By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 10, 2011 at 1:44PM
Brian Grazer has always been in love with the Oscars. It made sense for AMPAS president Tom Sherak to turn to the producer of "Tower Heist" to replace outgoing producer Brett Ratner--who resigned under fire for making a round of well-publicized off-color comments that did not represent the always prestige-conscious Academy--as producer of the 84th Academy Awards with Don Mischer.
One of the jobs of the Oscar producer is to wrangle talent relationships and persuade reluctant stars to turn up on the telecast. The Academy confirms that Grazer has lured back veteran Oscar host Billy Crystal, who has hosted eight times, to replace departing show host Eddie Murphy, who didn't want to proceed without Ratner. Crystal will be the oldest solo host, at age 63, since Bob Hope. Crystal tweeted: "Am doing the Oscars so the young woman in the pharmacy will stop asking my name when I pick up my prescriptions. Looking forward to the show."
While other names were floated for the hosting gig, including past hosts Steve Martin, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, past presenter Tina Fey and musically gifted comedy TV star and Tony host Neil Patrick Harris, Crystal is a proven favorite as host--and handily won a raised hands poll at my Sneak Previews group. While some pushed the Muppets for hosting chores --an hilarious idea that would have been tricky to stage live at the Kodak--Grazer would be wise to bring them back as presenters (see 1980 video below).
Predicting what Grazer will do with the telecast is a challenge, because the industry veteran's taste and style run the gamut, from high-end movies aimed at older moviegoers such as "J. Edgar," "Apollo 13," "Cinderella Man," and "Frost/Nixon," often directed by his Imagine partner Ron Howard, to more mainstream and comedy fare, such as "Spies Like Us," "Kindergarten Cop," "The Nutty Professor," "Liar Liar," "8 Mile" and "Splash," starring Tom Hanks, one of several Grazer cronies who we can count on presenting this year. "Tower Heist" star Ben Stiller, who brought down the house at last year's Oscars with his "Avatar" parody, is another strong candidate.
Oscar-winning Grazer ("A Beautiful Mind") has never produced the telecast before. "Brian Grazer is a renowned filmmaker who over the past 25 years has produced a diverse and extraordinary body of work," said Sherak. "He will certainly bring his tremendous talent, creativity and relationships to the Oscars."
The Oscar telecast will air on ABC and around the world on February 26, 2012.