By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - British actress and first-time Academy Award nominee Charlotte Rampling said in a radio interview on Friday the boycott of the Oscars protesting the absence of black actors and directors is racist toward whites.
In the interview, Rampling was asked by a France-based Europe 1 journalist if she felt African-American director Spike Lee was right to pledge to boycott the Oscars over the absence of blacks among the nominees.
"No, I find to the contrary, that it's racist toward whites," said Rampling, who is nominated for her role in the British drama "45 Years."
When asked to elaborate, Rampling said "one can never really know," but that "perhaps sometimes black actors have not earned a place in the final running."
Rampling's comments came amid a wave of protest over the lack of minorities among the major nominees, including the re-emergence on social media of the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which first appeared during the 2015 awards season.
On Monday, actress Jada Pinkett Smith said on her Facebook page she would boycott the Oscars, and Lee announced he would not attend. The next day the president of the academy acknowledged the lack of diversity and pledged "big changes."
Lee on Wednesday said that while he will not be attending the Academy Awards, he was not calling for a general boycott of the ceremony.
Rampling also criticized Lee's affirmative action advocacy in Hollywood.
"There will always be problems with people saying this one is too handsome, this guy is too black, this guy is too white, there will always be someone of whom people say, ‘You are too …’” Rampling said. “And so we’re going to classify everything to make thousands of little minorities everywhere?”
As Rampling, speaking to Europe 1 in French, made her comments, two-time Oscar winner Michael Caine in a separate broadcast interview urged non-white actors to "be patient" as they await more recognition at Hollywood's premier awards event.
Caine, speaking to BBC Radio 4, also weighed in on the Oscar selections made by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who vote for the nominees.
"You can't vote for an actor because he's black," Caine told BBC Radio 4.
At one point, Caine appeared to be unaware all 20 acting nominees this year were white, asking if British actor of African descent Idris Elba was nominated.
"It took me years to get an Oscar," said Caine, 82, who won the first of his two Oscars in 1987, a best supporting actor award for "Hannah and Her Sisters."
(Additional reporting by Amy Tennery, Melissa Fares and Gina Cherelus; Editing by Sara Catania and Nick Zieminski)