Craig Zadan and Neil Meron say their first priority is to find a host — and their Oscar show won't necessarily have lots of music
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who were announced as producers of the 85th Academy Awards on Thursday morning, already have a list of potential hosts and are ready to start making calls, they told TheWrap.
"The No. 1 priority is to find a host, and we'll get to it momentarily," Zadan told TheWrap in an interview a couple of hours after the theater, film and television producers were announced to oversee the Oscar show by Academy President Hawk Koch.
"We have some names that we've been batting around, and so does Hawk. We've shared lists, and come up with a few people that we both love and think would be fantastic. And now we need to start talking to people."
Zadan and Meron, whose films include "Chicago," "Footloose," "The Bucket List" and "Hairspray," know that a resume that began in live theater and is long on musicals will lead people to assume that their Oscar show will be full of musical numbers.
"That's the obvious thing to think, and it's good to be known for that," Meron said. "But we need to honor what the Academy is, and what the Oscars and movies mean to people all around the world."
"You'll also notice," Zadan added, "that when we did 'Hairspray,' the next movie we made was 'The Bucket List.' We immediately wanted to show that we're not just the guys who do musicals."
In fact, the Morgan Freeman/Jack Nicholson comedic drama "The Bucket List" was the moment when both men first admitted to each other that they really wanted to produce the Academy Awards. The producers decided that since their film title was coining a phrase to describe the ultimate wish-list of things to do before dying, they should come up with their own lists.
"So I asked Neil, 'What's No. 1 on your list?' and he said, 'Producing the Oscars,'" Zadan said. "I said, 'That's No. 1 on mine, too.'"
But the Academy, they said, never approached them to produce the show until Koch did soon after his July 31 election. Zadan said the call was similar to one they'd received a year earlier from Steven Spielberg, who asked if they'd produce the TV series "Smash" with him.
"You never think you're going to get a call like that, and this was the same thing," he said.
The two producers, who run Storyline Entertainment, have limited experience in the Oscar realm: The only awards show on their resume is the 2006 GLAAD Media Awards.
But Meron points to their background in live theater, where they both started with Joe Papp's Public Theater in New York. "One of the things we did was organize an inaugural event to honor Mayor Koch on his first term," Meron said. "That was a massive coordination job, and we did other big things in live theater – but, of course, nothing on the scale of the Academy Awards."
Both men were close-lipped about any specific plans – though it might be tempting to assume, for instance, that past Oscar music director (and frequent Billy Crystal collaborator) Marc Shaiman might figure into the show if he's so inclined, considering that he writes the music for "Smash."
For his part, Meron simply said he's looking forward to watching "every single Oscar show ever produced" as he and Zadan put their own show together.
"We've only had the job for two days," Zadan said, "and all we've really done is spitball ideas with Hawk. At the moment, we have notions and fragments – and now we have to put them together."