People Who Were Banned From The Academy Of Motion Pictures

The Academy of Motion Pictures is one of those societies that seems like it's filled with the uber-elite, and it's a group that (one might like to imagine) has things like secret handshakes, passwords, and all kinds of perks. Secrets handshakes, we're not so sure about, but it is like one of history's arguably cooler secret societies in that wanna-be members don't apply. They have to be sponsored by two existing members, or be nominated for an Academy Award. Even that last one isn't enough to provide a guaranteed ticket in, though, and even nominees are reviewed by the board of the applicable one of the 17 branches.

That makes it sound pretty exclusive, and while it kind of is, there are more than 10,000 members. Since they're representing the cream of the crop and the best of the best in the movie-making industry, are they all held to high standards that help guarantee this part of the entertainment industry is putting a collectively best foot forward?

Eh. Will Smith made headlines for getting handed a 10-year ban from the Academy — but not from winning awards — which made a lot of people incredibly uncomfortable about just what that was saying. There have been people who have been kicked out ... but it takes a lot, and it's only recently become a worry for those who might have something to worry about. 

This article contains references to sexual assault. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Carmine Caridi

When Carmine Caridi died in 2019 at 85 years old, The Hollywood Reporter looked back on him being the first person to be expelled from the Academy. To hear Caridi tell the story to The Hollywood Reporter, he's the wronged man here. Academy members get screeners of movies ahead of time, so they vote on awards. Caridi was living in Los Angeles when a "The Godfather: Part III" co-star introduced him to a man named Russell Sprague. Sprague was a film buff, he said, and after he returned to Chicago, he asked Caridi if he would be willing to send him his advance screeners. Caridi was already making copies and sharing with family, and Sprague, he was like family too, right?

The screeners ended up on the internet, and Caridi ended up getting a call first from the Academy, and then from the FBI. He negotiated for immunity in exchange for handing over Sprague, but he was still kicked out of the Academy, sued by several major studios, and ordered to pay each of them $300,000.

That all went down in 2004, and by 2005, Sprague was dead of a heart attack. He had still been waiting to go to trial, and Caridi explained that he hadn't meant any harm by it: "Who the hell knew he was gonna put 'em on the internet? I had no idea. I was duped." He continued, saying the Screen Actors Guild still sent him screeners: "I lend them to my neighbor."

Will Smith

When future generations study history and look back on 2022, it'll be known as the year that an actor slapped a comedian and the world lost its collective mind. Even conspiracy theorists got on board, claiming it was staged to make the Oscars more interesting. Make them interesting, it did — briefly — but as the Independent says, the general consensus is it wasn't staged.

A quick recap: Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head — and, in turn, her medical condition — and Will Smith got up, headed up onto stage, and got all kinds of slappy. To say everyone was shocked is a bit of an understatement, and in the wake of the slap — and Entertainment Weekly's report that Rock wasn't going to be pressing assault charges — everyone wanted to know what was going to be done about it.

Especially considering that about 20 minutes later, Smith was giving an acceptance speech for his Best Actor Oscar.

It took a little over a week before the Academy announced that they were hitting Smith back, with a 10-year ban... from attending ceremonies, EW reported. Smith had already resigned from the Academy a few days prior to the announcement, but here's the thing: That means he can't vote on award winners, but he can still win another himself. Smith later apologized via Instagram: "I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be."

Adam Kimmel

Adam Kimmel (right) is a cinematographer who's worked with stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Scarlett Johansson, Bruce Springsteen, LL Cool J, and Natalie Portman. He was accepted into the Academy in 2007, and according to Variety, that's three years after he was added to the sex offender registry following his guilty plea to charges of third-degree rape. Variety also got copies of the case against him, which involved repeat offenses involving a 15-year-old girl. (Kimmel was 43 years old at the time.)

Kimmel wrote: "By accepting this responsibility and the repercussions that followed, I was able to process this experience with an understanding and perspective that will be with me for the rest of my life." Still, the media outlet's inquiry found that no one who responded to their inquiries had known about his past, and that included not only the 2003 case but another in 2010. In that case, he was arrested and brought up on charges of fourth-degree sexual assault, and again, it involved a 15-year-old girl.

There were other charges too — such as ones connected to possession of illegal weapons — and in 2021, Variety also reported that Kimmel had been kicked out of the Academy and other organizations, like the American Society of Cinematographers. The Academy declined to comment on the action, aside from making a confirmation.

Harvey Weinstein

On Oct. 5, 2017, The New York Times kicked off what would become the biggest scandal that Hollywood had seen in a long time. Among the first to come forward with assault allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein were Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, and Weinstein was almost immediately fired from his own company, days after he made a public apology and said that he was going to be stepping down with a "leave of absence."

More and more women came forward, including Mira Sorvino, Asia Argento, Angelina Jolie, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Suddenly, the BBC says, a 4-year-old comment by Seth MacFarlane wasn't looking so funny, and he confirmed that yes, he'd said something after one of his own co-stars told him she had been harassed by Weinstein.

It was on Oct. 14 that The New York Times reported Weinstein had become the second person to be kicked out of the Academy. The 54-member board — which included at least 10 people who had worked on Weinstein-run productions — voted overwhelmingly to kick him out, along with issuing a statement that read (in part): "We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues, but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over."

Roman Polanski

After the Academy voted to kick Harvey Weinstein out in light of the allegations against him, The New York Times reported that there were plenty of people who were wondering what was going to happen to other Academy members who had skeletons in their closets. The world got the answer pretty quickly, thanks in part to Marianne Barnard. Barnard, says the Los Angeles Times, was one of the women who accused Roman Polanski of molestation. She filed a police report saying that the incident had happened on Will Rogers State Beach during a 1975 photoshoot, and she wasn't content just to file a report — she also started a petition to get Polanski kicked out of the Academy.

Polanski — who fled the U.S. in 1978 before he could be sentenced in a case that saw him pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor — had remained a member of the Academy and won an Oscar for 2003's "The Pianist." The U.S. has continued to try to extradite him for assaulting then-13-year-old Samantha Geimer (who, incidentally, has publicly said that she believes he has paid for the crime.)

Polanski was voted out of the Academy in 2018, not long after Weinstein's removal. According to the Los Angeles Times, Polanski's lawyers claimed it was an unlawful vote given the fact that he hadn't been able to present his case, but the decision stood.

Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby went from "America's Dad" to being in court, and then, he went to being convicted on charges of sexual assault. He was handed a sentence of three to 10 years, and the BBC says that although dozens of women came forward to accuse him of varying types of assault, the conviction was overturned and Cosby walked free in 2021.

It was several years after the Academy had voted to oust Cosby from their ranks, a decision that came both after the expulsion of Harvey Weinstein, and alongside a vote to remove Roman Polanski. According to Variety, it was a week after his conviction in a court case where he was accused of assaulting around 60 women.

Cosby's (and Polanski's) expulsion from the Academy came after the adoption of a new code that allowed for complaints to be filed against Academy members through the Membership and Administration Committee, which would then ask for a response before deciding on disciplinary action. (There's a loophole built in, too, that allows the Academy to skip the entire process if needed.) The Academy said (in part): "The Board continues to encourage ethical standards that require members to uphold the Academy's values of respect for human dignity."