Sam Mendes says having gender-neutral awards at Oscars is ‘inevitable’

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The 57-year-old film director told the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg that he had "total sympathy" with the idea of the Oscars award ceremony becoming gender neutral - Jeff Overs/BBC

The 57-year-old film director told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg that he had “total sympathy” with the idea of the Oscars award ceremony becoming gender neutral – Jeff Overs/BBC

Sir Sam Mendes, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker, described having gender-neutral awards at the Oscars as “inevitable”.

The 57-year-old, who won best director at the Oscars in 1999 for his first film American Beauty, told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg that he had “total sympathy” with the idea which “might well be inevitable”.

It comes after The Crown star Emma Corrin, who identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns they/them, said they hoped that award shows will opt for gender-neutral categories at future ceremonies.

Sir Sam said: “I have total sympathy with it and I think it might well be inevitable in the end. Because I think that’s the way it’s moving and I think it’s perfectly reasonable.

“For me, people forget with awards, I think this happens all the time that they use it as a bellwether for the industry, but the truth is awards are a TV show.

“Awards are there to promote films. If that film wins an award, I’m more likely to go and see it and that’s what you’re doing there.

“It’s not about yourself, it’s not about the art or craft of the industry especially. It’s about selling films.

“I’m not dismissing the importance of them but I’m saying they were there to promote films and the craft and art of films. They’re the shop window but they’re not the thing itself.”

Sam Mendes Olviai Colman - Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney

Sam Mendes Olviai Colman – Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney

Sir Sam also said in the interview that actress Olivia Colman was embarrassed to perform sex scenes in his upcoming film, Empire Of Light, alongside her younger co-star but he had wanted to see the characters’ “physical desire”.

The new film by the James Bond director is set in an old cinema in an English seaside town in the early 1980s and explores human connection and romance.

It marks the Academy Award-winning filmmaker’s first foray into solo screenwriting and was inspired by his childhood growing up around someone who suffered from mental illness.

Sir Sam said: “The stigma that is still attached to mental illness, there’s still a cloak of darkness that’s thrown over it.

“If you come out of hospital and you’ve just recovered from cancer, I’m immediately saying to you ‘how are you?’. If you come out of a mental health facility, I don’t talk about it, I probably don’t ask you the question.

“So there’s still that strange stigma attached to it.

“My goal primarily in the movie was to try and dramatise the effect and what it is to live through bipolar and manic depression, rather than to explain it.”

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