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Oscar Watch: Academy's Davis Talks Producers and Hosts

by Anne Thompson
October 17, 2009 8:28 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood

Picking a producer for the Oscar telecast is the first big project facing any incoming Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences president like Tom Sherak. But the process can't start before he's elected. And the new president is still learning the ropes.

The Academy's executive director Bruce Davis should know. He's watched many AMPAS presidents come and go, and knows the rhythm and pace of what has to happen each Oscar season. Last year, incumbent president Sid Ganis announced producers Laurence Mark and Bill Condon on September 24. Even so, the Academy didn't announce Hugh Jackman as Oscar host until December 12. But Mark and Condon won't be coming back. "We're looking to build on the accomplishment of last year," says Davis, "but we knew they wouldn't be available this time around. We're sifting and sorting. Tom is making calls."

Thompson on Hollywood

Any speculation about a possible host is moot until the producer is on board. Then the host will be a consensus pick among the Oscar show producer, Sherak, Davis, and ABC.

[Photos of last eyar's Oscar host Hugh Jackman and Academy executive director Bruce Davis courtesy Getty Images]

Of the possible producers, Sherak's ex-Revolution boss Joe Roth, who produced the 2005 Oscarcast with Quincy Jones, is an obvious choice because he would have the time. "It could be anybody," says Davis. "It's a long and interesting list. We know we have to get it done pretty soon. A lot of these people tend to be booked. We're moving expediently at this point. It won't necessarily be a pair again."

Davis confirms that Steven Spielberg has been asked many times, but is never available. His frequent producing partner Kathleen Kennedy's name keeps coming up, along with Laura Ziskin, who produced the show in 2002 and 2007. Gil Cates, who has produced the show 14 times, often returns after a year or two off-duty. Milk producers Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks and Chicago's Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who know their way around musicals, have been mentioned as well.

As for the host, specific skills are required, says Davis. "We're looking for people who have experience with live audiences," he says. "The first two rows can be very intimidating when you first walk on stage. If you're going to freeze up it's all over. You have to play to that large live audience in the hall. It doesn't have to be a comedian, but you shouldn't be so dignified that things get soporific. They should have an intelligent familiarity with the town. Johnny Carson knew the players. The list is not long of the people who would have that blend of competence and willingness to pull this off and think on their feet."

Along with Jackman, two-time host Steve Martin is at the top of my list. I'm not the only one who thought he and Tina Fey looked great together co-presenting at the Oscars. Fey could probably handle host chores on her own as well. I've always wanted to see the manic energy Robin Williams would bring; he co-hosted in 1985 with Alan Alda and Jane Fonda. He could reunite with his Comic Relief team, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, who have done the most Academy Award duty in the last two decades, four and eight times respectively. Jon Stewart hosted twice. Ellen DeGeneres and Chris Rock each hosted once.

Davis confirms that Martin is on the short list. New names that have been thrown around by Oscar prognosticators include Alec Baldwin, Emmy and Tony song-and-dance man Neil Patrick Harris and Justin Timberlake. Baldwin has theater experience, but do the younger guys have the necessary gravitas?

Who should host the Oscars?
Hugh Jackman
Steve Martin
Billy Crystal
Justin Timberlake
Robin Williams
Whoopi Goldberg
Jon Stewart
Ellen DeGeneres
Stephen Colbert
Chris Rock
Oprah Winfrey
Neil Patrick Harris
Tina Fey
Ricky Gervais
Steve Carell
Kevin Spacey free polls
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More: Awards, Oscars


  • Old Fart | October 19, 2009 8:55 AMReply

    Two words to chadler:

    Bob Hope

  • Brian | October 19, 2009 8:07 AMReply

    Tom Arnold.

  • chadler | October 19, 2009 8:05 AMReply

    Hugh Jackman was TERRIFIC. Best-Oscar-Host-Ever. (I'm 29 years old so don't even try tell me about Johnny Carson, I have no idea who the hell he is or how he did as the Oscar host...) And the poll results seem to agree with me. I also remember back in February, when 'Entertainment Weekly' ran a poll on whether people would like Jackman to host again, the 70% of the voter said YES! Hurray for Wolverine!!

  • Brian | October 19, 2009 6:05 AMReply

    Dennis Miller.

  • jl | October 19, 2009 3:57 AMReply

    @Jen, Hugh was good!

    But after the Emmys, maybe I'll re-cast and say Neil Patrick Harris!! (and he can sing ... and probably dance ...)

  • Jen | October 19, 2009 3:41 AMReply

    Hugh was one of the worst presenters I've ever seen at the Oscars. Unbearable!

  • mike kaplan | October 18, 2009 11:46 AMReply

    1. Jerry Seinfeld

    1.a. Gary Shandling

    1b Steve Martin and Tina Fey

  • MK | October 18, 2009 10:00 AMReply

    Tina Fey is overexposed and I actually find her irritating after the initial fun with Sarah Palin. Go with Jackman if he will do it. I saw the banter and audience interaction in the Boy from Oz when he was on Broadway...and he is funny especially, especially if allowed to vear from script. If he disappeared, it was due to the script, not the presence. He is one of the most charismatic performers around.

  • ms89 | October 18, 2009 9:50 AMReply

    I say YES to Hugh Jackman. It was not his fault that he disappeared after the opening number. Maybe this time round the producer/s will give him more to do now they know that most people loved him as the host. He was great and the only reason I'll see the show this year. So, No Hugh, No Oscars for me.

  • James | October 18, 2009 8:51 AMReply

    I say nay to Jackman, because after the great opening number, he became invisible. I don't even recall SEEING him after that, actually. We need somebody with real comedy chops, like Gervais, Fey, or Colbert--someone to really bring the lulz, so to speak.

    NPH is a nice host, but too lightweight; if Condon and Mark aren't producing this year, then Jackman may not work as well; DeGeneres is...well, actually she'd be good, too, although her humor isn't as pungent.

    Basically, I think Gervais is the best choice, because he truly knows how to work a room. He's done it at the Emmys and the Oscars, whenever he has presented. They need to take a cue.

    P.S. Thanks Anne for changing that to Colbert =) (although the poll itself still has two Stewarts listed; but I know which is which).

  • jl | October 18, 2009 6:47 AMReply

    Yes - Jackman. He can sing. He can dance. He elegant. He's easy on the eyes.

  • jl | October 18, 2009 5:39 AMReply

    Anyone but Jon Stewart. WORST. EMCEE. EVER. And his show is just drivel.

  • James | October 18, 2009 4:55 AMReply

    Just a heads-up: You have Jon Stewart listed twice, although no mention of Stephen Colbert. Perhaps you oughta replace one Jon with Stephen (the one with no votes, of course). I'd probably vote for him in that case =).

  • chris | October 18, 2009 2:38 AMReply

    Hugh Jackman all the way. He was phenomenal.

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