The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has removed comedian Bill Cosby and filmmaker Roman Polanski from its membership after a vote by its board of governors, the group announced yesterday (May 3).
The decision comes a week after Cosby was convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault by a Pennsylvania jury. Polanski has lived in Europe since 1978, when he fled the United States while awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to having unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.
Expelling Cosby is not a surprise, especially given his recent conviction and the dozens of other accusations of sexual assault against him. Booting Polanski from the Academy’s ranks, on the other hand, is somewhat unexpected. The French-Polish director still has many supporters among the Hollywood elite, including within the Academy—the organization that votes on and administers the Oscars. In the years since his conviction, several well-known Hollywood actors have continued to work with the director, and he won an Oscar for best director for his 2002 film The Pianist.
Polanski’s attorney said he will appeal the decision, arguing that the vote went against the Academy’s rule to allow a member 10 days to provide a written response to a complaint against him before a final judgment is made. However, a line in the Academy’s bylaws gives it permission to circumvent that formal process and expel a member so long as two-thirds of its governors approve.
In October, film executive Harvey Weinstein was expelled from the Academy, becoming only the second person ever to be kicked out and the first for alleged sexual misconduct. Following the Weinstein ouster, the Academy established a new code of conduct for its members, emphasizing that “sexual harassment and predatory behavior in the workplace” would not be tolerated. Ironically, only a few months later, Academy president John Bailey himself was accused of sexual harassment, though he denied the allegation and was quickly exonerated by the group.
Expelling two convicted felons is the absolute bare minimum, and Hollywood groups like the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences still have a lot of work to do to make the film industry a safer and more equal environment.