Academy defends in memoriam segment after backlash over actors left out of Oscars tribute


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has defended its in memoriam tribute to late actors and artists that aired during the Oscars on Sunday after facing backlash for leaving some big names off the list.

Before the segment began, John Travolta gave a brief introduction and a nod to his “Grease” co-star and friend, Olivia Newton-John, who died in August at age 73. Lenny Kravitz then performed the song “Calling All Angels.”

The tribute paid homage to a number of stars, including Newton-John, Ray Liotta, Kirstie Alley, Robbie Coltrane and others. But the segment left some viewers wanting more.

Actor Lydia Cornell tweeted in response to the segment: “Can anyone explain why this happens every year?”

The “Too Close for Comfort” star then listed a few names that she noticed were missing, including Paul Sorvino, who died in July at age 83; Anne Heche, who died at age 53 in August from injuries sustained in a car crash; and Tom Sizemore, who died earlier this month at age 61, days after suffering a brain aneurysm.

Anne Heche in New York on May 15, 2017.Maarten de Boer / NBC

Sorvino’s wife, Dee Dee Sorvino, shared a statement with NBC News criticizing her husband’s exclusion from the tribute.

“Paul Sorvino was one of the greatest actors in cinematic history in Hollywood. It is unconscionable that he would be left out of the ‘IN MEMORIAM’ segment of the Oscars. It’s a three-hour show, they can’t give a couple more minutes to get it right?” she said.

During Kravitz’s performance, viewers were able to scan a QR code that linked out to a more robust online list of actors who died over the last year. The list includes Paul Sorvino, Heche and Sizemore, among others.

Dee Dee Sorvino, who said her husband was “loved by all,” argued that the names listed online should also have been shared during the on-air segment.

Ray Liotta And Robert De Niro In 'Goodfellas'
Paul Sorvino, second from right in ‘Goodfellas’, 1990.Getty Images

“Paul was not the only deserving soul left out, and a QR Code is not acceptable. The Academy needs to issue an apology, admit the mistake and do better. Paul Sorvino deserves better, the audience deserves better, is the Academy so jaded they forget people who are loved, who have given their hearts to this industry? Shame on the Academy if this is not corrected. Mistakes are made, this was a big one. Please do something to make it right,” she said.

Paul Sorvino’s daughter, Oscar-winning actor Mira Sorvino, also shared her disappointment via a tweet.

“It is baffling beyond belief that my beloved father and many other amazing brilliant departed actors were left out. The Oscars forgot about Paul Sorvino, but the rest of us never will!!” she wrote.

A spokesperson for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a statement amid the backlash.

Saving Private Ryan
Tom Sizemore, second from left, as Sergeant Horvath in the 1998 classic “Saving Private Ryan.” CBS via Getty Images

“The Academy receives hundreds of requests to include loved ones and industry colleagues in the Oscars In Memoriam segment. An executive committee representing every branch considers the list and makes selections for the telecast based on limited available time. All the submissions are included on A.frame and will remain on the site throughout the year,” the statement read.

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