The Academy Awards are only a few hours away at this point but political unrest ahead of the event is already starting to boil-over. Actors, producers, directors, and a wide array of the creative-community behind Hollywood’s largest films, turned out in full-force today. They stood united, expressing support for the freedom of speech and artistic expression, while also speaking out against policies of exclusion and division.
“As the Oscars draw the world’s attention to our country and our community, we must raise our voices loud and clear: The politics of fear and division do not reflect who we are as a nation, and united we can do better,” said Jeremy Zimmer, CEO of United Talent Agency, which organized the gathering outside its Los Angeles headquarters after scrapping plans for a traditional Oscar party.
Featured speakers at the event included California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Jodie Foster, Michael J. Fox, Reza Aslan, Keegan-Michael Key and Wilmer Valderrama. The gathering also featured live performances by DJ Cassidy, painter David Garibaldi, singer Ben Harper, Sam and Casey Harris of X Ambassadors, who debuted an original song—Hoping—which will benefit the American Civil Liberties Union.
Also addressing the crowd were International Rescue Committee President and CEO David Miliband and American Civil Liberties Union executive Hector Villagra. The two organizations are the recipients of a $250,000 donation from UTA, as well as an additional $70,000 raised through the agency’s online CrowdRise campaign.
Foster took the podium and addressed the crowd stating, “This is exactly the way to celebrate our industry and our commitment to humanity on and off screen. I don’t do this very often, but this year is a different year, this is a singular time — it’s one to show up, time to engage. As the very dead Frederick Douglass once said, ‘any time is a good time for illumination.’” Foster added, “It’s time to show up, to resist, to show up and demand answers, to tell our elected officials to DO THEIR JOB”.
A surprise highlight of the rally was taped remarks from Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, a UTA client. Nominated for his film “The Salesman,” Farhadi made headlines around the world after announcing he would not travel to Los Angeles for the Oscars ceremony in protest of the proposed U.S. ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. “I am grateful to the civility of my fellow filmmakers and the UTA family who have reacted responsibly to discrimination and injustice,” said Farhadi, in his first public appearance since his travel announcement. “Filmmakers can break stereotypes around the world by turning their cameras to capture shared human qualities.”
Other artists turning out to show their support, included Ike Barinholtz, John Cho, Jai Courtney, Jamie Dornan, Megan Mullally, Bill Nye, Nick Offerman, Aaron Paul, Josh Radnor, Emily Ratajkowski, Retta, Timothy Simons and Kristen Wiig.