It's good to be inclusive, says Star Wars director JJ Abrams
Star Wars director JJ Abrams has said "there is never a bad time to be inclusive" as Hollywood counts down to its biggest night of the year.
Abrams, whose film The Force Awakens is nominated for five Oscars at Sunday's ceremony, said the current conversation about diversity had to happen.
Arriving at the annual US-Ireland Alliance Oscar Wilde Awards held at his production company Bad Robot, he said: "I think it is never a bad time to talk about being inclusive and the irony is its just good business.
"Everyone talks about it in this way like it's this other thing, but it's not going away and it's smart.
"When you are inclusive and you have different voices other than the usual suspects you have better stories and more interesting stories, you get performances from people on camera and behind the camera.
"It almost feels ridiculous we are having a conversation about it, it should just be what it is. It's happening, too slowly, but it's happening."
Abrams' Star Wars film, which has made more than two billion dollars (£1.4bn) worldwide, features a black actor and a woman in its lead roles and the director added: "It didn't seem to be a problem."
The academy that votes for the Oscars has nominated all white actors for the second year in a row, prompting a public outcry and reforms to the membership of the voting body.
The Force Awakens scored five nominations - for editing, visual effects, sound editing, sound mixing and original score for composer John Williams - and Abrams said he would be rooting for his collaborators on Sunday.
He added: "I am so proud of the work everyone on the crew did and we all felt like we were trying to serve something bigger than us, so to see people like the editors, the sound, the visual effects, John Williams, get nominated is really a thrill and very well deserved."
Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in the series, was honoured at the Oscar Wilde ceremony and is preparing for the Oscars.
She said: "Since the film came out it feels like I haven't had time so it's just another thing to add to the roly-poly weirdness. The hindsight is going to be more clear than it is right now."
Addressing how her life has changed since the blockbuster was released, she added: "It's different now because people have seen me in a film but people don't tend to recognise me that much because I don't tend to look like this and I'm filming a film which is what I was doing before anyway, everyone really freaked me out but really it's fine.
"Simon Pegg said, in the wise words of Han Solo, "here's where the fun begins" and he just said "enjoy it", it's nice because even the days when people recognise you it's for a good reason.
Ridley is currently filming the eighth film in the series, which is being directed by Rian Johnson. Comparing Johnson to Abrams, Ridley said: "It doesn't feel that different, they are both Star Wars fans and kind of nerds and both warm and funny.
"They are obviously different in their whole lives but both really kind and you see that in the crew and once again I feel very warm and welcomed into a crew."
Star Wars: Episode VIII will be released in UK cinemas in December 2017.