Note: This post originally went up Tuesday afternoon, a few hours before Kevin Hart was announced as the host of the 2019 Oscars. Obviously, a lot has happened since then. Please enjoy this updated version.
Have you heard? We’re currently in the first week of the December, and the Oscars haven’t found their host yet. In case you were thinking the show’s producers simply forgot to hire one, The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday set you straight: They’re trying, okay? It’s just really hard to find someone! [Update: It’s really, really hard.]
THR’s Stephen Galloway runs down the obstacles that make the hosting gig such a difficult role to fill: “[T]he host is expected to boost the ratings, which means he or she must have wide name recognition; must be funny (without being tawdry), topical (without being controversial), politically savvy (without being too partisan), young (but not so young as to scare the Academy’s governors) and satisfactory to a coalition of competing interests.” [Update: Another difficult standard to meet is that the host is expected not to have a long history of homophobic jokes, and, if confronted about these jokes, is expected to express some sort of contrition.]
Accordingly, some of the highest-profile names have reportedly pulled themselves from consideration, concluding that hosting the Oscars is a lose-lose situation: It’s a lot of work for not much money, and no one will remember you did it, unless you screw up. [Update: People will also probably remember if you screw up so much that you have to drop out before the show even begins.]
Still, this is depressing news for those of us who still like to believe in a fantasy where the glitz and glamour of awards season overrule all other earthly considerations. This is the Oscars — not the Golden Globes, which are decided by a motley group of Italian and Brazilian journalists, or the Grammys, where country stars piss themselves on stage. That would have never happened at the Oscars: It’s Hollywood’s biggest night! [Update: Even after all of this, I still believe in the glitz and glamour of the Oscars.]
It’s easy to think of people who would do a good job (Tom Hanks), and people who would say yes (Anna Kendrick), but it’s much harder to think of people who would fit both categories. Still, I get the sense that the Academy wouldn’t have leaked to THR unless they were looking for some, any kind of outside help. So consider this list of potential hosts my way of paying it forward to the body that did not nominate Pay It Forward. [Update: I think the Academy could probably still use some help, yes.]
Kevin Hart If you read between the lines of the THR story, something interesting sticks out. In a paragraph explaining why various celebrities are too risky (Sarah Silverman might say something gross; John Oliver might be too political), Kevin Hart is the only one mentioned without a caveat: He’s “funny without being tasteless,” the report says. Could this be an indication that Hart’s name has been mooted, but there is a dispute internally about whether to go with him, thus forcing someone in the pro-Hart camp to leak his name to THR ? Whatever. As an official Oscar pundit, I declare that Kevin Hart is totally fine and I swear I will not complain if they pick him because I know producing the Oscars is a hard job and sometimes you need to make compromises, okay? [Update: Never have I ever been so right and so wrong at the same time. Please forget this happened.]
Because this is a Vulture story about finding a new Oscars host, I am contractually obligated to mention The Rock. And did you know he’s got a Disney movie, Jungle Cruise, coming summer 2020? [Update: The Rock is friends with Kevin Hart, so he will probably not take the job, even if it’s offered.]
Key and Peele
This suggestion comes from my colleague Jesse David Fox, who won’t stop bugging me until I say I’ll include them. And it’s not a terrible idea. Until last year, I would have said that the sketch duo might not have had the requisite gravitas, but now Jordan Peele is an Oscar winner, baby! Just think of all the people who haven’t won Oscars that they’ve let host the Oscars: Jon Stewart, Neil Patrick Harris, Billy Crystal. By the rule of Oscars, Jordan Peele is more prestigious than all of them. And Key was pretty good in Don’t Think Twice! [Update: I don’t think Key and Peele have screwed up recently, but I also don’t want to check.]
With the scrapping of televised sound categories and the misbegotten plan to hand out an award for Best Popular Film, the Oscars have been coming off like a bookish eighth-grader trying to reinvent themselves by the time high school rolls around. Hiring Lin-Manuel Miranda to host would uh, go against that slightly, but if Mary Poppins Returns is a massive hit I think his profile will be big enough for the platform. And I’m sure Disney would not mind the male lead of one of their biggest awards contenders taking the gig. [Update: That’s “Golden Globe nominee Lin-Manuel Miranda” to you.]
Robert Downey Jr.
By contrast, Downey lets Disney keep it in the family while still giving them a host that will entice those wonderful 18-to-34-year-old males to tune in. Chris Evans himself endorsed his Avengers co-star in a tweet that received 243,000 likes. If every person who liked that tweet promises to watch the Oscars, I think we could lock this one in. [Update: I think Robert Downey Jr. is still free. Make the call!]
He’s voicing Simba in Disney’s new Lion King, he’s got cultural cachet out the wazoo, and the kids love him. But I suspect the Academy may be too conservative to accept the risk of Glover doing something unexpected. Who cares. Just do it and be legends, man. [Update: The Academy’s enthusiasm for someone who might do something unexpected is probably pretty slim at this point.]
Haddish was mentioned in the THR story, which noted that some poobahs “quivered with rage when she mispronounced names at last January’s nominees’ announcement.” To which I say: Get over yourselves! Tiffany Haddish is delightful, and it’s not like Daniel Kaluuya is getting nominated again this year anyway. [Update: Tiffany Haddish is also friends with Kevin Hart, so I don’t think she would take the gig now either.]
If the history of the Oscars has told us anything, there’s nothing the Academy likes in a host more than a host who has hosted before. According to THR, Neil Patrick Harris up for another go, with the mag shadily noting it’s “perhaps because his star doesn’t shine quite as bright as some other contenders.” Alec Baldwin might have a court date, Anne Hathaway is probably too scarred from her earlier experience, and James Franco is out for obvious reasons. Hugh Jackman would be an interesting choice, though: He sings, he dances, and The Greatest Showman was big enough recently enough that he probably won’t be too salty about not scoring a nomination for The Front Runner. Bring on the self-deprecating Gary Hart jokes! [Update: With time slipping away, this is probably the option the Academy will wind up going with. You know what that means: Hellllooo, Billy Crystal!]