Hollywood insiders say Oscars hosting gig isn’t worth the hassle
If some members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences — the organization behind the Oscars — have their way, February’s ceremony won’t have a host.
“Dump the host! Make the show two hours! Kill the opening number, cut all the skits,” said one. “That’s your ratings ticket.”
“It’s on the table,” a second AMPAS member told The Post.
The uproar comes after comedian Kevin Hart, 39, announced he would no longer be hosting the 2019 Oscars in February after GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and other LGBTQ supporters called out homophobic and anti-gay jokes he had tweeted as recently as 2011.
Now, some Hollywood sources say the high-profile position is not worth the potential risk to reputation.
“We don’t encourage our clients to [host the Oscars] anymore,” said one prominent agent. “Every host gets picked apart by vultures.
“The job’s become a lose-lose for everyone, and Hollywood’s finally figured it out,” the agent added. “Big stars have lots to lose. New ones don’t get ratings.”
It’s not the first time the Academy Awards have been hit with controversy. In 2011, Eddie Murphy stepped down as host in solidarity with Brett Ratner, his producer for the show. Ratner, who last year was further tarnished in a #MeToo scandal in which he was accused by six women of sexual assault, resigned from the Oscars just months before the ceremony, after he publicly joked “rehearsal is for f-gs” at a film Q&A. (Ratner has denied the assault allegations.)
One manager who represents many comedians predicts it will be hard to find a Hart replacement who is beyond reproach. “Comics are equal-opportunity [joke tellers]: Jews, blacks, gay, straight. Political correctness is not funny. It’s hard to find someone funny and wholesome.”
A longtime TV producer agreed: “If [the Academy] casts someone young, they won’t have skeletons, but they won’t get ratings. And anyone over 35 has something to hide.”
An Academy member confided that “Hart is what [we’re] looking for: young, black, funny — and with 66 million Instagram followers. The Oscars have ratings and diversity to think about.”
Hart initially refused to apologize for his past tweets, saying in an Instagram video that he had addressed the matter before and “I’m almost 40 years old. If you don’t believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don’t know what to tell you.”
He added of the Oscars fiasco: “We’re feeding the Internet trolls and we reward them.” (After resigning, Hart issued a statement that read in part, “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past.”)
Already on a year-to-year decline, Oscars’ 2018 ratings slipped by a precipitous 19 percent. In October, the Academy tapped popular “Shakespeare in Love” producer Donna Gigliotti and veteran awards-show director Glenn Weiss with the specific goal of pumping up sagging ratings.
“There’s been enough Oscars controversy,” said the first AMPAS member, referring to both the #TimesUp wave that led to the expulsion of Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby from the Academy, as well as the enormous flub of “La La Land” being mistakenly announced as the Best Picture winner in 2017, rather than actual champ “Moonlight.” Weiss and Gigliotti are seen as safe, smart but fun choices: “That’s why they hired them.”
At least one source at ABC, which airs the Oscars, believes the network should have more input into any new choice of host. “Networks think about things like vetting,” an ABC lawyer told The Post.
“We should have a lot more input, but the Academy continually shuts us out.”
Meanwhile, there is increasingly little reason for stars to take the Oscar hosting gig. After helming the show in 2017, Jimmy Kimmel revealed he was paid just $15,000. And celebrities including James Franco, Anne Hathaway, Seth McFarlane, Neil Patrick Harris and Chris Rock have all been lambasted for their performances and sagging ratings in recent years. Among those who have reportedly turned down the job: Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld and Justin Timberlake. (So far, Busy Phillips and Ricky Gervais have thrown their hats in the ring for 2019.)
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