Facts About Oscar Voters

Claudine Zap
Coverage of The 84th Annual Academy Awards®
Facts About Oscar Voters

What do Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman), Steve Guttenberg, and Cheech Marin all have in common? According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, they're members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Membership gives these three minor actors from the '80s a say on who receives the prized Oscar statuettes. Here are more surprising facts about Oscar voting.

1. Membership is exclusive and (mostly) a secret. There are 5,765 voting members of the academy, whose membership can range to about 6,500. A Los Angeles Times study of 89% of the voters found that the majority are white and male. How they're chosen: The academy sends out a limited number of invitations once a year. Candidates are proposed and voted on by current members. The Oscar website explains that membership is "limited to those who have achieved distinction in the arts and sciences of motion pictures." (See: Steve Guttenberg.)

2. The most obvious way to get a membership invitation is to win an Oscar. But, as Groucho Marx put it, not everyone wants to join a club that would want him as a member. Woody Allen has declined to join. So has George Lucas. Academy Award nominees are automatically considered for membership, but that's no guarantee an invitation will be offered. On the other hand, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" lead actress, Rooney Mara, was invited to join in 2011 with only two projects to her name. The 26-year-old says she has "no idea" why she was invited. The academy says it saw a rising star.

3. Members remain eligible to vote for life, or until they opt for retired -- and nonvoting -- status. And it's an aging population: The Los Angles Times study found that the median age of voters is 62, with only 14% of voters under the age of 50.

4. There are plenty of familiar names who are part of the Oscar ranks, including Jennifer Hudson, Michelle Williams, Sidney Poitier, Harrison Ford, Julianne Moore, Christoph Waltz, Colin Firth, and George Clooney. TV stars from the '70s, such as Lorenzo Lamas, Erik Estrada from "CHiPs," and Jaclyn Smith of "Charlie's Angels" also have a vote -- as do Bono, T-Bone Burnett, and Meat Loaf.

5. Membership is organized into 15 branches —- and members can belong to only one branch. Disciplines include actors, music, directors, and writing. Members whose work doesn't fall into a specific category can belong to the "Members at Large" group -- but don't vote.