While many in Hollywood remain out of the activism limelight, an impressive number of nominees for 2014′s Academy Awards go the extra mile to do good. They spend their time, money and influence supporting a number of green, humanitarian and animal causes. As Oscar night approaches, we celebrate some of these actors.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio – (“The Wolf of Wall Street“ – Best Actor Nominee)
Cream of the crop, top of the list – for 2014, this position goes to environmental activist extraordinaire Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo has been a strong supporter of eco issues for many years, as evidenced by his support for efforts to save tigers and elephants from extinction and to protect Antarctica. In 2013, he raised $38.8 million for endangered species protection via an upscale charity auction.
In 1998, DiCaprio established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which is dedicated to “protecting Earth’s last wild places and fostering a harmonious relationship between humanity and the natural world.” It funds grants for “innovative, results-driven conservation projects, collaborative initiatives, and trusted nonprofits.” On Feb. 21, DiCaprio donated $3 million to Oceana, the largest organization in the world focused only on ocean conservation.
DiCaprio knows the value of his fame and his money. He uses both with dedication and passion for the betterment of the environment.
2. Joaquin Phoenix — (“Her“ – Best Picture Nominee)
OK, so Joaquin Phoenix isn’t an Oscar nominee himself this year. However, he stars in a nominated film and has been an Oscar nominee in the past, so we’re sneaking him onto the list. He needs to be here because he’s a strongly committed humanitarian and animal activist.
Phoenix supports a variety of organizations and charities, including Amnesty International and the Peace Alliance. As a board member for The Lunchbox Fund, his work helps get daily meals to schoolchildren in South Africa.
Phoenix may be best known, however, for his animal activism. A vegan since age 3, Phoenix is a longtime supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He’s also the narrator of Earthlings, the groundbreaking documentary that has convinced countless people to become vegan.
3. Meryl Streep — (“August: Osage County“ – Best Actress Nominee)
She’s legendary. She can play any role with masterful finesse. America boasts no finer actress than Meryl Streep. She’s also a woman and mother committed to the environment and humanitarian causes.
In the late 1980s, Streep became deeply concerned about the effects of pesticides on fruits and vegetables after reading a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. She founded Mothers & Others, a group that vocally opposed a chemical called Alar which was a growth regulator used on apples.
Streep also supports a wide array of other causes, including Aid Darfur, the Charlie Foundation, Healthy Child Healthy World, and the Christopher Reeve and Dana Reeve Foundation.
4. Jared Leto – (“Dallas Buyers Club“ – Best Supporting Actor Nominee)
Jared Leto is an outspoken vegan and activist. He supports many causes, including Greenpeace, Wild Aid, Habitat for Humanity, Amnesty International and Haitian earthquake relief efforts. Leto has also spoken out in support of LGBT issues and gay marriage.
Leto is the lead singer in a band called Thirty Seconds to Mars. Even here, his green ideals shine through. The band’s tour bus runs on waste vegetable oil. The all-vegan band recorded a video about global warming called “A Beautiful Lie” using one of their songs as a backdrop.
5. Julia Roberts – (“August: Osage County“ – Best Supporting Actress Nominee)
Not only has Julia Roberts played an environmental activist, she is one. A past Oscar winner for her role as the iconic 90s activist Erin Brockovich, Roberts got involved in green issues as a teenager.
“Right out of high school I wanted to get involved and saw Heal the Bay posters around. That was my first venture into environmental work when I was 18,” Roberts said in an interview with Los Angeles Confidential. In 2012 she was honored for her environmental efforts at Heal the Bay’s annual Bring Back the Beach Gala.
6. Cate Blanchett – (“Blue Jasmine“ – Best Actress Nominee)
Cate Blanchett combines her love of theater with her love of the environment. After becoming artistic directors of Australia’s Sydney Theater Company (STC) in 2008, Blanchett and her husband, writer Andrew Upton, insisted the organization would go green. They convinced the Australian government to fund $1.2 million toward STC’s Greening the Wharf project, intended to ensure that most of STC’s energy and water needs would come from sustainable sources.
Blanchett served as ambassador for the Australian Conservation Foundation’s “Who on Earth Cares” campaign. She’s an outspoken proponent of working to resolve climate change.
7. Matthew McConaughey – (“Dallas Buyers Club“ – Best Actor Nominee)
He’s gaining new respect these days for his dramatic roles, but Matthew McConaughey also deserves props for helping animals.
After Hurricane Katrina ripped apart sections of the American south in 2005, McConaughey flew to Louisiana to help. He stayed there for a week, guarding 50 dogs, 18 cats and two hamsters until they could be ferried to safer ground by boat.
McConaughey also stepped in to rescue a cat in 2006 when he saw a group of teens spraying it with hairspray and trying to light it on fire. He snatched the cat away from them and took it to an animal refuge for care. A friend told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time, “He was so angry he went on about it for days.”
There you have it. There are so many nominees this year who generously spend their time and money to help people, animals and the environment. Whether they win their Oscars this year or not, each of these nominees deserves applause for caring enough to do something.
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