LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The civil rights movie "Selma" was made free for rental on Friday, a day after actor David Oyelowo said Oscar voters had deliberately snubbed the film in 2015.
Oyelowo, who played Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie, said members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences objected when "Selma" cast members protested the death of a black American.
“I remember at the premiere of 'Selma' us wearing ‘I Can’t Breathe’ T-shirts in protest," said Oyelowo, referring to the death in New York of Eric Garner after being held in a police chokehold. Garner died in July 2014; "Selma" premiered in December 2014.
"Members of the Academy called in to the studio and our producers saying, ‘How dare they do that? Why are they stirring S-H-I-T?’ and ‘We are not going to vote for that film because we do not think it is their place to be doing that,'" he added.
Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay were overlooked in Oscar nominations in 2015, helping to spur the #OscarsSoWhite campaign demanding greater diversity in Hollywood. "Selma" got just two nods and a win for best original song.
The actor, who is British, was speaking in a virtual round table hosted by Screen Daily on Thursday about racism in the United States that was prompted by the death in May of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, while pinned by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
"It’s part of why that film didn’t get everything that people think it should’ve got and it birthed #OscarsSoWhite,” added Oyelowo. “They used their privilege to deny a film on the basis of what they valued in the world.”
DuVernay re-tweeted the Screen Daily account, adding the comment "True story."
The Academy replied on Twitter, "Ava & David, we hear you. Unacceptable. We’re committed to progress."
Movie studio Paramount Pictures declined to comment on Oyelowo's remarks. On Friday it announced that "Selma" would be free for rental for the remainder of June, saying that had been planned earlier this week.
"We hope this small gesture will encourage people throughout the country to examine our nation's history and reflect on the ways that racial injustice has infected our society," Paramount said in a statement.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Leslie Adler)