And his campaigning continues in a Variety magazine cover story today… but first, let’s catch up.
Appearing on an episode of “Live with Kelly and Michael” in 2015, Kevin Hart first shared his strong interest in hosting the Academy Awards ceremony, even saying that his appearance on their show was the beginning of his “campaign” to land the gig for last year’s event. Obviously he didn’t get the job, because Chris Rock hosted the 2016 Oscars. And he didn’t get it for this year either because Jimmy Kimmel hosted; and he still won’t get it next year because Kimmel is already slated to return in 2018. Unless he suddenly decides not to…
But why would Hart (or anyone, really) want to host the Oscars, especially when past hosts have essentially slammed the gig as one that’s just not worth the effort. His reasons in a minute, but first, some history…
You’ll recall when one former Oscars co-host, Alec Baldwin, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter 4 years ago, shared his concerns for producers of future Academy Awards, who he said would face big challenges in finding celebrities to front the show – because it’s a thankless job that pays “chicken feed,” and isn’t at all worth the censorious aftermath that has followed recent hosts: “The Oscars is a completely thankless job. It’s really tough,” he said right from the start.
And when asked whether he’d ever host again (he hosted with Steve Martin in 2009), he replied: “No. Never, never, never. And I enjoyed doing it. What the Oscars absolutely, unequivocally should be, is a show with a little bit of entertainment and a very reverential overview of movies of that year. And that show would last about two hours, and it would be a very tight show with a lot of serious, cineastic appreciation. But the Oscars is also a television program that raises 90 percent of the Academy’s budget for the year in a single night. When the Oscars is three hours — when they bullshit you and say that the Oscars is running long, and that’s a problem — that’s not a problem. They’re making more money. So ABC and the Academy, they have no interest in doing a tight, better-produced show. They are forced, because of economic constraints, to have a flabby, tired show.”
Leave it to Alec Baldwin to spill the truth on what’s really happening behind the curtain.
When the interviewer responded with a statement about hosts facing strong criticism, Baldwin continued with his brutal honesty: “They need to gamble on the show, and they’re not gambling. I am a member of the Academy, but everyone who has done it lately has been crucified. So they’re not going to get anybody who is reasonably talented or special to take that chance anymore. They don’t pay you any money; the Oscars pay you like chicken feed. It’s all about the honor of helping to extol film achievement. But they’re going to have a tough time. I’m dying to see who they get to do it next year. They’re going to have to go dig someone up from a cemetery. They’re going to have to go dig up Bob Hope.”
And when asked if there’s anyone he thinks would be the best candidate for the job, Baldwin said: “Ellen DeGeneres. She would work. Everybody likes her, and she can be edgy without being too edgy.”
It’s also worth noting that 2013’s Oscar host, Seth MacFarlane, echoed very similar sentiments about the gig, saying that he would never do it again.
And 2015’s host, Neil Patrick Harris, also said that he’s likely never going to host again: “I don’t know that my family nor my soul could take it… It’s a beast. It was fun to check off the list, but for the amount of time spent and the understandable opinionated response, I don’t know that it’s a delightful balance to do every year or even again,” the “How I Met Your Mother” star said in an interview with the Huffington Post.
He added: “It’s so difficult for one who’s simply watching the show to realize just how much time and concession and compromise and explanation has gone into almost every single thing… And I’m not saying that to defend everything I said as if it was the absolute best choice, but it’s also an award show, and you’re powering through 14 acts filled with 20 plus awards. So, my job was to try and keep things as light and specific to this year’s set of films as possible. And if people are critical of that, it’s a big giant platform, so I would assume that they would be.”
But I love *insider* stories like this. I love hearing from those who are right there on the front-lines, and who aren’t scared to be upfront with their thoughts and feelings, in an industry that seems to discourage that kind of thing.
I’ve always imagined that hosting the Oscars was a job that most Hollywood personalities would want to have, or at least would be honored to be asked to do. I never really considered salary; it just always seemed like more of a prestige thing to me; and also, as one of the most-watched televised industry events in the entire world (the ceremony is broadcast in some 150 countries), I considered it a way for whomever is hosting to raise their international profile, which can translate to more work, more paychecks, etc.
But as Baldwin said, fewer and fewer stars are willing to risk hitting the Oscars stage to host the ceremony, because it actually may have more of an adverse effect on them and their careers, or just isn’t worth it, as any benefits/rewards one might see from taking the job, are trumped by the drawbacks.
Despite what Baldwin, MacFarlane and Harris have all said, I’m sure it’s still a job that’s coveted by some, who’d gladly accept if offered – especially if they feel that they can capitalize on the publicity they’ll receive in return – the good and the bad. Like Kevin Hart, I suppose. Although I don’t think publicity is something he’s wrestling with right now. So why does he want to do it so badly?
Back to his appearance on “Live with Kelly and Michael” in 2015… Hart added this, about hosting: “That would be a major accomplishment. With what I’ve done and the progress I’ve made in my career, that’s definitely the next major step, I feel, for a comedian. To say you’ve hosted the Oscars, to grace that stage, turn that event into a youthful night.”
So there you have it. It’s something he sees as a major career achievement; an event that he said he would love to mix up a bit: “My goal is to be able to do it and adapt to that environment. At the same time, give it a little spice!”
He joked that he wouldn’t tone it down, but rather: “I’d be up there cussing!”
Likely not, but if his campaigning does eventually land him the job in the end (like maybe at the 2019 Oscars), I’m sure he’d bring some edge with him to what is typically a rather reverent, stodgy affair.
I should mention that even prior to the 2015 interview, Hart further voiced his interest in hosting the Oscars while on the red carpet at this year’s event. “I can’t even hide it, I think it’s in my face,” Hart told ET’s Nancy O’Dell and Kevin Frazier. “This is my first time being at the Oscars. I’m in awe! I’m a kid in the candy store. This is a testament that you’re going in the right direction. This is that one step. The next step is to come back and host.”
And skipping ahead to today, Hart continues to campaign, telling Variety in a cover story for his new memoir, “I Can’t Make This Up”: “It would be something I would definitely do just to say I did it in my career… It would be great to say I had that moment. ”
He has some support from a few Hollywood toppers like Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBCUniversal, who tells Variety in the same piece: “Book him right now… They’d be lucky if he offers that service. You couldn’t have a bigger star!”
Hart clearly wants the job, so why not take a chance and give it to him? His one of Hollywood biggest stars right now, with a handful of $100 million grossing movies (domestic and worldwide), and maybe competing for the busiest schedule title with Dwayne Johnson. His industry stature is certainly higher than it’s ever been, with box office hit, after box office hit, and an apparent crossover appeal. He has a significant social media following (these things do matter these days). Also last year, Forbes magazine named him the highest paid comedian, earning around $80 million over the 2015-2016 period.
So why not? Especially when he’s been so forward with his desire to host.
“When the time is right I believe it’s going to happen,” says Hart. “I’m not going anywhere. The Oscars aren’t going anywhere. It will happen when it happens.”
We’ll look for you in 2019 Kevin, which may actually turn out to be a good year for black Oscar nominees given what films will be released in 2018, like Steve McQueen’s “Widows,” Viola Davis’ “The Personal History of Rachel DuPree” and more.