Film star Don Cheadle hails Academy's plan to double female and minority members


African-American actor and director Don Cheadle has said the Academy's planned membership changes to improve diversity are a "step in the right direction".

The Academy announced a new aim to double the number of female and minority members by 2020.

Three new seats will be added to to its board of governors in an effort to improve diversity, and lifetime voting rights will be limited.

According to US publication Deadline, Cheadle said: "I think it is a step in the right direction, a needed step."

Speaking at a screening of his new movie Miles Ahead at Sundance Film Festival, he said the problem went beyond the Academy and was a broader issue in the film industry. 

"People really have to have access to tell the stories they want to tell. So what we really need is people in positions to greenlight those stories, not a hunk of metal," he said.

Cheadle, who was nominated in 2005 in the best actor category for his performance in Hotel Rwanda, had previously joked with Oscars host Chris Rock that he was attending the evening as a valet. 

After the Oscar nominations were announced, with no ethnic minority actors or actresses on the list, he tweeted: "Yo, Chris. Come check me out at #TheOscars this year. They got me parking cars on G level."

Ava DuVernay, director of last year's Oscar-nominated civil rights drama Selma, tweeted that the changes were "one good step in a long, complicated journey for people of color + women artists."

She added: "Shame is a helluva motivator. We've all felt shame even when we didn't believe we were wrong. It's the fact that EVERYONE ELSE thinks you're wrong. Fix it mode kicks in."

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement on Friday: "The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up. These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact."

She announced plans for an "ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity."

The nominations for this year's Academy Awards have been surrounded by controversy, sparking an online campaign with the hashtag OscarSoWhite, as well as a debate about race and the film industry. 

Actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith will boycott the ceremony alongside director Spike Lee. 

Others including actors George Clooney, Mark Ruffalo, Lupita Nyong'o, David Oyelowo, Viola Davis, and British director Steve McQueen have spoken of their disappointment with the lack of diversity among the nominees. 

But Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling and Oscar-winning actor Sir Michael Caine have expressed reservations about the campaign. 

In an interview on French radio station Europe 1, Rampling said the uproar was "racist to white people".

She later added that her comments had been "misinterpreted".