EARLIER: Well, that …
Among his many accomplishments, Gil Cates obviously will be known as the person who produced more Oscar shows than any one in the history of the Academy. Talk to any producer who has done it just once or twice and you will get this astonished look when you tell them Gil Cates did it 14 times in the last two decades. And with his always calm and cool manner, he made it look so easy. Perhaps that is why every producer doing the show in Gil’s off years always sought out his advice — and he always happily gave it as he told me when I interviewed him exactly one year ago about his memories on being the man behind so many Oscarcasts. “I’ve had lunch with each producer and producing team going back to my off years,” he told me. “The one thing I’ve told everybody is the Oscars is such a big show that no matter what you do there are gonna be people who like it and people who don’t. The most important thing is to do a show you like. There’s no way to get out totally alive. Do a show they find unique and fun and special. That’s a victory.”
Gil Cates had a lot of victories in his long career. As a former president of the DGA, its current secretary/treasurer and its chief negotiator for the last four contracts; as founder of the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television; founder and artistic director of the Geffen Playhouse; as director and producer of such multiple-Oscar-nominated films as Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams and I Never Sang For My Father; as well as so many TV films that made a lasting mark on the medium. There’s so much more, but my own personal connection (aside from attending the great theater he oversaw at the Geffen) has always been with the Oscars, and on those occasions when I got to talk to him or interview him I was like a kid in a candy store listening to his stories (sorry, some I just can’t print — off the record). His last show aired in 2008, the year No Country For Old Men won Best Picture. But this was also the year of the writers strike that KO’d the Golden Globes and put a dark cloud over the Oscars until just 12 days before the show was to air, when it was settled. But Cates, with his usual calm of a master negotiator and problem solver, had a Plan A (with all the stars in a strike-free show) and a Plan B (with no stars but a heavy emphasis on history and clips) ready to go, essentially prepping two different shows simultaneously, depending on events out of his control. It’s a good thing he was in charge because a lesser or more inexperienced producer might have cracked under the pressure. Not Gil. In the end, he produced a classy, star-studded show as usual but was ready to deliver whatever cards were dealt.
When you are an Oscar producer I guess it pays to have a film coming out co-starring someone who just might be the perfect Oscar host. That’s the enviable position Brett Ratner found himself in as he landed the Oscar gig just as he was editing his new film Tower Heist, which features Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy among others and is generating good inside buzz in advance of its November release. I hear test scores for Eddie were so high they talked about enhancing his part in the film. Sight unseen, it sounds — on the surface at least — like a return to the old Eddie that made him a movie superstar. So Eddie and Brett will continue the collaboration for another few months at least, and it would seem to be a win-win all around now that Murphy has officially been named host.
For the Academy, it gives them the opportunity to return to the tradition of having a stand-up comic host the show, which has always worked best, and in Murphy they have one who is a movie star, an Oscar-nominated actor (for Dreamgirls in 2006), and a guy whose past experience on Saturday Night Live and his stage gigs gives him the chops to pull this off — and a reason for the audience to tune in.
In fact, when I was in Telluride over the weekend and Nikki first broke the news of Murphy’s possible Oscar-hosting gig, I ran into Academy COO Ric Robertson and former Academy president Sid Ganis and showed them the story. Although both had not heard the report and seemed surprised, they immediately seemed to like the idea. At least that’s the impression I got. At another party I ran into producer Michael De Luca, who told me he had been offering free advice to Ratner and said he told him the key thing was to hire a comedian as host. In Murphy they obviously have one, with the added plus that he’s fresh Oscar-host meat, lending to the curiosity factor over just how well he might do in front of that notoriously nervous and fidgety Kodak Theatre audience. It’s not an easy job, even though the best comics who have done it (Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin) make it look that way.
Disney Announces Two New Pixar Films
Who needs Comic-Con when you can do it yourself?
That must be exactly what Disney is thinking as it continues its massive second annual Disney D23/ Expo, the “ultimate fan event” taking place all weekend long at the Anaheim Convention Center right next to Disneyland (the name refers to 1923, the year Walt Disney started his studio). It’s an offshoot of the official Disney Fan Club and includes a ginormous exhibition center with every imaginable opportunity to buy Disneyana, numerous fan events and celebrity-sighting opps, and then there was today’s centerpiece: a near-three-hour preview of movies in the pipeline from Disney, Pixar and Marvel (which announced a partnership with the company in 2009 that is just now gearing up).
Call it “Mickey Con”. It’s all a bit overwhelming, so no wonder it takes three days just to get through it all. The event continues through the end of Sunday.
After his major presentation of the new Disney slate in the gargantuan arena in front of 4200 seemingly rabid fans (and a few more restrained press members), I caught up with Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross in the Green Room for an exclusive interview in which he talked about the possibilities of a fifth Pirate.s of the Caribbean film as well as his first comments on the demise of Pirates team Johnny Depp and Jerry Bruckheimer’s about-to-shoot Western The Lone Ranger, which Deadline’s Mike Fleming first reported had been dropped by Disney due to budgetary concerns on the pricey pic. When I asked Ross if there was anything new to report he said, ”Nothing definitive. There is nothing new. I’m hoping to do it, I’m certainly hoping. I think it’s a compelling story and no one wants to work with Jerry and Johnny more than me, so we’ll see how it works.” And about the possibility of a fifth Pirates? The situation is obviously clouded with the Lone Ranger situation, but again he used the word “hopeful.”
MONDAY PM UPDATE: As you know, Brett Ratner is producing the Oscar show with Don Mischer and emailed me tonight with his reaction to Billy Crystal’s statements regarding possibly hosting the Oscars again. Ratner says: “I didn’t see what Billy said. I’m really focused on finishing my film Tower Heist right now. [But] I was told by the Academy that I don’t have to make a decision until mid-September.”
PREVIOUS: So is Billy Crystal once again the answer to all of Oscar’s woes? His statement in answer to a fan’s query at an American Cinematheque screening of City Slickers on Friday night was that he might be open to hosting again “maybe one or two more times”. But that’s not even the first time he’s dropped the hint this year. In March, shortly after he made his appearance on the 83rd Oscar show to honor Bob Hope, he was hosting a charity event and told a reporter, “I think the show needs to change. There’s too many awards and it has to sort of freshen itself up, and if I can be a part of that, that would be great.” Between that and Friday’s encouraging words, what more do the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and newly minted producers Brett Ratner and Don Mischer need to hear?
February’s 83rd Academy Awards called him “one of the greatest Oscar hosts of all time”. And Hollywood realized how much he was missed when he made a surprise appearance on stage at the Kodak Theatre last time around. Now Billy Crystal dropped a big hint this past weekend that he’s “itchy” to host again. The 63-year-old actor made the remarks during a Q&A for an American Cinematheque screening to mark the 20th anniversary of his comedy City Slickers. The Los Angeles Times caught his remarks:
“It got to be too much after a while and the sameness in my life. That’s why I pulled back. And then when I thought I might want to do it again, they were on to other people. It’s always fun. It’s really hard, but maybe one or two more times? I don’t know. They know where I am… I came out last year as a surprise. It was a last-minute decision. They had called and said would you do this thing and honor Bob Hope and that was a kind of cool thing to do. I said OK. I did it, and people wanted to see me, they stood up, and I couldn’t talk for about a minute. And, um, I got a little itchy. So we’ll see what happens. I can’t promise anything.”
Here’s his cameo from the 83rd Academy Awards:
She won her first Oscar for 1961′s Two Women, the first performer to win for acting in a foreign language. Then in 1991, the Academy decided she needed another Oscar and gave her an Honorary Award. Apparently, still wanting to demonstrate their love, the Academy in association with Cinecitta Luce gave Loren another tribute Wednesday night in front of a packed house at their Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills. Ostensibly in honor of the 50th anniversary of that first Oscar, the beautifully produced program covered her entire career through clips and reminiscences of friends and colleagues that was also significant for another reason: it also brought eight-time Oscar show M.C. Billy Crystal back into a hosting mode for the Academy, and to say he killed would be an understatement. Loren personally asked for Billy, whom she first met at that 1991 ceremony where she got that second Oscar.
After opening with a clip from 1964′s Marriage Italian Style, Crystal came out punching with a hilarious intro all in broken Italian. Then he praised the guest of honor (sitting in the front row next to son Edoardo Ponti). “Just thinking about her beauty can keep a traffic controller awake at night,” he joked. “Bin Laden’s last words were, ‘I can’t believe I am gonna miss Wednesday night!’ “Among his other bon mots: ”She could live next door to you and you would never know she was there, even if you were the Pakistani military.” Or: “Miss Loren and I had a hot affair for years. She didn’t know it of course … when I met her I was amazed she didn’t have a staple in the middle of her chest.”
Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner and Helen Mirren starred in this mock trailer for the When Harry Met Sally sequel, which premiered on Funny Or Die. Pretty witty stuff and more evidence that despite all her accolades and regal standing, Mirren is game for anything.
Writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel have come aboard to do a quick rewrite of Us & Them, the Andy Fickman-directed film. The scribes worked with the film’s star/producer, Billy Crystal, on City Slickers, Forget Paris and Father’s Day. Us & Them, picked up in turnaround from Paramount, is on …