Rumors swirl about Ricky Gervais's return to the Golden Globes and Brian Grazer's search for an Oscar host
UPDATE: This story went up about an hour before Billy Crystal tweeted that he was hosting the Oscars. Obviously, it was immediately rendered out-of-date by that news. Just take it as some reflections from before we knew what going to happen.
Both the Oscars and the Golden Globes need hosts. And they're both being deluged with suggestions.
Billy Crystal? The Muppets? Neil Patrick Harris? A twofer from Ricky Gervais?
But while both shows work urgently to fill their vacancies, that seeming urgency might be misleading.
As TheWrap pointed out when Murphy exited, it's actually early in the calendar to have an Oscar host in place. Late November or early December is more typical, and announcements have been made as late as January in the past.
As for the Globes, it might help to remember that before Ricky Gervais took the job for two stormy outings, they didn't even use a host most years.
Still, even if there's no real urgency on the host front, the perception that there's urgency might help incoming Oscar producer Brian Grazer.
"People are in panic mode," said one Academy member with knowledge of the situation. "That's why Brian jumped in so quickly after Ratner left, and that's why everybody is now so focused on getting a host."
The sense that the Oscars are in trouble could work in Grazer's favor. He could prevail upon Academy governor Tom Hanks, who has worked in many of the producer's films and who has been asked to host on several occasions in the past, to accept the gig in what appears to be an extraordinary circumstance.
Or, in what may be one of the likeliest scenarios at this point, Billy Crystal could embrace the idea of becoming Oscar's savior. The eight-time host has played hard-to-get since his first couple of appearances on the show; the last two times he agreed to host were at the behest of insistent power producers: Joe Roth in 2004, and Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck in 2000.
But even the years in which Crystal has declined to host, he liked to make it clear that he'd been asked – which is why I think that this year, when he'd be greeted as the guy who saved the Oscars, he might be inclined to step in.
"His ego would love this," said one show staffer who'd worked with Crystal in the past.
Helping matters: Because the guy who picked Eddie Murphy has left the show, Crystal wouldn't appear to be anybody's second choice.
Still, the Academy in recent years has tried to move in a new direction with its hosts, and it's hardly a given that the 63-year-old Crystal is what they're looking for this time around.
Given the gay slur that led to Ratner's departure, some have called for an openly gay host to this year's show, which could boost the candidacy of Neil Patrick Harris, a skilled emcee whose limited film career and ubiquity on other awards shows has likely kept him from the Oscar gig.
As for the web campaign to get the Muppets to host – it's a delicious idea, but the practical difficulties would be enormous.
At the 1996 Oscars, host Whoopi Goldberg did a comedy bit that included Miss Piggy, who was operated by Frank Oz backstage, and the pig from the movie "Babe." That was obviously a different time, but the skit caused huge headaches for the production crew and for Goldberg, who at one point muttered, "I love the pig, but my career is on the line here."
On the Golden Globes front, Gervais has offended the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. but also gotten them more attention than they otherwise would have received. The second time he hosted the Globes, this past January, his jokes about "The Tourist," Mel Gibson and others made for uncomfortable moments in the room, and drew a post-show condemnation from the HFPA, which said he had "crossed the line."
He also poked fun at the Globes themselves, and introduced then-HFPA president Philip Berk with a joke suggesting that the veteran reporter was a doddering old man who needed Gervais's help to get off the toilet.
The thin-skinned Berk, according to backstage sources, was furious at the joke. But Berk is no longer president of the HFPA, which is embroiled in one lawsuit with a former publicist and another with Dick Clark Productions. Aida Takla-O'Reilly is the organization's current president.
Shortly after the Globes, Gervais claimed to have been invited back, a claim denied by the HFPA.
In an appearance on "Access Hollywood" on Wednesday, the comic said that NBC wanted him to return as host for the third time, but that the HFPA had yet to approve the booking.