Update: Just as soon as Eddie Murphy followed Brett Ratner out the dressing room door marked 'Oscar host', old favourite Billy Crystal headed the other way. Before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences fell back on tried and tested, we thought we’d make a few suggestions, with the focus on introducing some fresh blood...
Why? He's been the gold standard of Oscar hosts in the modern era, the quick-on-his feet comic actor that his peers love even when he was poking fun at them. He’s long since entered the pantheon of all-time great people to have walked the stage and when he popped up briefly during the 2011 show, it was one of the clear highlights in a severely charisma-challenged year (yes, James Franco, we do mean you.)
Why not? Because he is seen as part of the old guard, and the Academy is desperate to grab on to a younger audience, even though they seem reluctant to really commit to what that would take (make it faster, make it funnier, and get rid of the self-important bits). No-one is saying the Oscars is the most hip ceremony in the world (though no one wants it to turn into the MTV Movie Awards either), but while Crystal has a following, he's perhaps not as down with the tweens as the organisers would like.
Why? They've been the subject of a Twitter campaign ever since Murphy quit the gig, so there’s clearly a popular uprising of support for webbed wonder Kermit and his friends. Who wouldn’t be delighted with Fozzie cracking bad puns, Gonzo helping out with the musical numbers and Statler & Waldorf voicing the frustration we’re all feeling about the boring bits in a much more comical way than mere mortals could? The show will be on US network ABC next year, which also happens to be owned by Muppet parent Disney, so there’s already synchronicity - and as we all know from 30 Rock, corporate synchronicity is a desirable thing! It must be so. Together we can make it happen!
Why Not? Other studios might object to that synchronicity, while the more serious Academy members may object to non-human hosts, or feel that Henson's finest could lower the tone of a show they are ever intent on taking very, very seriously. And then there's behaviour: the backstage glimpses provided by years of The Muppet Show suggest that the gang are perpetually on the verge of disaster.
Why? A whirlwind of charm, Harris already has several high-profile hosting gigs under his belt - including a surprise appearance in the musical number last year which was one of the highlights of the show. He’s a proven entertainer who can sing, dance, crack wise and gently nudge at whatever subject needs it. He also appeals to a younger crowd than, say, Steve Martin, and while he’s better known for his TV and stage work than his movies, the new Harold & Kumar is hoovering up good notices and he was also in The Smurfs this year, which has made more than $550 million worldwide already. But no, we won’t be making any “he’d be legen… wait for it… dary!” jokes here.
Why not? Despite his clear abilities, there might still be a feeling in Hollywood that he’s more of a TV personality than a bona-fide movie star, and telly types haven’t always fared well in the past (see the very-funny-actually Jon Stewart and, famously, David Letterman). Oh, and yes, he was in The Smurfs. Which wasn’t very good. And he was also in Beastly. Which was awful.
Why? A proven entertainment type who has triumphed in improv comedy, fake news reporting, TV sitcom land and the movies, Carell has class, skill and an audience that loves him. He’s respected for making a wide range of film fare and is considered the very epitome of A Nice Guy. He can also call upon some very funny pals such as Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd to help out with presenting (who wouldn’t want the long hoped-for Anchorman reunion to finally happen?) and hopefully he could find some genuinely funny material.
Why not? He doesn’t really have hosting experience beyond some of his Daily Show work, so we don’t know what he’d be like when he has to contain himself to cracking the odd joke and making the show run smoothly. He might also be too nice, lacking the edge of other choices.
Why? Because you’ve got to imagine he’ll take his usual pot shots at everything from celebrity madness to crappy films, including one or two of his own. Sure, his shtick is pretty well established by now, but it generates both chuckles and headlines. And despite his apparent celebrity, we bet he works cheaper than some bigger names. Bonus? Karl Pilkington providing colour commentary as winners take the stage: “That’s Viola Davis, that is… according to this. Wonder if she plays the viola? Would be funny.” Cue Stephen Merchant exploding with laughter.
Why not? Amusing or not, he hasn’t exactly made a lot of friends with his Golden Globe diatribes (though he does seemingly keep being asked back, and past targets such as Johnny Depp have laughed off his abuse to work with him again). But he’s also been in hot water recently over insensitive comments online, and given the Ratner fallout, we’d guess the Academy wouldn’t dare touch him with a barge pole.
Why? The first ladies of US telly comedy (also known for their movie work), these two are guaranteed to bring the laughs. They’re also great friends, which would mean some witty banter and if they were allowed to bring over the writing staff of their respective shows (30 Rock and Parks & Recreation), you just know the material would sparkle with a fine, funny polish. Even the guest presenters, and they’re usually rubbish. Plus, like Carell, they can call on a host of entertaining friends.
Why not? They’re strongly identified with their small screen gigs and that could count against them, much as it might with NPH. They’re also both incredibly busy, and we doubt they could take that much time away from their shows to commit to the workload (when Jon Stewart did it, he didn’t have as much time to prepare as he might have liked and it showed.)
Why? He’s Mr Hollywood. Widely acclaimed as one of the nicest people in the business, he’s practically royalty and knows how to work crowds both big and small. A two-time Oscar winner and regular presenter, he must know the show inside and out by now. And with word that Brian Grazer has accepted the job of producing, you’ve got to figure that frequent collaborator Hanks will be on his call list. Plus, just imagine how many people would want to help make him succeed in yet another outlet? Steven Spielberg would probably work behind the bar if Hanks asked.
Why not? Frankly, there aren’t that many reasons why he shouldn’t. Except perhaps his hefty schedule. With his status as one of the most bankable movie stars (this year’s disappointing Larry Crowne notwithstanding), we doubt many would want him to retire from acting for months to host the show when he could be at work on blockbusters. And his Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is likely to be in the Oscar race this year - that didn't stop Hathaway and Franco, but it might stop Hanks.
Why? Hear us out, please... The surviving Pythons have recognition factor with a variety of audiences on a global scale. They’re proven comedians and film folk. Plus, wouldn’t you want to see Terry Gilliam given a platform to express his opinions, Ricky Gervais-style (even if he realises it might end his career right there and then.)? Then consider the fact that they’re a team, which means you get a different flavour of presentation through the evening. Even Graham Chapman, recreated via hologram technology or Tom Fisher from Holy Flying Circus.
Why not? We’re not sure the Academy is after another anarchic / shambling show with cross-dressing elements. Didn’t James Franco try that last time? And the Pythons (even Gilliam) haven’t exactly been big film stars for years, so they’d be seen less as a hip, retro choice and more as a desperate decision. Also, we doubt John Cleese would do it without a hefty fee up front.
Why? Because he’s smart, quick-witted and has a history with Hollywood. He’s come through one of the darkest downtimes in the business and rebounded strong with a buzzing career and plenty of friendships still intact. Whenever he’s been a guest presenter, he’s made us laugh. And just watch how he holds peoples’ attention in those Stark Expo scenes in Iron Man 2: he’s a born showman.
Why not? Like Tom Hanks, he’s also fiendishly busy with, among other things, preparing for Iron Man 3. He runs a production company with his wife, and has so much to think about these days that he’s likely only got time to pop in as a presenter rather than tackle the months-long gig that is hosting. Plus, we have doubts he’d even want to take on the job – he’s having far too much fun doing other things. Maybe he could be persuaded if Sherlock Holmes partner Jude Law were convinced to co-host?
Why? He's maybe the funniest man in the world, and can - like Jon Stewart - veer from comic to serious and look comfortable in both modes. He has some of the smartest writers in the world on his Colbert Report team already, who could probably do great things with Hollywood, but also proved, in the dog days of the Writer's Strike, that he can ad-lib with the best of them. And he has that Presidential, good-in-a-suit persona that always works well onstage.
Why not? The whole joke might be lost on Hollywood unless they were familiar with his act, and certainly Colbert himself would have to walk a fine line to maintain his ultra-rightwing persona without undermining the more sincere parts of the evening. That's the real risk: that a live event of that sort would simply be a bad fit for his genius.
Why? Garry Shandling had an intriguing idea on Twitter: don’t bother with a host at all. Or at the very least, cut down on their use. His idea had guest presenters only and then the winner of the first award giving out the gong to the next, and so on. It’s a big change, but it might actually make the ceremony flow a little more smoothly. The big question would be how to handle introducing the music acts and any of those annoying montages.
Why not? The host really is needed to push things along and hold the show together. A talented emcee is the glue between the various presenters and we’re not sure a simple montage of the nominees is the way to open the show. Hhhm… Wonder what Garry himself is doing? Even if Hollywood might not have forgotten (or forgiven) What Planet Are You From?