Oscar-Winning Director Sam Mendes Weighs In On Gender-Neutral Categories At Awards Shows

The Empire Of Light director was asked for his take on Emma Corrin's calls for shows like the Oscars and Baftas to remove gendered categories.
Sam Mendes
Sam Mendes
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Filmmaker Sam Mendes has voiced his support for the removal of gendered categories at awards shows.

Sam – whose work includes the James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre, the war epic 1917 and American Beauty, which earned him Best Director at the Oscars in 2000 – was asked for his thoughts on the inclusion of gender-neutral categories during an interview on Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg.

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

He continued: “People forget [...] they [awards] 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 accepting his Oscar in 2000
Sam Mendes accepting his Oscar in 2000
Ron Galella, Ltd. via Getty Images

The Crown actor Emma Corrin, who is non-binary, previously said they would like awards shows like the Oscars and Baftas to move forward without gendered acting categories, to be more inclusive of performers who don’t identify as male or female.

I hope for a future in which that happens. I don’t think the categories are inclusive enough at the moment,” they said.

“It’s about everyone being able to feel acknowledged and represented.”

Emma – who won the Best Actress In A Television Drama award at the Golden Globes before coming out as non-binary – added: “It’s difficult for me at the moment trying to justify in my head being non-binary and being nominated in female categories.”

Emma Corrin
Emma Corrin
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

They aren’t alone in calling for gender-neutral categories, with Oscar winner Lady Gaga previously making a similar plea after her victory at the Academy Awards in 2019.

“I also have a true dream in our future, as we evolve as humanity, that these awards shows will not be male and female, but that we include everyone,” she said backstage at the Oscars.

Lady Gaga with her Oscar in 2019
Lady Gaga with her Oscar in 2019
Future Publishing via Getty Images

Per the PA news organsiation, Baftas and Oscars organisers have both indicated they are engaged in discussions about the subject of gender neutral categories.

Meanwhile, after years of speculation, the Brit Awards finally ditched their gendered categories last year, replacing Best British Male and Best British Female with Best British Artist, as well as introducing genre-specific awards.

The awards show was previously criticised by chart-topping singer Sam Smith, who is also non-binary, after previous rumours that organisers were planning to remove the gendered categories ended up not coming to fruition.

Meanwhile, the Grammys ditched all gendered categories over a decade ago, in 2012.


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