Newly elected Academy president John Bailey was a dark horse in the race to replace Cheryl Boone Isaacs. Bailey, a cinematographer whose credits include The Big Chill, Groundhog Day, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, wasn’t on the short list of any Oscar predictors. Laura Dern was a favorite, and backed by AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson, who was said to prefer an Academy president who saw the job as more of a ceremonial position. (Dern bowed out of the race in an August 8 board meeting.) Bailey is said to be a film historian and a blogger (John’s Bailiwick, hosted on the American Society of Cinematographer’s site). In a spate of interviews given to trade magazines during his first days, Bailey wasn’t asked specifically about the Academy’s response to #OscarsSoWhite, but he did respond to critics of the optics of his election: a white man replacing a black woman as president of the Academy.
“What does my being 75 years old and a white man — I was born a white man, and I can’t help that I’m 75 years old. Is this some sort of a limiting factor? That’s a stupid question. I’m sorry,” he told Variety. “So we had an African-American president for four years. The next president happens to be a white man. Does that mean we’re backpedaling? Of course not! And I kind of resent that you would suggest that,” he added. Bailey said that he plans to support the Academy’s A2020 initiative to diversify the organization, and wanted to focus on bringing in more international voters. Per Variety:
One of the things about the diversity program is not just going out and taking in young and ethnically diverse people, but looking for international people. Why the hell haven’t these people been in the Academy before? Well, we haven’t been looking hard enough for them, or they never thought they would be in the Academy so they never pursued it. We are now looking for these people. It’s not about recruiting new people in the established industry. It’s going out and saying, “Who out there around the world should be enriching the motion picture Academy with their gifts and their history?”