Eddie Murphy named host of 84th Academy Awards
Buzz started circulating over Labor Day weekend that the 50-year-old comedian-actor was being considered for the host job. In some ways, it's no surprise, since Murphy is starring in the upcoming film "Tower Heist," which was directed by Brett Ratner -- who is also producing the Academy Awards show with Don Mischer. "Tower Heist" is set to open in November.
By selecting Murphy, the academy is returning to its comedic host roots. The academy attempted to court younger viewers, hiring James Franco and Anne Hathaway to host the 83rd Academy Awards in February. Franco, who in addition to hosting was nominated for a lead actor Oscar for "127 Hours," was roundly trounced by critics for his lackluster performance; reviews were kinder toward Hathaway.
Over the years, comics including Bob Burns, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Johnny Carson, Chevy Chase, Billy Crystal, David Letterman, Chris Rock, Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg and Jon Stewart have hosted the awards. Crystal even admitted recently that he was available to host if the academy wanted him.
"Eddie is a comedic genius, one of the greatest and most influential live performers ever," Ratner said in a statement Tuesday. "With his love of movies, history of crafting unforgettable characters and his iconic performances -- especially onstage -- I know he will bring an excitement, spontaneity and tremendous heart to the show Don and I want to produce in February."
Murphy, who earned a supporting actor Oscar nomination for his dramatic turn in 2006's "Dreamgirls," hasn't been seen on the screen since the 2009 flop "Imagine That," which made just $16.1 million domestically. In fact, another Murphy film, "A Thousand Words," which is now set to open in January, has been on the shelf for more than three years.
However, Murphy has been heard as the wisecracking Donkey in the popular animated "Shrek" franchise.
First coming to fame as a stand-up comedian, he joined NBC's "Saturday Night Live" in 1980 while still a teenager, performing such characters as Buckwheat and Gumby. Murphy made his film debut opposite Nick Nolte in Walter Hill's 1982 buddy action comedy, "48 Hrs.," followed by such hits as 1983's "Trading Places," 1984's "Beverly Hills Cop" and 1988's "Coming to America. " He made his film debut as a director with 1989's "Harlem Nights."
Murphy was named best actor by the National Socitey of Film Critics for his multiple roles in 1996's "The Nutty Professor." Other hits in the 1990s included 1998's "Doctor Dolittle" and 1999's "Life" and "Bowfinger." Save for "Dreamgirls," most of the films he's made recently haven been critically lambasted, including 2003's "The Haunted Mansion," 2007's "Norbit" and 2008's "Meet Dave," which made only $11.9 million.
-- Susan King
Photo: Eddie Murphy Credit: Bruce McBroom/Paramount Pictures