Jackman turns down Oscar hosting gig

Posted by · 6:03 pm · November 7th, 2010

With the season now unshakeably upon us, it’s time to dust off the annual conversation topic of who should host the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony. I am prompted to do so, of course, by Deadline’s recent scoop that 2009 host Hugh Jackman — the first choice of new Oscarcast producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer — has turned down the gig, owing to a scheduling conflict with the shooting of of “Wolverine 2.”

Many will be disappointed by this news, given that the Jackman-hosted telecast was one of the better-received of recent years. As one of its few detractors, I’ll admit to feeling relieved: Jackman’s song-and-dance schtick was amiable enough, but he lacked the comic zeal I prefer in an Oscar host.

To be fair, the balance between comic and cuddly is a difficult one to strike at the Oscars. There’s ample room for error on either side of the beloved Billy Crystal school of sweet-and-sour satire: Jackman played it too safe for my liking, but neither do I want to see an encore of Chris Rock’s hostile, room-cooling barbs. The Academy Awards, as much as we might like to mock them, are effectively the industry’s prom night, and the tone should be appropriately celebratory.

As well-earned as Crystal’s reputation as the consummate Oscar emcee of the modern era is, I must say that, in my 20 years of watching, no host has personally delighted me more than Steve Martin. His two solo hosting gigs — of the 2000 and, most trickily, the war-shadowed 2002 ceremonies — were masterclasses in this department: the humor as dry and sparkling as expensive champagne, yet underpinned by a genuine affection for the people and business being honored that night.

Unfortunately, Martin came unstuck this year, hosting the show with Alec Baldwin in a move that looked like a slam-dunk on paper, but didn’t work in practice: Baldwin, unseasoned in this sort of big-ticket showmanship, was palpably nervous, and while Martin picked up some of the slack with his typical sleek timing, the chemistry wasn’t there. (Neither man, it should be said, was to blame as much as the inert, even sloppy, production of the show itself.)

I suspect the generally tepid response to the Martin-Baldwin Oscars has put the producers off going the dual-host routine for a second straight year, but I suggest they stick with it — and with Steve Martin. Here’s where I launch into my now-annual call for Martin to host the ceremony with Tina Fey: a pairing that provided the highlight of the 2008 ceremony, where their kooky-deadpan presentation of the writing awards (see the video below if your memory needs jogging) provoked more laughs than the rest of the ceremony put together.

Fey, it should be said, was also the joint MVP of this year’s ceremony: cutely teamed with Robert Downey, Jr. to present (again) the original screenplay award, she socked a second straight audition for the big job with her blend of unpretentious chutzpah and quick-on-her-feet delivery. She’s earned a shot at it, and given her current popularity, one could easily make a case for her hosting alone. But we know she plays well off Martin: her warmth would counteract his archness, and his big-screen profile would bolster her still (mainly) TV-sized persona. And the boy-girl dynamic could really freshen things up.

Others will likely bring up the now-regular suggestions of Justin Timberlake and Neil Patrick Harris — though the former’s alliance to one of the likely frontrunners in the race would be problematic, and the latter’s rep is tainted by his awkward involvement in the last ceremony’s opening number. For my money, the most successful Oscar emcees have a measure of established film-industry stature — but before you go nominating well-oiled charisma machines like Downey Jr. or George Clooney for the role, I’d venture that it’s better to have a host who can generate his (or her) own material.

So I stand fast on this: Martin and Fey FTW. Who would you like to see working the stage come February 27?

[Photo: E! Online]

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74 responses so far

  • 1 11-08-2010 at 7:16 am

    Brad said...

    I would kill for Emma Thompson to host. Every and I mean EVERY single time she’s on a talk show or something; I am uncontrollably cracking up. A really funny person.

  • 2 11-08-2010 at 7:29 am

    Yogsss said...


    Enough said—

  • 3 11-08-2010 at 7:47 am

    Jim said...

    Garbage. Chris Rock was the best host in recent years, excepting the Jude Law thing.

  • 4 11-08-2010 at 7:48 am

    Jim said...


  • 5 11-08-2010 at 8:30 am

    Graysmith said...


    I was merely stating that, in general, talk show hosts are more used to being on a stage in front of a crowd, and being the one that guides the whole thing. Not to mention, when they do their job on stage they are themselves, unlike most actors who only play characters in films and on stage. In fact, most actors seem more confident playing a character than being themselves.

  • 6 11-08-2010 at 8:33 am

    sosgemini said...

    Morning all! Here’s all the proof we need that Emma would make a great host: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x8im88_cesars-2009-34-ceremonie-julie-ferr_shortfilms

    NSFW (nipple shown)

  • 7 11-08-2010 at 8:42 am

    AJS said...

    As long as it’s NEVER Tina Fey or Ricky Gervais, the 2 unfunniest people on TV at the moment, and the most overrated, I’ll be fine!

  • 8 11-08-2010 at 8:59 am

    tp89 said...

    People can say what they want, but Hugh Jackman’s Oscar opening number was beyond brilliant- especially when he brought Anne Hathaway on stage with him. And, I hate most musicals. It was the best award show opening ever !

    I still don’t understand why Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway are not starring in a movie musical together. They have incredible chemistry and the musical chops.

  • 9 11-08-2010 at 10:08 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    I also like the Sam Rockwell idea.

  • 10 11-08-2010 at 9:28 am

    Patrick said...

    I’d like to see Conan do it, but since that’s not going to happen, I think George Clooney seems like a good fit. Ricky G is a little too dicey for them. I’d love to see Fey, but I dont think that will happen.

  • 11 11-08-2010 at 10:58 am

    daveylow said...

    I would like Craig Ferguson and Emma Thompson together. It will never happen.

  • 12 11-08-2010 at 11:19 am

    the other mike said...

    2nd the Eddie Murphy suggestion. A true box office champ and checkout on youtube some of his hosting stuff in the 80’s. One with Mike Tyson was legendary.

  • 13 11-08-2010 at 11:53 am

    Bradley said...

    Mel Gibson!

  • 14 11-08-2010 at 3:46 pm

    filmfan said...

    Wow, I absolutely agree with you Guy Lodge. I am relieved as well that Jackman won’t host it, because he just wasn’t funny enough. I don’t need all this dancing and singing, I want some really good jokes while watching, and that’s why Steve Martin is my favourite Oscar host as well. (Apart from his great monologues in 2001/2003, just look at this, I think the second part with Tina Fey was even funnier:
    He is hilarious. That’s what’s important, including the audience (the stars), mocking them and making fun of them but also making fun of himself. The perfect balance. (And his Michael Moore joke is unforgotten)

    Ellen Degeneres would be great as well.

    BUT, and I am really surprised that noone thought of her yet, what about TRACEY ULLMAN???
    JUST LOOK AT THIS – consider this as HER AUDITION TAPE:

    The audience was laughing their ass of. Incredibly funny. And her celebrity-impersonations are amazing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Arx1Pls14ts

    OK, I would be overjoyed with
    Steve Martin or Tracey Ullman.

  • 15 11-08-2010 at 4:34 pm

    Angry Shark said...

    TEAM SPACEY. Come on, make it happen. Fey is also a good suggestion, and Joel McHale will probably end up hosting it someday, but it’s a bit too early now.
    also Stephen Colbert, in character, would own.

  • 16 11-08-2010 at 4:43 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Hats off to Filmfan — Tracey Ullman would rock it. (Preferably, if she did the entire show in character as Renee Zellweger.)

    The Academy would never be that cool, sadly.

  • 17 11-08-2010 at 4:53 pm

    Paul Outlaw said...

    One of these guys:

    Steve Carrell
    Bette Midler
    Jamie Lee Curtis
    Nathan Lane
    or yeah, Tracey Ullman.

  • 18 11-08-2010 at 4:59 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I’ve been waving the Spacey flag for a couple of years now:


    I stand by it.

  • 19 11-08-2010 at 6:24 pm

    Graysmith said...

    Spacey could probably not do it as long as he’s got his Old Vic gig in London. He’d make an interesting choice some day though.

    Steve Carrell would be a good pick. A fairly safe pick, but I think he’s got enough showman in him to be a very good host. Reminds me of Billy Crystal in a way, they’re both funny guys who can put on a show, even if neither is a song and dance man like Hugh Jackman or Neil Patrick Harris.

  • 20 11-08-2010 at 11:55 pm

    Glenn said...

    “Late night talk show hosts are ideal candidates because it’s similar to a lot of what they do.”

    Except they’re working it to a crowd of Hollywood stars and professionals, not a crowd of tourists who were lucky enough to snag free tickets and who will laugh, hoot, clap and holler at every single joke and jab.

  • 21 11-09-2010 at 4:48 am

    Graysmith said...


    Of course it’s not the same, but stage experience is stage experience, not to mention they interview these celebrities and stars on a near-daily basis. Hosting the Oscars is a huge deal for anyone, it’s the Oscars after all, but I can’t imagine any of the late night hosts being particularly terrified or nervous the way an actor with no hosting experience could be.

  • 22 11-09-2010 at 8:53 am

    Eunice said...

    I’m waving the Fey/Martin flag. I think they’d be wonderful together.

  • 23 11-10-2010 at 9:49 am

    KBJr. said...

    He’d probably never agree, and it may be 10 years too late, but Jerry Sienfeld had me in stitches a few years ago when he did a short monologue before presenting an award. Give that guy a chance!

  • 24 11-13-2010 at 2:13 pm

    Pete said...

    This suggestion will enrage all of you:

    Tom Bergeron

    So what that he is not from the world of film. He has a sharp mind, biting wit and can react instantly to what is happening.