Frances McDormand - who won the Academy Award for Best Actress at this year’s ceremony - used her acceptance speech to make an important demand on behalf of womankind. And she did it in just two words, too…
This year’s Academy Awards may have come with more than its fair share of surprises, but pretty much everyone expected Frances McDormand to pick up the Best Actress gong for her standout performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
In the film, McDormand stars as Mildred Hayes, a grieving mother who uses the three billboards of the title to admonish the local chief of police, Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), when he fails to find the man responsible for her daughter’s violent murder.
In sequence, they read: “Raped while dying”, “And still no arrests?”, and “How come, Chief Willoughby?”
So it makes sense that, during her acceptance speech, McDormand was keen to continue this theme of “civic disobedience”.
A hush fell over the crowd as the actress set her statuette down on the floor beside her, before commanding all the other women nominees in the room to stand up in solidarity.
“If I could have all the women stand up with me in this moment,” she said, waving them to their feet. “Look around, everybody, look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell, and we all have projects we need to finance.”
McDormand went on to use her moment in the spotlight to encourage people to discuss future women-centric projects seriously during meetings, rather than during drinks tonight.
“I have two words to leave with you tonight: ‘inclusion rider,’” she said, to rapturous applause.
However, judging by the recent spate of searches on Google, it seems that many aren’t clear on what the words ‘inclusion rider’ actually refer to.
The idea was first started by The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which works to increase diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry.
“This clause would ask for the film’s cast to match the demography of where the story is set,” the initiative’s website states. “This way, even small parts can reflect reality.”
Or, to put it more plainly, an inclusion rider is a clause in an actor’s contract that requires the cast and crew on the film be diverse and support gender equality in order to retain the actor. Since McDormand’s speech, celebrities from Michael B. Jordan to Ava DuVernay and Brie Larson have all pledged to include inclusion riders in their upcoming projects. Larson has even announced that next year, while promoting Captain Marvel, she will use inclusion riders to ensure that she works with diverse stylists, photographers, writers, designers and hair and makeup artists.
According to PEOPLE, McDormand told reporters backstage at the Oscars that she only recently found out about the concept herself.
“I just found out about this last week. This has always been available to everybody that does a negotiation on a film – an inclusion rider which means that you can ask for and or demand at least 50 percent diversity in not only the casting but also the crew. So the fact that I just learned that after 35 years of being in the film business, we’re not going back.
“The idea of women trending – no trending. African Americans trending – no trending,” she said.
“The change is now. I think the inclusion rider will have something to do with that.”
Stacy Smith, who founded the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, told The Guardian that she was “utterly elated” to learn McDormand had given her work a shout-out during her speech.
“I hope I get calls from the agencies tomorrow saying they want to adopt this across all talent,” she said.
“I’m hoping to make a lot of attorneys really busy… [because] the goal here is to really put it in the hands of the most powerful people.”
This article was first published on 5 March, 2018 and has been updated.
Images: Rex Features