On May 3, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that they’d voted to expel Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski.
The statement, sent in a press release, reads:
“The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors met on Tuesday night (May 1) and has voted to expel actor Bill Cosby and director Roman Polanski from its membership in accordance with the organization’s Standards of Conduct. The Board continues to encourage ethical standards that require members to uphold the Academy’s values of respect for human dignity.”
“There is no place in the Academy for people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates recognized standards of decency,” read the Academy’s Standards of Conduct. “The Academy is categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, or nationality.”
On April 26, Cosby was found guilty of sexual assault. Specifically, this was for the 2004 assault of Andrea Constand, who was then an employee at Temple University. Cosby has been accused of drugging and assaulting at least 60 women over a span of more than 50 years.
In 1977, director Roman Polanski was arrested in connection with the rape of 13-year-old Samantha Geimer at actor Jack Nicholson’s home. Polanski fled the United States for the United Kingdom and France. For the next 40 years, Polanski would remain a fugitive, fighting extradition requests and living in Europe.
Expulsions from the Academy are extremely rare, but in the cases of Cosby and Polanski, almost certainly warranted.
Prior to Cosby and Polanski, the last member of the Academy to be expelled was producer Harvey Weinstein, who is facing an ever-increasing number of sexual harassment and assault allegations. Prior to that, the last expulsion occurred in 2004 when the Academy revoked actor Carmine Caridi’s membership for selling promotional copies of films.
While Cosby was never nominated for an award by the Academy, Polanski won the Oscar for Best Director in 2002 for his film “The Pianist.” Though he was unable to attend the ceremony, as he was a fugitive of U.S. law, he received thunderous applause and a standing ovation from many members of the audience at the time.
Less than 10 years ago, Polanski still had quite a bit of Hollywood support.
In 2009, more than 100 big names in Hollywood came to Polanski’s defense, petitioning for his release, as he was being held after an arrest in Zurich, Switzerland. “His arrest follows an American arrest warrant dating from 1978 against the filmmaker, in a case of morals,” the petition reads in part, downplaying the seriousness of his crime. The list of signatories included names both predictable (Woody Allen, for instance) and surprising, such as Asia Argento (who was one of the women allegedly assaulted by Weinstein — she later said that she regretted adding her name to this petition), Natalie Portman (who also later expressed regret over her Polanski support), Martin Scorsese, Adrian Brody, Wes Anderson, Tilda Swinton, Penélope Cruz, Guillermo del Toro, and more.
The decision to remove Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski is certainly a positive move on the Academy’s part, but many will continue to ask what took so long and why less than 10 years ago were we all so indifferent to these types of crimes.