Entertainment & Arts

Ellen DeGeneres: Oscars changes 'long overdue'

Ellen Degeneres Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption DeGeneres described the changes to the Academy's membership as "fantastic"

Ellen DeGeneres has praised the Oscars for diversifying its membership, adding: "Obviously it's long overdue."

Nearly 700 people have been asked to join the Academy after a race row.

"It's always amazing to me that it's taken this long for all of us to realise we should all be represented in film and television," she said.

"There's a planet full of people that aren't white heterosexual. There's a lot of people of colour, fat people, people that aren't absolutely perfect.

"Hollywood's always always celebrated beauty and perfection and that's great, who doesn't want to look at beauty and perfection? But we also need to represent everybody on the planet," said the actress and presenter, who voices the lead character in Pixar animation Finding Dory.

DeGeneres - who married her partner Portia Di Rossi in 2008 in California after same-sex marriage became legal there - has previously hosted the Oscars twice.

A selfie she took while presenting the 2014 ceremony became the most retweeted photo of all time.

Image copyright Bradley Cooper
Image caption Ellen's Oscars selfie has had more than 3 million retweets

DeGeneres, who is gearing up for the UK release of Finding Dory, joked about the selfie, saying: "Nothing will beat it, ever. Maybe I'll aspire to beat it myself."

Finding Dory - the sequel to Finding Nemo - has been a huge success in the US, where it has become the highest-grossing animated film of all time.

But its success is unlikely to translate into significant Oscars glory - the best picture award has never been won by an animated film, something DeGeneres says she thinks is a shame.

"You obviously relate more when you see a person and a face, and maybe that's what the Academy Awards have been about," the 58-year-old said.

"But the performances in animated movies are challenging for us [voice actors] because we're getting emotions across strictly through our voices.

Image copyright Pixar / AFP
Image caption A host of guest stars, including Dominic West, lend their voices to Finding Dory

"We need to get comedic timing, sadness, emotion, all through our voice without the benefit of body language or facial expressions. So it's as much of a challenge, if not a tiny bit more."

If there was one phrase that stuck in the mind from 2003's Finding Nemo, it was Dory's motto "just keep swimming" - in other words, stay strong in the face of uncertainty.

With the sequel finally about to arrive in UK cinemas 13 years later - what message will a whole new generation of children take from the second instalment of the franchise?

"Just keep swimming is always a good motto no matter what, but this time around the most important one for me is that your disability, your supposed disability, is your strength," DeGeneres said.

Image copyright AP
Image caption DeGeneres and her partner Portia de Rossi were seen at Wimbledon earlier this month

The disability she refers to is Dory's short term memory loss, which causes her to instantly forget names and faces.

In Finding Dory, however, the blue tang fish begins to get flashbacks of her parents, whom she lost when she was young, which leads to her quest to find them.

"You should look at whatever makes you different as what makes you special," DeGeneres said of Dory's memory loss.

"We need to embrace who we are. So I think that's a good message. People ask 'what would Dory do?' and it's because of her disability that people ask that, because she doesn't worry about the past, think about the future or analyse everything.

"She's just in the present moment, which is something we should aspire to."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption DeGeneres is backing Hillary Clinton to be US president

During DeGeneres's UK visit, the political landscape changed dramatically as Theresa May became prime minister - the second woman in the UK to do so - something DeGeneres says sends out a positive message.

The comedian and talk show host has campaigned for the democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the US ahead of the November presidential election.

"There should be representatives for everybody, so, of course, it's a great thing for young girls to look at, and also for young boys so they respect women more," she said.

"And I think what a woman brings to the job is a sensibility of growing up as a woman, knowing the things we have to fight against, which is stereotypes or double standards or whatever - so if a woman is in office she's probably going to fight more for women's rights because she understands more.

"So there's something to be said for that gender being in office rather than a man, but it's really about the person that's most qualified for the job, I think."

After her London visit, DeGeneres returned to the US to continue hosting her massively popular talk show Ellen, which attracts not only a high number of viewers, but also a strong online following.

Image copyright Pixar / Touchstone
Image caption DeGeneres joked that her 1996 film Mr Wrong might be her next to get a sequel after Dory

Clips from the show are uploaded to its official Facebook page, and an official platform - Ellentube - has even been set up primarily to host material from the programme.

"That's how a lot of people are watching my show. A lot of people that don't own a TV will watch a clip or something," DeGeneres said.

"That's why we created Ellentube, and we're working so hard on our digital network because we know that is the future and that's where people are going to watch everything."

With her TV show still going strong, it may be a while before DeGeneres returns to the big screen. But when she does, there's another of her films which she joked could be in line for a second instalment.

"I think Mr Wrong, my very first film which was a horrible flop, that should have a sequel," she laughed.


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