Jeanne Tripplehorn has been a professional actress for more than 25 years. But as a new member of the film academy, she's almost as giddy as her first day on set.
"I'm already involved in all these different committees," she said. "I love film so much... so to be invited to become a member of the academy is the greatest honor I could have."
Tripplehorn was among the guests at a private reception Monday for the newest members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The organization invited a record class of 774 new members in June — 39 percent female and 30 percent non-white, representing 57 countries — as part of an ongoing effort to diversify its ranks. The group previously had around 6,200 members.
Academy chief Dawn Hudson said the new membership class reflects a "re-envisioning of the academy as a truly international institution."
"You make our academy better, stronger, smarter, more open," she said as she welcomed hundreds of new members to the organization's headquarters in Beverly Hills, California. Director Tom Ford, "La La Land" composer Justin Hurwitz and actors Terry Crews and Rodrigo Santoro were among the artists who turned out to celebrate their new membership status.
Hairstylist Kenneth Walker said he always believed he would join the film academy, though it took 35 years.
After decades in Hollywood, amassing such credits as "Ali," ''American Gangster," and last year's "Loving," the 78-year-old is finally a member.
"Betty White and I decided to come in at the same time," he said. (White was also invited to join the organization this year.)
As an academy member, Walker said he plans to devote time to mentoring young talent and exploring foreign film.
Academy president John Bailey said the foreign-language film committee is his "home favorite."
"Even ones that may not quite grab the brass ring are windows into the sociopolitical temperature of their country," he said. "You'll receive sometimes startling insights into how filmmakers in the rest of the world view themselves and their own country and also how they view us. As a creative artist, this is the best gift you could give yourself between mid-October and mid-December."
Bailey, a cinematographer who joined the academy in 1981, said membership isn't about all the free DVD screeners during awards season, but connecting to the past and future of filmmaking through academy efforts to preserve film history and recruit new talent.
"Almost from the start I discovered that what was really best about being a member was getting involved in academy programs and events, not just by attending them, but by signing up for the committees," he said.
Besides the foreign-language film committee, Bailey mentioned the Student Academy Awards and Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowships, the Margaret Herrick Library archives and future academy museum opening in 2019, and the Academy Gold internship program that just concluded its inaugural summer.
Georgian filmmaker Nana Dzhordzhadze said she can hardly get her head around becoming the first from the former Soviet nation to join the film academy, much less consider what committees to sign up for. Georgia has a 110-year history of film, she said, and people there love movies.
"I'm very proud to be part of this great film academy," said Dzhordzhadze, whose films have been Georgia's contenders in the foreign-language category six times. "It's really something for my country and for myself."