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Billy Crystal's Oscar heyday may be over

August 17, 2011 |  5:16 pm

As regards flirtatious relationships, Marie Claire has a warning for us all, and one of particular significance to Billy Crystal: "Playing hard to get is bad news, period — both in the short run and in the long run."

Billy crystal OscarCrystal has held the Oscars at arm's length for years. After hosting eight times between 1990 and 2004, he pooh-poohed invitations to return, but with a wink. Maybe someday, he'd say, but not now. Then at this year's ceremony in February, he received a standing ovation when he appeared on stage to deliver a brief salute to Bob Hope, the ultimate Oscar host. The warm reception made him "itchy" to come back in the lead role, but is it too late?

Last year Oscar chiefs made it clear that they want young and sexy film stars to hold forth. Alas, Anne Hathaway and James Franco bombed. Have the chiefs changed their minds? Maybe the disaster was Hathaway's and Franco's fault and the idea of sticking with hot trendoids is still valid? If so, the 63-year-old Crystal, whose movie heyday seems long past, won't be wooed for a comeback. TV ratings of the Oscarcast have tumbled in recent years and it doesn't seem logical to believe that he can turn that around. Maybe, if he'd continued to host now and then since 2004, he could've proved his drawing power, but he chose to push Oscar away every time he was wooed.

Before Crystal mentioned that he might agree to return, we ran a poll that included him among more than a dozen host possibilities. He came in second place (21%) behind Neil Patrick Harris (23%). After the news broke that Crystal might be willing to sign up again, we asked readers merely whether or not he should do the job. Response: yes (78%), no (22%).

But Sasha Stone offers what might be a reality check at AwardsDaily: "Somehow I doubt if they’re going to all the trouble to hire the presumed “young and hip” Brett Ratner to produce, it seems unlikely they will veer off that path and head into more traditional waters with Crystal.  More likely, Ben Stiller might be the best choice.  Stiller is starring in Ratner’s upcoming 'Tower Heist.'  I have my money on Stiller hosting." She posts this reminder of Crystal's stellar talents in 2004 when he emceed the last time.

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-- Tom O'Neil

Photo: Billy Crystal in 2003. Credit: ABC

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