True story: I just got back from a luncheon celebrating Martha Marcy May Marlene. I happened to be seated between three Academy members. One woman, a documentary filmmaker, brought up the Brett Ratner scandal and she and I co-miserated, jokingly, that if only he hadn't resigned so quickly there probably would have been much more drama to enjoy since he can't control his mouth. 'Who doesn't love juicy drama?' we argued. The wise producer on the left of me, retorted that the Academy doesn't. "They're very conservative and they don't like a scandal," she said emphatically. (Amusing that even Academy members talk about the Academy in monolithic "they" terms just as we do; as if they, too, are outside of it looking in).
The whole Ratner fiasco had happened so fast (gay slurs on Friday, apologies on Monday but also Howard Stern on Monday with more offensive comments, resignation on Tuesday) that we had to fill one of the other voters at our table in on the details. The discussion quickly turned to last year's telecast which was deemed "unwatchable" ("Franco is spread too thin" "Poor Anne Hathaway -- you could just see the panic.") The producer leans in to me and says "I bet Eddie Murphy resigns".
CUT TO: 20 minutes later. I've just returned from talking to Lizzy Olsen (more on that tomorrow) and the producer says "Told you." She holds up her phone to show me the Breaking News bulletin: EDDIE MURPHY EXITS AS OSCAR HOST. The holy name of "Billy Crystal" is instantly invoked as if he would save them all.
Murphy's public statement:
First and foremost I want to say that I completely understand and support each party's decision with regard to a change of producers for this year's Academy Awards ceremony. I was truly looking forward to being a part of the show that our production team and writers were just starting to develop, but I'm sure that the new production team and host will do an equally great job.
Interesting that he makes it sound like a mutual decision (the implication there is that Rattner was asked to resign, isn't it?).
I know I didn't write about the choice of Eddie Murphy much at the time but I actually thought it somewhat inspired as he is a born showman. No matter what you think of Dreamgirls, can't we all agree that Eddie nailed the performative electricity of James 'Thunder' Early?
Ideally in his absence I'd have Hugh Jackman back since I need musical numbers, I just do. (I realize my dream of Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson hosting and just yanking every other hilarious-in-real-life actress on stage to banter with them as if the Kodak is their mutual playground is only going to happen in my own brain.)
I also heartily endorse the Muppets should host the Oscars campaign though that feels only slightly more likely than Streep & Thompson on account of the Academy being too self-serious to become the greatest episode of The Muppet Show ever made for one night.
A more believeable suggestion...
Wouldn't Jim Carrey be two tons o' fun as a host: what do they have against him anyway? Who would you have host the event and are you sad to see Eddie go?
UPDATE 7:27 PM Brian Grazer (famous producer and Ron Howard partner) has stepped in to replace Brett Ratner as producer of the telecast. Since Brian has always kind of reminded us of a Muppet himself, we are quite pleased. Brian, think hard about those felt bundles of joy. CONSIDER...
UPDATE 11/10/11: Now it's Billy Crystal as Host.