Ruth Negga, Ciarán Hinds, Domhnall Gleeson get the Academy seal of approval

The Irish stars are among a raft of Academy inductees, which could diversify the Oscar nominations

If we were feeling awkward we would complain that only 39 per cent of those just invited to join the American Academy of Arts and Sciences were women. You don’t need a blackboard to work out that the Academy hasn’t reached gender equality yet.

But the makeup of the new batch – and their sheer number – does mark another significant lurch in that direction. Following the outcry in 2016 over the absence of people of colour among the acting nominees, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy president, announced that more efforts would be made to diversify the membership.

Last year that process began with a surge of younger professionals joining the body that votes for the Oscars. But just 27 per cent of the 2016 intake was female. The advance is notable. People of colour make up 30 per cent of the new members. An impressive 56 countries are represented. The fact that the intake is larger than ever before, with 774 being drawn into the camp, confirms that Boone Isaacs and her team are taking their task seriously.

It's a bleeding disgrace that Ciarán Hinds, pride of Belfast, has never received a nomination

Let us pause to wrap ourselves in the flag. After a best actress nomination for Loving, Ruth Negga, the Ethiopian-Irish star, would have expected an invitation (though it is not guaranteed) and the envelope has indeed arrived. It's a bleeding disgrace that Ciarán Hinds, pride of Belfast, has never received a nomination, but he can now take solace in being able to cast his vote when winter comes around.


Almost 30 years Hinds' junior, Domhnall Gleeson also gets the invitation to join. The Dubliner has never been nominated, but, last year, he achieved the singular feat of appearing in four films that received multiple nods: Ex Machina, Brooklyn, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Revenant. He has already been marked down as a contender in this year's race for his turn as AA Milne in Goodbye Christopher Robin. Domhnall's father, Brendan Gleeson, was invited to join in 2009. So, there will be furious debates over the Christmas dinner as to which colleagues deserve the nod.

Other famous names being inducted this year include Wonder Woman's Gal Gadot, the great comic Amy Poehler, cult heroine Kristen Stewart and underappreciated Harry Potter alumnus Rupert Grint. Surprisingly, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, one of the world's highest grossing stars, only now makes it into the fold.

The Academy wants more such genre hits in the best picture race

Barry Jenkins, director of Moonlight, this year's best picture winner, receives an expected nod. More intriguing is the mention for Jordan Peele, director of the sociological horror Get Out. That film's fate at the 2018 Oscars will be worth attending. If it receives significant nominations then it will go some way to allaying two gripes. The Academy wants more such genre hits in the best picture race. And Get Out is, of course, another film directed by and focusing on people of colour.

There are no psephologists to tell us if a younger, more female, less white electorate will be more open to younger, more female, less white talent. After last year's readjustment, the Oscar nominees proved to be more racially diverse than ever before. Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali won acting awards. Moonlight won best film. Hidden Figures joined that film, Hidden Figures and Fences in receiving multiple nominations.

But most of those films always looked like possible contenders. There just weren't as many potential options in the year of #oscarssowhite. Then again, the fact that La La Land took best director, but lost best picture (after some confusion) to Moonlight suggests the latter race was very close indeed. Maybe a few old geezers were cancelled out by a few recent young inductees.

We will never know.