In an interview in the wake of the Brett Ratner debacle, Tom Sherak, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, tells TheWrap that he should have considered the director’s personality more when hiring him to produce the Oscars.
“Did I know he had baggage? Yes, I did,” he said. “I didn’t think about that. Should I have? No argument.”
But, Sherak says, “Now we move on. It’s all we can do.”
He says he’ll let the new producer, Brian Grazer, pick the host, but gives these clues to a new host: He “loves” Tina Fey; is not so hot on Jon Stewart; and as for Billy Crystal being too old for the job? “Bob Hope did the Oscars to his sixties.”
Do you think there’s been damage to this year’s show?
I would like to hope there is no damage. My hope is that people understand it wasn’t the Academy who said (a gay slur), but an employee. That happens all the time in business. It was dealt with quickly.
I do give you guys credit for moving quickly.
There’s a reason for that. There was no panic at all. He made the first mistake. He tried as quickly as he could to apologize for that mistake. He reached out to the organizations that were infuriated by that.
I talked to him on Sunday. I said to him, "We will meet Monday morning, I need to think about this." On Monday morning I spoke to him and I said, "Here’s my statement, I feel comfortable with this. Don’t do it again. I’m giving you a chance. I have people saying to me I should fire you. I’ll be there for you. Don’t do it again." If I thought it was malicious I would have fired him then.
I didn’t hear about Howard Stern until Monday night.
What did you think?
When I started to listen to it – I said, "Oh gee." I was really surprised. We knew he was promoting his movie.
We had an officer’s meeting on Tuesday, and someone said "Brett Ratner’s on the phone." I came out and he said, "I want to resign. The Academy’s too important." I said, "OK. I accept your resignation."
What did he say about why he did the Howard Stern show?
He said, "Tom, I can’t explain it. I feel terrible. I’m letting you down." He said, "I don’t know why I did it. I’m going to deal with it." He was trying to protect me, too. He knew the emails I was getting.
What were you thinking in hiring Brett Ratner for the Oscars?
When Brett Ratner came in here to give us ideas, he stayed for 3 ½ hours – and told us all the things he wanted to do. And listening him tell the story of how he saw the movies, the history of movies, the present day of movies and the future. I said, "He gets what the show should be. He gets it."
There’s a personality I knew a bit about. Did I know he had baggage? Yes, I did. We all have some baggage. (But) I didn’t think about that. Should I have? A couple of people said I should have checked it out more. No argument. The bottom line is, I hired him. I think he would have given us a great show.
Now we move on. That’s all we can do.
The bigger problem, as Steve Pond pointed out today, is how do the Oscars transition to this new era?
A lot of things in our world seem to be shifting. We support the making of movies and art and technology. Where are we going? Yes, we tried this year to get younger. And we realized – whoops, we better find a different way to do that.
What do you mean when you say "get younger"?
It means how do we make ourselves relevant to them. They love movies, too. How do we bridge that gap? Our youth problem is not the same problem. We’ve learned that youth will tune in. We need to learn how to get to them. We’re not going to reach them the traditional way. We’re going to give them a show they’re going to enjoy.
I looked back on all the people who said, "Franco’s a great idea. The Academy is going in the right direction."
Who would you have host?
You hire the producers, they figure out what they want show to be. Then they pick they want to be hosts.
But you have a say. Tina Fey? I love Tina Fey. Personally.
The Jon Stewart year? It was OK.
Comedy over song and dance? Comedy, absolutely.
Is Billy Crystal too old to host the Oscars? No. Bob Hope did the Oscars in his sixties.
When will we have a host? Hopefully before two weeks. My hope is it happens early rather than later.
The real question is, how do you make the show interesting to go with the awards? Because it’ll always be about our awards, that’s who the Academy is.