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Hugh Jackman: Oscar's hosting gig gets a face-lift

I'm beginning to think that Larry Mark and Bill Condon, the producers of this year's Academy Awards telecast, actually have a few tricks up their sleeves. More important, I think they're determined to take the woebegone Oscar telecast in a fresh new direction. That's the clear message of today's selection of Hugh Jackman as the host of February's broadcast. By opting for Jackman, a classy movie and theater star instead of a big-mouth comic, Mark and Condon are signaling that they're trying to turn the Oscars into a party instead of the usual three-hour-plus cobwebby self-congratulatory snooze-athon.

143016ca1121ethugh2f9d The first thing Mark said when I got him on the phone this morning told me all I needed to hear. "In keeping with the thinking that the event needs to be more like a party," he said, "we're trying to make it very much like a party." Mark believes Jackman has the perfect party-host persona. "The Oscars are a celebration of movies, so who better to host than a movie star," Mark said. "Hugh can not only hold the screen, but he can hold the stage too, which is no small feat these days. He's done major theater work, from 'Oklahoma!' to 'Sunset Boulevard,' and he's not only hosted the Tony Awards, he actually won an Emmy for hosting them."

Mark laughed. "That's not to suggest that the Tonys were an audition, but in a way they were. The fact that he was brilliant doing the Tonys certainly spoke well for his abilities."

As it turns out, before Mark had seriously thought about casting a host, he saw Jackman perform at a benefit show for the Motion Picture and Television Fund (a show that Mark produced with "Milk" producer Dan Jinks). "Hugh was a hoot," he recalled. "He did a duet with Kristin Chenoweth on 'Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better,' completely off the cuff, with all sorts of improvised humor, and well, he was great. So when his name come up recently, we all thought, 'Wow, remember that night he did "Anything" and how he killed.' ''

Mark also became convinced that Jackman had a special star quality after Mark saw him in "Australia."  "Our whole idea for the show is that we want you to feel like you're not at a late-night TV show, but at a nightclub, where the host is saying, 'Welcome to the party--let's have a good time.' We're going for the contemporary feel that you'd have at the Cocoanut Grove or the Stork Club, where everyone is encouraged to have a good time. If this were the old days, we'd be asking Cary Grant or Clark Gable to be the host. I think Hugh has a lot of those same qualities. He's one of the few actors who has a real sense of occasion, who can say, 'Let's have a ball.' "

So he's looking for someone who looks good in a tux? "Exactly," said Mark. "Not just that Hugh would look good in a tux, but that he looks comfortable in a tux." Would Jackman be doing a musical number himself? Mark hedged: "Let's just say that with Hugh, there'd be a good reason to do it. It's certainly extremely appealing. He's definitely not going to be doing a 10-minute comedy monologue."

So how much does the Oscar host really matter? Can Jackman actually reverse the show's steady ratings decline? "I think the host matters on that night," Mark said. "I don't believe, in general, that people tune in to see the host. They tune in to see the Oscars. If the host gets to excel, that's an extra. So really a big part of our assignment is to get people to watch the show itself. It's not all on the host's shoulders. He's really there to set the tone and make everyone feel comfortable."

Doesn't that mean that the burden to turn the show around is, well, on the producer's shoulders? Mark laughed again, this time more nervously. "I shudder to think, but I guess it is on us. But what really  makes me optimistic is that Hugh was absolutely enthusiastic about doing it. He wasn't one of these people who'd said, 'I'd never want to do the Oscars in a million years.' He was really excited about it. I think that's a good sign. If nothing else, we're going to try to have a good time and really make this an event."

My colleague Mary McNamara has her own view on this. Here's the link:

Hugh Jackman hosts the Oscars? Bring the smelling salts

Photo of Hugh Jackman by  Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (19)

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Ryan seems to have slowed down I watch him on E. And his ego is so big I can 't stand it. Does anyone no if hes guy. So what if he is , I waa just being curios.I'm so glad Hugh has the honor. At least we ladies have something thing to look at LOL.

The biggest problem with the Oscars is the robotic performances of most of the presenters. Jeez, most of them are actors whose jobs consist of learning lines so why don't the producers insist that each presenter actually memorize the two or three sentences in their scripts and deliver their lines cretaively so we can all be entertained.

"...signaling that they're trying to turn the Oscars into a party instead of the usual three-hour-plus cobwebby self-congratulatory snooze-athon."

By doing what? Hiring someone who'll nicely congratulate and pat everyone on the back, with no friction or intersting observations whatsoever?

The idea of utilizing a comedian is to make the show more relatable to viewers, and less "insidery" or faux-glamourous. That's where the industry-audience disconnect is, I think, not because the loud, obnoxious movies are mostly left out.

I don't begrudge Jackman his success, in fact I think he'll do fine with the basics of hosting, like introducing presenters and so on, but higher ratings this simply will not bring.

news flash! no one gives a crap about the oscars outside of the hollywood bubbly you folks live in.

"By opting for Jackman, a classy movie and theater star instead of a big-mouth comic, Mark and Condon are signaling that they're trying to turn the Oscars into a party instead of the usual three-hour-plus cobwebby self-congratulatory snooze-athon."

A spectacle that is based on mutual self-congratulation cannot by called "classy" even when the celebrity is "classy". For me the academy awards are mostly about self-promotional and studio marketing, while the exceptional movies and actors regularly go unappreciated.

The one crucial thing that comedians always brought to the podium as hosts of the Oscars was their ability to cut through the pretentious, stuffy formality of this black-tie event. They brought the big egos down, made us laugh, and often delivered the most memorable moments of these shows. Jackman is a terrific talent, but he doesn't possess the irreverent, unpredictable, self-effacing qualities of a Jon Stewart or Billy Crystal. A genuine comedian can recover from a bad joke with an adlib that is flows effortlessly from his persona. Johnny Carson was a master at this. While Jackman is a great song 'n dance man with a lot of star quality, his talents are not necessarily what the Oscars need to be more palatable to the audience. This is a major miscalculation by the producers of the show.

I've said this to family and friends for years now; they need to get Hugh Jackman to host the Oscars! He's done amazingly well with the Tonys, he's a kick to listen to and watch, and he's most definitely not hard to look at!
It's about time, in my opinion!

Excellent choice for host. The problem with the Oscars is the combination of the length of the telecast and the new paradigm of the awards season. It becomes a little anti-climatic when the major award winners have already been vetted two-three months prior to the Oscars telecast. Predictability is destroying the Oscars, and the entertainment industry as whole. Cutting the broadcast down to two hours is the next major hurdle for the producers. If we can barely tolerate sitting through a two hour-plus film, what makes the producers think we will sit through an awards show that is even more bloated than the product it is celebrating?

GREAT CHOICE!! its good to see one of my own country's talented actors hosting the Oscars!!

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