AFP

LOS ANGELES/ BEVERLY HILLS

We’ve all yawned each year as Oscar winners rush through the names of the people they want to thank during their brief acceptance speeches, hoping no one is forgotten. Well, things are about to change. The producers of the annual Academy Awards announced on Monday that this year’s winners will be able to hand over a list of the people they wish to thank, and the names will be scrolled at the bottom of the screen.

The change will allow winners to concentrate on saying what’s really on their mind during the 45 seconds they are alloted - rather than making sure they don’t forget to thank mom, dad and their pet. The new rule was announced at the annual Oscar nominees luncheon in Beverly Hills, a star-studded affair taking place this year against a backdrop of controversy over diversity in Hollywood and talk of boycotting the Oscars ceremony on February 28. Although the issue was clearly on many people’s mind at the luncheon, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs clearly did not want it to cast a shadow over the event. ‘This year, we all know there is an elephant in the room. I have asked the elephant to leave,’ she said to applause. ‘Today is all about your incredible work on the screen and behind the camera.’

Sylvester Stallone, however, appeared willing to grapple the elephant by both tusks, revealing he had toyed with boycotting this year’s Oscars over the issue. The veteran Rocky actor, 69, was the only nominee for ‘Creed’, despite it having a black director, Ryan Coogler, and lead, Michael B. Jordan. ‘I remember I spoke with Ryan Coogler when this (controversy) happened. I said ‘Ryan how do you want to handle this? Because I really believe you are responsible for me being here’,’ Stallone told reporters. ‘Michael Jordan, every time I looked in his eyes as an actor, I said, he’s making me better. I think he should’ve been given a lot more respect, a lot more attention. ‘(Coogler) goes ‘Sly, just go there, try to represent the film, and we feel you deserve it. Eventually things will change’.’ Moreover, Sylvester Stallone, thrilled to be back as an Oscar contender for the first time in 40 years, said on Monday he had thought twice about taking part in the Oscar ceremony because of the uproar over the scarcity of black talent in the contest. Stallone, 69, is the only person from the boxing movie ‘Creed’ to be nominated for an Oscar, although the film stars African-American Michael B. Jordan and was directed and written by Ryan Coogler, who also is black. ‘I never thought I’d cross this threshold again,’ Stallone told reporters at the annual luncheon to celebrate all the Oscar nominees ahead of the Academy Awards on Feb. 28.

‘I couldn’t be more thrilled, and my daughters actually look at me now as an actor and not as a bad golfer,’ he joked. Stallone was last Oscar-nominated for writing and performing the lead role in his 1976 movie ‘Rocky,’ which went on to win the best picture Academy Award without honouring his efforts. He is considered a front runner for the supporting actor Oscar for reprising his role as Rocky Balboa, now a boxing trainer and mentor, in ‘Creed.’ Stallone said he owed his success to Jordan and Coogler, who were among people of color, including Latinos and Asian-Americans, perceived as snubbed when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominees last month. After black actor Will Smith and director Spike Lee said they would not attend the 2016 ceremony in protest, Stallone said he asked Coogler what he should do. ‘(Coogler) said, ‘Just go there and try to represent the film. We feel you deserve it, but eventually things will change.’ ‘I said, ‘If you want me to go I’ll go. If you don’t, I won’t. And he said, ‘No, I want you to go.’ That’s the kind of guy he is.’ The Academy has since announced plans to double the numbers of women and people of color in its ranks by 2020. Australian director George Miller, whose action movie ‘Mad Max; Fury Road’ is in the running for a best picture Oscar, told reporters he would think harder about diversity when making his next movie. ‘I think what’s good about what’s happened, if there’s a positive, is that it’s alerted everybody to the problem. It’s really interesting to me how television responded way earlier than I think cinema has in all countries in terms of diversity,’ Miller said on Monday.