Octavia Spencer has been invited to join the academy. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited 176 new members on Friday, including actors Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain and Kerry Washington; directors Terrence Malick and Asghar Farhadi; producers Grant Heslov and Letty Aronson; and writers Stephen King and Annie Mumolo.
Among the new invitees are some high-profile minorities, including actors Demián Bichir, Octavia Spencer and Michelle Yeoh, "Think Like a Man" producer Will Packer and Chinese director Wong Kar Wai. Overall the list includes about 14% nonwhites, academy leaders say, with 30% of the invitees female.
A Los Angeles Times study published earlier this year found that the nearly 5,800 Oscar voters are markedly less diverse than the moviegoing public and even more monolithic than many in the film industry had suspected. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%. Oscar voters have a median age of 62, the study showed. People younger than 50 constitute just 14% of the membership.
INSIDE THE ACADEMY: Unmasking Oscar voters
In 2011, the invitees were 30% female and 10% nonwhite.
"I think the study was shocking to just about everyone, including the academy, about how gentrified membership is," said Aaron Ryder, who is a 2012 invitee in the producers branch. Ryder went on to say that he believed that the academy was "making certain efforts to make membership more diverse while also sticking to the criteria they've laid out."
Outgoing academy President Tom Sherak and Chief Executive Dawn Hudson have said diversifying the ranks of the academy is a priority. Although recent classes of invitees have been slightly more diverse than the overall voting membership, the group's desire to hold the number of its members steady (membership is generally for life, so vacancies are created only by deaths or when people move to "retired" status) means that it is difficult to change the organization's composition quickly, even if significant numbers of women and minorities were being invited to join.
2012 INVITEES: The full list
This year's class of invitees includes a hefty number of 2012 Oscar winners and nominees, including "The Artist" leads Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, writer-director Michel Hazanavicius, producer Thomas Langmann and cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman; "Margin Call"' writer J.C. Chandor; "Moneyball" actor Jonah Hill; "Bridesmaids" actress Melissa McCarthy; and "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" editor Kirk Baxter.
With 40-or-younger invitees including actors Hill and Chastain, producers Ryder ("The Prestige"), publicist Adam Keen (Relativity Media) and writers Chandor and Nicholas Stoller ("The Five-Year engagement"), the academy also seems to be trying to make good on its push to get younger.
A number of comedy names also populate the list; in addition to Hill and Stoller, they included Kristen Wiig, McCarthy and Mumolo of "Bridesmaids," as well as actress Nia Vardalos and Aronson, who is Woody Allen's producing partner.
The 2012 crop also includes two brothers, the Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.
King and Malick were among the more notable names invited; it remains to be seen whether the media-shy Malick will accept.
In another move, the academy's Board of Governors also approved a recommendation from the Art Directors Branch, which includes production designers, art directors, set decorators and costume designers, to rename it. Henceforth, the branch will be known as the Designers Branch.
For a full list of invitees, visit latimes.com/moviesnow.