Nine people the Oscars could turn to in their hour of need
The resignations of Eddie Murphy and Brett Ratner from Oscar duty over the last 24 hours introduces an element of chaos to the show — er, a tantalizing opportunity for the telecast to reinvent itself, just a few months after it previously reinvented itself (with Murphy and Ratner).
Which producers or performers could the academy turn to at this critical juncture? Herewith, a handicapping of the Hollywood personalities, producers and hosts, whose phones could be ringing as we type this.
Ryan Murphy (producer)--The “Glee” creator is one of the producers who has proved he could stage a theatrical spectacle that the young people want to see. And he’s adept at mounting musical numbers that don’t seem stodgy. But his schedule is already packed producing on another big television event, one that young people already want to watch.
Lorne Michaels (producer)--The “Saturday Night Live” maestro does produce a variety show every week, and he’d have access to some of the sharper comedic talents out there. But the SNL-flavored broadcasts in recent years -- the Alec Baldwin-Steve Martin year, for example -- didn’t set the world afire. And the academy seems to favor film producers.
Steve Carell (host)--He’s making about four movies simultaneously. But as “The Office” fans could attest, there's a gaping hole on television that the actor once occupied. And Carell could do reverential as well as deadpan.
Betty White (host)--No. It's not 2009.
Billy Crystal (host)--The people’s choice. But which people? The last time the 63-year-old had a hit movie the prototypical 25-year-old the Oscars wants to attract hadn’t entered puberty. At a time when the academy brass say they want the show to get younger, they would be hiring their oldest host since 1978.
Neil Patrick Harris (host)--His hosting bona fides are impeccable. But is he seen as too … Emmyish?
Bill Condon (producer)--Back in 2009, he oversaw one of the few successful Oscar-telecast reinventions in recent memory. And the “Breaking Dawn” director could bring in all the "Twilight" stars (and the Twihards) if he was so inclined. He may even have a hole in his schedule before cutting the second “Breaking Dawn” film, which doesn't come out until next November. But would Rob Friedman, the Summit Entertainment head who is also an academy macher, let him take his eye off the ball?
Simon Cowell (host)--The academy would never do it. But you have to admit it would create the buzz the group says it wants.
Brian Grazer (producer)--The rumored candidate (of the hour). He certainly has staged enough productions that film fans appreciate. But it could be a bit touchy since “J. Edgar,” which he produced, will be in the race -- or won’t be, which could be even touchier. Plus at this point “Tower Heist,” which he also produced, maybe just has some really, really bad karma. [Update, 3:38 p.m.: Grazer it is. They really want to stay with the "Tower Heist" theme, apparently. Are Casey Affleck and Gabourey Sidibe available?]
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Will Ferrell and Steve Carell present the makeup award at the 78th Oscars. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times