The industry body which controls the Oscars – the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – confirmed it would expel comedian Bill Cosby in the wake of his conviction on aggravated indecent assault charges.

The Academy also confirmed it would expel director Roman Polanski, who was charged in the late 1970s with unlawful sex with a minor but subsequently fled the US to France, where he continues to live in exile.

The two expulsions sent a powerful signal in Hollywood, which is still deeply bruised from six months of brutal headlines and successive revelations connected to a hidden culture of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The Academy said the decision to expel Cosby and Polanski "was in accordance with the organisation's Standards of Conduct".

"The board continues to encourage ethical standards that require members to uphold the Academy's values of respect for human dignity," the statement said.


The announcement followed what initially seemed to be a low-key meeting of the Academy's board of governors on Tuesday, US time.

Such expulsions are rare – just a handful in its almost century-old history – from an organisation which is seen as one of the oldest and most influentual establishments in Los Angeles.

Controversial director Roman Polanski.

Photo: Invision/AP

Last year the board of governors voted to remove disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, who was exposed by The New York Times and The New Yorker as a key player in that sexual harassment culture.

That decision followed by an emergency meeting which was far more reactive to the rising sentiment of shock and disgust; Tuesday's decision has been announced in a far calmer context.

Cosby's expulsion is fairly straightforward: he was found guilty last month on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, capping off a story which has run for a decade and includes allegations from many other women.

Polanski's explusion is more complex: in reflects a reaction to a long-held and still growing frustration felt by many in Hollywood that by allowing the now 84-year-old filmmaker to remain in the Academy, the organisation was endorsing him.

Bill Cosby arrives at court last month with his wife, Camille.

Photo: AP

That frustration with Polanski has existed since the 1970s but has amplified dramatically in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, which have fought to bring entrenched cultures of sexual harassment and sexual assault into the open.

Polanski was arrested and charged with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977; he later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, unlawful sex with a minor, and spent 42 days in jail undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

According to historical accounts, when the famed director learned he would likely receive a custodial sentence rather than probation, he elected to flee the US and has lived in France, which is beyond US justice, ever since.

In 2002 – some 25 years after his flight and while still a member – the Academy awarded Polanski with a best director Oscar for his work on the film The Pianist; the film also won best director and best film at the BAFTA awards and the Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

The Academy's Cosby-Polanski announcement follows a decision by its television counterpart to remove Cosby from its Hall of Fame.

The 80-year-old comedian's name has been removed from the official list of honourees, the television Academy confirmed.

The organisation also confirmed a statue of Cosby that was part of its outdoor "Hall of Fame plaza" had been removed earlier this year as part of a renovation but would now not be returned to its place.

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Michael Idato

Michael Idato is a Senior Writer based in Los Angeles for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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