General News

Spielberg resigns from Boy Scouts board

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Apr 26, 2001 | 11:18am EDT

Oscar-winning producer and director Steven Spielberg announced Monday that he is stepping down from his position as an advisory board member of the Boy Scouts of America.

"The last few years in scouting have deeply saddened me to see the Boy Scouts of America actively and publicly participating in discrimination. It's a real shame," Spielberg said from a prepared statement.

"I thought the Boy Scouts stood for equal opportunity and I have consistently spoken out publicly and privately against intolerance and discrimination based on ethnic, religious, racial and sexual orientation."

Spielberg did not specifically name which "intolerance and discrimination" he was referring to. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Boys Scouts' national policy banning gay members and leaders is constitutional and would be allowed to continue.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force applauded Spielberg for his resignation.

"We'd like to thank Steven Spielberg for recognizing the bigotry that the Boy Scouts' policy has been perpetuating," said Elizabeth Toledo, the NGLTF executive director. "This issue won't go away for the Boy Scouts. Through actions like these, they will be forced to revisit [their policies]."

The Boy Scouts also thanked Spielberg.

"We respect his decision to decline another term," said Jef Reilly, the group's national spokesperson. "Mr. Spielberg's been great for scouting and we appreciate his years of service and his devotion to scouting."

Reilly defended the Boy Scouts' stance against gays.

"We're not discriminating against anyone," he said. "It's all about values, and [homosexuality] is not something that is conducive to our values and morals as a private organization. Some people call it discrimination, but really it goes back to values.

"Homosexuals are not proper role models for our organization."

Spielberg, the director of The Color Purple, Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, remains steadfast in his beliefs.

"Once scouting fully opens its doors to all who desire the same experience that so fully enriched me as a young person, I will be happy to reconsider a role on the advisory board," he said.

Spielberg attained the rank of Eagle Scout, which less than 4 percent of all Boy Scouts ever achieve. Other notable Eagle Scouts include former president Gerald Ford, former Senators Bill Bradley, Sam Nunn and Lloyd Bensen, Olympian Willie Banks, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Harris Salsbury.

Spielberg had been on the advisory board for about 10 years, according to his publicist, Marvin Levy.

In related news, Universal Studios said Monday that it extended its international theatrical and worldwide home video distribution deal with Spielberg's DreamWorks SKG for five years. This after the expected arrangement with Warner Bros. didn't materialize with the 6-year-old entertainment company.

DreamWorks will receive $250 million in the form of a loan and an advance against future revenue as part of the deal, sources reported. DreamWorks, which is approximately $1 billion in debt, will use the infusion to pay down its liabilities and for production financing.

When contacted, Universal officials declined to comment on the financial details of its deal.

Universal essentially matched an offer that Warner Bros. parent AOL Time Warner was prepared to make with the studio, which was formed in 1994 by Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. Although the Warner Bros. agreement was close to being finalized, there were sticking points, such as home video, that remained unresolved as of late last week.

The DreamWorks partners had been shopping their distribution deal since last year all over Hollywood, hoping that one of the major media companies would agree to take equity in their company. None of the parties, including Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Co. and News Corp.-owned 20th Century Fox, stepped up to the plate.

Heading into the weekend, Warner Bros. appeared to have the inside track. But, to the apparent surprise of Warner Bros. executives, lawyers for DreamWorks and Universal quietly hammered out a deal by late Sunday evening.

Before co-founding DreamWorks, Spielberg made some of his biggest hits for Universal, including Jaws and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

Warner Bros. continues to have a strong relationship with DreamWorks, with which it is co-financing and distributing two movies: the Spielberg-directed A.I. starring Jude Law and Haley Joel Osment, which is due out June 29, and Time Machine, which is before the cameras.

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