With Grazer now on for Oscars, hunt is on for a new host
Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer agreed Wednesday to take on the job of producing the Academy Awards telecast in February, stepping into the void left by Brett Ratner, who resigned after an anti-gay slur. Grazer and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences did not immediately announce a host to replace Eddie Murphy, who dropped out after Ratner exited.
Grazer, who has produced five movies this year including Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” and Ratner’s “Tower Heist,” had been asked to helm the Oscar show earlier this year, but declined. Given Grazer’s ties to Ratner and Murphy, there was some speculation that he might try to convince Murphy to stay on as host, but a person close to the Grazer who was not authorized to speak publicly said he wouldn’t try to lure Murphy back into the fold.
“It’s very gratifying to be part of a show that honors excellence in the medium to which I have devoted so much of my career,” said Grazer, whose “A Beautiful Mind” earned a best picture Oscar a decade ago. Grazer will share producing duties on the broadcast with industry veteran Don Mischer. “Don is a legend, and I am excited to work with him.”
Grazer could have a horse in this year’s Oscar race with “J.Edgar” (which opened in limited release Wednesday), but his other recent films have disappointed at the box office, including “Cowboys & Aliens,” “The Dilemma,” and the Gus Van Sant-directed indie “Restless.” His high-profile television project “The Playboy Club” was canceled after just a few episodes.
Still, academy president Tom Sherak said: “Brian Grazer is a renowned filmmaker who over the past 25 years has produced a diverse and extraordinary body of work. He will certainly bring his tremendous talent, creativity and relationships to the Oscars.”
Grazer has not been able to completely steer clear of controversy himself. Last fall, the trailer for his film “The Dilemma” was widely criticized for including a scene in which actor Vince Vaughn said, “Electric cars are gay”; the promo debuted in the wake of a series of suicides of teenagers who killed themselves after being bullied because of their sexual orientation. The line was later excised from the trailer, but it remained in the film.
On Wednesday, his handpicked host Murphy followed suit. Murphy, who co-starred in Ratner’s “Tower Heist,” didn’t give a clear reason for his exit, but it seems he did not want to remain in the job without Ratner, whom he considers his creative partner, at the helm of the show.
“First and foremost I want to say that I completely understand and support each party's decision with regard to a change of producers for this year's Academy Awards ceremony,” Murphy said in a statement issued early Wednesday. “I was truly looking forward to being a part of the show that our production team and writers were just starting to develop, but I'm sure that the new production team and host will do an equally great job.”
Murphy’s exit was not a surprise among academy members. Said animator Craig Bartlett in an email the night before the Murphy bowed out, “Everyone got an email from Tom Sherak saying that Ratner was stepping down. It made me wonder if Eddie Murphy would go down, too -- I figured he came with Ratner. Maybe he will, and Neil Patrick Harris will take the job -- that would be poetic justice.”
Still, the sudden flurry of events left some in a bit of shock.
“That’s about as precipitous a fall from grace in Hollywood as I've seen,” said one filmmaker who has worked closely with Ratner and doesn’t want to tarnish his relationship. “To go from the ‘Tower Heist’ premiere two weeks ago where he was being embraced by everyone to today is staggering.”
Coming into the job with only about 16 weeks before the Feb. 26 broadcast, Grazer will be under pressure to quickly find a host and assemble a team of writers.
--Nicole Sperling, Rebecca Keegan and John Horn
Photo: Producer Brian Grazer, left, and director Brett Ratner at the "J.Edgar" premiere in Hollywood last week. Grazer has agreed to join Don Mischer as an Oscar producer and will step in to replace Ratner as producer of the 84th Academy Awards. Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser