Oscars: Billy Crystal is 'itchy' to host again
If the Oscars need a host, Billy Crystal is ready to talk.
That was the message that came across this weekend when Crystal, who hosted the show eight times between 1990 and 2004, answered a fan who asked an Academy Awards question after a 20th anniversary screening of "City Slickers" in Santa Monica.
Crystal, from the stage of the Aero Theatre, admitted that he got "itchy" after this year's cameo on the Oscars and that he'd be ready to talk about a return to the global stage of the gala.
"It got to be too much after a while and the sameness in my life," the 63-year-old comedian and actor said. "That's why I pulled back. And then when I thought I might want to do it again, they were on to other people. It's always fun. It's really hard, but maybe one or two more times? I don't know. They know where I am."
Crystal is now at work on "Monsters University," the prequel to the Pixar hit "Monsters Inc.," and he is ramping up plans to make a film out of his Tony-winning one-man play "700 Sundays." But he said at the American Cinematheque screening on Friday night that his appearance earlier this year on the Oscars stirred his desire to return as host.
"I came out as a surprise. It was a last-minute decision," Crystal explained to the sold-out audience on Friday. "They had called and said would you do this thing and honor Bob Hope and that was a kind of cool thing to do. I said OK. I did it, and people wanted to see me, they stood up, and I couldn't talk for about a minute [while waiting for the ovation]. And, um, I got a little itchy. So we'll see what happens. I can't promise anything."
After robust cheers and applause from the Santa Monica crowd, Crystal elaborated on the stress and pleasures of the one-of-a-kind Oscars gig.
"I so appreciate that you like when we do it," he said. "And I had a good time doing them. I did eight of them. And it takes a long time. I sort of stopped doing it -- I would do it in patches -- and then fortunately I was doing other things that I wanted to do. [It takes a long time] in order to do the things we did -- and [those things] change the way a host was working on the show. We started doing the medley with Mark [Shaiman], and then those got really funny. Then we entered the films, you know, cutting into the nominated movies, and that started taking a really long time. I was working four or five months just on the Oscars."
The Academy and the telecast producers (this year to be Brett Ratner and Don Mischer) routinely choose not to discuss who might be in mind for hosting until someone is confirmed for the job and announced to the public; that held true on Monday when asked about Crystal as a potential host. The 84th Academy Awards will be broadcast live by ABC on Feb. 26 from the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood.
(For the Record, 4 p.m. Aug. 15: An earlier version of this post said Billy Crystal's cameo appearance at the Oscars occurred last year. He appeared on the Feb. 27, 2011, telecast.)
-- Geoff Boucher
Photo: Billy Crystal on stage at the Academy Awards in February. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times