Producer Brett Ratner is determined to stage a funny Academy Awards show next February — and one step in that direction may be his selection of his "Tower Heist" co-star Eddie Murphy to host the Oscars.
According to reports, Ratner will propose to Academy president Tom Sherak early this week that Murphy host the show. Sherak and the Academy would then have to sign off on the choice.
And while the Academy declined to comment on Sunday, a decision seems imminent. Knowledgeable individuals told TheWrap that a host was expected to be announced as early as Tuesday of this week.
The Humor Mill website, which focuses on African-American comics and entertainers and appears to have sources close to Murphy, claims to have confirmed Murphy's selection as host.
Its authority is a bit suspect, though, considering that the site adds, "We also heard through our sources that Brett Ratner is producing the awards."
Their "sources" are a little behind-the-times on that one: Ratner's selection to co-produce the show with Don Mischer was announced by the Academy on Aug. 4.
That day, Ratner told TheWrap that when it comes to the show's host, "I have some names in the back of my mind." The key to the show, he added, would be comedy.
"That's the most important thing I can accomplish," he said. "If people can sit in that theater and laugh, and people can watch at home around the world and laugh, then I've accomplished what I want to do."
Certainly, it's no surprise that the producers and the Academy would turn to an actor with standup comedy experience to host, given the lackluster reception for the hosting job done by actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway in February.
Although Hugh Jackman received raves when he hosted the show in 2009, the strong feeling within the Academy is that if you can't get a Will Smith or George Clooney to take the gig, it's probably time to return to a host who has proven he or she can work a room.
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Murphy, 50, did extensive standup early in his career, though he has focused on film in recent years. His history at the Academy Awards is problematic: his first nomination came for "Dreamgirls" in 2006, and he was considered a favorite to win for much of that awards season.
But Alan Arkin scored an upset victory for "Little Miss Sunshine," amid speculation that Murphy's chances had been hurt by the release of the critically-lambasted "Norbit" during the voting period. After Arkin's victory, which happened early in the show, Murphy left the Kodak Theater, with some reports claiming that he'd made his displeasure clear on his way out the door.
Two years later, Murphy returned to the Oscars to present the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Jerry Lewis.
Ratner's action comedy "Tower Heist," in which Murphy co-stars with frequent Oscar-show participant Ben Stiller, opens on November 4 and has picked up strong advance word-of-mouth.
Murphy also has the long-delayed DreamWorks film "A Thousand Words" opening in January.
Another name that has been bandied about is Billy Crystal, who is widely seen as the gold standard of recent Oscar hosts. With his lengthy set-pieces, though, Crystal tends to take up significantly more time than any other host, a problem for a show that is always criticized for excessive length.
(Photo by Michael Yada/AMPAS)
Sharon Waxman contributed to this report