In a statement released by the film academy, Bailey’s wife, Carol Littleton, stated that her husband passed away “peacefully in his sleep” in Los Angeles.
Bailey was the first cinematographer to lead the Academy for two terms, from 2017 to 2019. He had worked on movies like “Ordinary People,” “Groundhog Day,” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.”
Those were tumultuous years for the film industry. When Bailey took over, the Oscars alone had been grappling with falling ratings, controversies over the homogeneity of its choices (#OscarsSoWhite) and the infamous envelope flub in 2017 that marred the best picture win for “Moonlight.” Scarcely two months into his presidency, The New York Times and The New Yorker released bombshell reports about sexual assault allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein that ignited an industry-wide reckoning about power structures and abuses.
The Academy’s Board of Governors voted to expel Weinstein shortly after the reports. Afterward, with questions arising about other members who remained in good standing despite being accused, Bailey said in a memo to members that the organization “cannot, and will not, be an inquisitorial court, but we can be a part of a larger initiative to define standards of behavior and to support the vulnerable women and men who may be at personal and career risk because of violations of ethical standards by their peers.”
After that, the Academy passed a code of conduct that made it clear that “people who abuse their status, power, or influence in a manner that violates standards of decency” had no place there. It also streamlined the process for suspending or expelling members.
Bailey remarked at the 2018 Oscars luncheon, “I may be a 75-year-old white male, but I’m every bit as gratified as the youngest of you here that the fossilized bedrock of many of Hollywood’s worst abuses are being jackhammered into oblivion.”
Bailey was soon accused of making unwanted advances toward a lady while filming a scene from ten years earlier. In March 2018, an Academy inquiry concluded that no additional action was necessary after Bailey refuted the claim. Later, he was elected to a second term.
Bailey’s tenure also saw attempts to change the Academy Awards ceremony that grew contentious. In 2018, the Academy announced the Oscars would add a popular film award and shorten the telecast by bumping the presentation of certain categories to commercial breaks.
“We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world,” Bailey and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson wrote in an email to members.