to the brilliance of the first Jaws. And I'm very proud of that, very happy about that."

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