Actress Charlotte Rampling has suggested the Oscars are "racist" against white people, following complaints over the lack of black actors represented this year.
Rampling, who received her first Oscar nomination this year at the age of 69, said she did not understand campaigners and stars who have lamented the lack of diversity in the academy's nominations.
Asked about a campaign to boycott the event, after all 20 of the leading actor categories were filled by whites for the second year running, she suggested black actors who missed out "perhaps did not merit being on the finishing line".
Diversity campaigners called her comments ill-thought-out and "silly".It follows a week of global debate about this year's Oscars. Stars including George Clooney, Mark Ruffalo, Lupita Nyong'o, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have spoken out about the lack of black actors.
David Oyelowo, the British star of Selma, a biopic about Martin Luther King, said: "For actors of colour to be missed last year is one thing; for that to happen again is unforgivable." Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has promised to address the issue by examining how to increase diversity among voting members.
In an interview on French radio about her nomination, Rampling appeared to claim the Oscars were discriminating against white actors. When asked if she understood the frustration and calls for stars to boycott this year's ceremony, Rampling said: "No. I find that it is the other way around. Racist towards whites."
When the interviewer asked, "Really?" she added: "Yes, because you can never know if it's really the case, but sometimes, perhaps, black actors did not merit being on the finishing line.
"Why classify people?" Rampling continued. "There are always questions about whether such-and-such a person is less handsome, such-and-such is too black, such-and-such is too blonde.
"There will always be someone who is told 'you are too something'. And then what do we do? Are we going to classify thousands of little minorities everywhere?"
The comments caused fury on social media. One critic said they "exemplified the deep and dangerous ignorance of unexamined white privilege".