Sid Ganis is a veteran film producer and longtime member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), for which he served four consecutive yearlong terms as president, from 2004-2009. At 76, he has had a long and illustrious career serving as a film executive at major studios including Sony Pictures, Lucasfilm, Warner Bros. and Paramount. As an independent producer, his list of credits includes “Big Daddy,” “Deuce Bigalow” and “Akeelah and the Bee.” Most recently, Ganis has been working extensively with China to further develop its film industry. I caught up with him soon after the academy announced in January it would be pursuing new measures to diversify its membership.
HOLLYWOOD JEW: A week after this year’s Oscar nominations were announced, and there was public outcry that not a single person of color was among the 20 acting nominees, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced she would implement sweeping changes to diversify the academy. How did you react when you first heard about this?
SID GANIS: It was a Friday morning. I picked up my paper, or my cellphone, and saw a story in The Hollywood Reporter: “Academy to trim its roles,” that people would be leaving because of age! And I said, ‘Whaaat?’ It didn’t sound right to me, but that’s what I read at first blush. As time has gone by, I’ve talked to [people] and seen letters and editorials communicating the fact that some members don’t like it; some members think it’s a horrible thing to do. But I believe those members don’t understand that what the academy is doing is to the benefit of the academy.
HJ: It seems that people are most upset over the change affecting voting status, which says that voting rights will now be renewed every 10 years only for those who have worked on a film within the last decade. Do you think this marginalizes older people who are retired?