The Oscars are less than two weeks away, but that's not the only deadline facing the Academy these days.
Four months ago, the organization's longtime executive director Bruce Davis announced plans to retire after 31 years with the Academy, the last 20 of them as AMPAS's highest-ranking salaried employee. Davis set his exit date as June 30, and Academy president Tom Sherak initially said he'd like to have a replacement in place before the Oscars, so that the incoming director could follow Davis through the process.
But that hasn't happened. Instead, Sherak told TheWrap in a recent interview, the executive search firm hired to find the next executive is still reviewing candidates, and has yet to present anyone to the Academy.
"We're working on it," said Sherak (right, in AMPAS photo with Davis). "Bruce said he was going to leave in October, and we hired the headhunting firm. And then we ran into Christmas. They got started right after Christmas, and they're vetting people now. We'll meet them, and then we'll present to the board."
The search firm, added Davis, "tells me they've got some great candidates in mind" – but they haven't given him any names, either.
"My hope is still that were able to have somebody hopefully in April or the beginning of May, so they're at least with Bruce for six weeks," said Sherak. "And by the way, it's not like he's going to China. He'll be around. But when you have somebody who does the kind of job he's done for all these years, we need to transition."
Current AMPAS employees, Sherak added, will be under consideration as well. "There's some good people here, too," he said. "Our people will be in the mix, too, and I think that's a good thing."
Sherak did not specify which AMPAS employees he was talking about – but later in the interview he went out of his way to praise Ric Robertson, who as executive administrator holds the position that Davis had before he became executive director.
"In that job, you've got to protect the past, the present and the future, and nobody did that better than Bruce," said Sherak. "He knew the past, he was in the present and he was able to give thought to the future. And the next person will have to do that, too, because this place could get eaten up if somebody isn't strong at protecting it."
A longtime Academy employee, Sherak hinted, might be better at that job than an outsider. "Somebody coming in from the outside might not be … will have to transition," he said. "Can it be done? Sure."
One longtime Academy member who had has frequently disagreements with Davis recently expressed similar concern about the prospect of an outsider coming in. "If you bring in somebody who doesn’t have a history with the Academy and doesn't know where the bodies are buried," the member said, "that board will eat him alive. Bruce knew how to stand up to them in a way somebody from the outside never will."
When Davis announced his resignation last fall, some took it as a final nail in the coffin of the Academy's planned museum that was to have been located adjacent to the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study on Vine Street in Hollywood.
Davis had long been an ardent backer of the project, which ran into financial problems after the Academy purchased the land and hired an architect. Many in and around the organization believe that if the museum were still a viable, ongoing proposition, Davis would not have resigned.
But Sherak insisted that the museum project is not dead – and that Davis himself may eventually have a role to play.
"I think that everyone who serves this Academy believes that we should try to see the museum come to fruition while we're still around," he said. "Keep in mind, the board has not approved building a museum yet. We approved buying the land and we approved getting an architect – but we approved that knowing that we still had to raise the money before we could build the museum."
The Academy is still in times of "economic upheaval," he added – "but I think everyone here would still like to do it while we're still around to see it.
"And if we do … Well, keep in mind that Bruce is only retiring as executive director. He has no idea what he could be asked to do. I haven’t talked to him about it yet, but we're not going to let him get that far from us. And I think there will be projects that he will enjoy doing."