LOS ANGELES – Hollywood’s biggest night — the Oscars — is set to take place next month without a host for the first time in 30 years, after comedian Kevin Hart pulled out of the gig and no suitable replacement was found.
Though organizers have yet to confirm the plans, entertainment insiders say the show’s producers are forging ahead with preparations to hold the 91st Academy Awards on Feb. 24 with no emcee.
If all goes ahead, it would be the first ceremony without a host since the 1989 gala — a ceremony that was widely seen as one of the most embarrassing ever, featuring an infamous duet between actor Rob Lowe and . . . Snow White.
To compensate for the likely lack of a host, the film academy has apparently sought to populate the telecast with starry presenters. One reported gambit has been to unite the “Avengers” cast at the Oscars.
As gala organizers struggle to overcome a steady decline in viewership, many say the failure to find a host is actually good news.
“It’s a blessing in disguise,” Tim Gray, awards editor at entertainment magazine Variety, said. “People have been saying for years that the format — the same since 1953 — needs to change, and they’re trying to cut down on running time. So personally, I think it’s a great idea not to have a host.”
Hart, who stars opposite Bryan Cranston in “The Upside,” was named to host the Oscars in early December.
But the backlash was swift — homophobic tweets he made several years ago re-emerged, prompting an outcry on social media, and he withdrew just a few days later.
“I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscar’s. . . . This is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists,” he tweeted. “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past.”
So why can’t the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences find someone else?
The previous two shows have been hosted by late-night funnyman Jimmy Kimmel. Comedian Chris Rock emceed in 2005 and 2016, and TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres hosted in 2007 and 2014.
All have apparently indicated they aren’t interested in the gig this year.
“I think a lot of people, especially when it comes to hosting the Oscars . . . think nowadays it’s not worth accepting (to host) because of the scrutiny,” Gray said.
“It’s kind of a thankless job,” he added. “A lot of hosts have said it’s a difficult job because you walk into that room, there are 3,000 people, and all they want to know is who won in each category.”
In recent years, several hosts were raked over the coals. Actor Neil Patrick Harris got rumbled over his 2015 effort and said he would never do it again. James Franco and Anne Hathaway were a dud in 2011.
The Academy declined several requests for comment on the hosting situation or the show’s possible format.
But according to several trade magazines, organizers are considering having multiple A-listers — probably actors — introduce various segments and the award presenters.
“The Academy Awards regularly had multiple hosts in the 1970s and 1980s, and the telecast worked very well,” said Dave Karger, a special correspondent for the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). “So if this year’s producers are able to book big stars to perform in skits and present the prizes, I don’t think the show will suffer at all.”
Gray said the big challenge will be how to make the show entertaining — both to those attending and for people watching on television — while sticking to the promise of a three-hour telecast.
“I think the host-less situation is going to force them to come up with something imaginative,” he said.
“And the fact that the show is going to be different could keep the energy going.”
In another headache for the academy, the Screen Actors Guild has called on it to stop trying to prevent stars from appearing in award shows before the Oscars.
SAG-AFTRA said last week it has received multiple reports that the academy is pressuring certain actors to appear only at the Academy Awards. Several award shows occur before that, including the guild’s own Screen Actors Guild Awards, to be held this coming Sunday.
“This self-serving intimidation of SAG-AFTRA members is meant to limit their opportunities to be seen and honor the work of their fellow artists throughout the season. Actors should be free to accept any offer to participate in industry celebrations,” SAG-AFTRA said in a statement. “The apparent attempt by the academy to keep our members from presenting on their own awards show is utterly outrageous and unacceptable.”
“We call on the academy to cease this inappropriate action,” it concluded.