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.
UPDATE: The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences just made it official.
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve just learned that Eddie Murphy has officially agreed to host the 84th Academy Awards. Today, Oscar producer Brett Ratner is formally telling the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences that he’s chosen Murphy to emcee the Oscars and an announcement will be made. I broke the news over Labor Day weekend that Ratner was in talks with Murphy and was going to offer AMPAS President Tom Sherak only the comedian’s name to host. I was told that a lot of big names had approached the other 84th Academy Awards producer Don Mischer saying they are interested in hosting, and Don was fielding those calls. Brett’s talks with Murphy had been along the lines of, “If the Academy asked you to host, would you accept?” I learned that Eddie has now formally said yes. This is coming months earlier than normal because usually the Oscars host isn’t chosen or announced until January. But everyone is eager to get out the news now. I do know that Murphy’s Hollywood agency WME thinks it’d be a real coup for Murphy’s dormant career, which is about to get a kick-start. That’s because the veteran comedian is starring in the Brett Ratner-directed and Imagine/Universal-produced Tower Heist action laugher with Ben Stiller that opens on November 4th and is receiving great buzz. So Murphy and Ratner already have a close relationship, and this would be a way for Brett to put his personal stamp on 2012′s broadcast. Plus Murphy is starring in the DreamWorks dramedy film A Thousand Words scheduled for release on January 12th.
Eddie, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2006′s Dreamgirls but lost, is said to worship the Oscars. “Nobody knows movies better or is a bigger cinephile than Eddie. Not Brett. Not even Quentin Tarantino. Eddie can quote scenes from every single movie word for word,” an insider tells me. “He can bring all that experience to hosting. Plus he has Saturday Night Live experience before a live crowd. And worldwide the biggest crossover comedians are Will Smith and Eddie Murphy.” That’s important because a huge part of the Academy Awards telecast audience is global. And with two movies opening before the Oscars, Murphy could benefit from the publicity bonanza especially overseas where international releases usually follow U.S. openings by several months. Besides, the Academy has been after more diversity which is why this October it’s honoring James Earl Jones and Oprah Winfrey (even though she’s much more of a TV personality than a movie star or filmmaker).
The comedy and urban entertainment website Humor Mill posted first an exclusive (sourced from several close friends of Eddie’s) that Murphy was a done deal. But I’ve confirmed it wasn’t until today. A decision like this to host the Academy Awards is made by committee with a star and his/her reps and pals weighing all the pro and con options. Which is why the Academy has such a tough time finding new hosts every year because it can be such a career-altering decision. Meanwhile, I hear that veteran Billy Crystal, who recently expressed interest in hosting again, will almost certainly be incorporated into the show in some marquee way.
This is now the 4th straight year that Deadline has first reported the host of the Academy Awards
EXCLUSIVE: This Tuesday, a confab is scheduled for Oscar producer Brett Ratner to tell the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences whom he wants to host the Oscars. I’ve learned that Ratner will offer one name to Academy President Tom Sherak: Eddie Murphy. This is by no means a done deal yet, but this is a first step – though a lot more steps have to happen before this becomes a reality. I’m told that a lot of big names have approached the other 84th Academy Awards producer Don Mischer saying they are interested in hosting, and Don is fielding those calls. But insiders tell me that Ratner since getting the Academy Awards producing gig has only been talking to one person: Eddie. It’s been along the lines of, “If the Academy asked you to host, would you accept?” I learned that Eddie is “showing interest”. I do know that Murphy’s Hollywood agency WME thinks it’d be a real coup for Murphy’s dormant career which is about to get a kick-start. That’s because the veteran comedian is starring in the Brett Ratner-directed and Imagine/Universal-produced Tower Heist action laugher with Ben Stiller that opens on November 4th and is receiving great buzz. So Murphy and Ratner already have a close relationship, and this would be a way for Brett to put his personal stamp on 2012′s broadcast. Plus Murphy is starring in the DreamWorks dramedy film A Thousand Words scheduled for release on January 12th.
Eddie, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2006′s Dreamgirls but lost, is said to worship the Oscars. “Nobody knows movies better or is a bigger cinephile than Eddie. Not Brett. Not even Quentin Tarantino. Eddie can quote scenes from every single movie word for word,” an insider tells me. “He can bring all that experience to hosting. Plus he has Saturday Night Live experience before a live crowd. And worldwide the biggest crossover comedians are Will Smith and Eddie Murphy.” That’s important because a huge part of the Academy Awards telecast audience is global.
LOS ANGELES, CA, AUGUST 10, 2011—Eddie Murphy will give voice to the animated lead character in Alcon Entertainment’s live action/animated big screen adaptation of the of the 1970s Hanna-Barbera animated TV series HONG KONG PHOOEY, it was announced by Alcon co-founders and co-CEO’s Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove.
In addition to voicing the character of Donkey in the box-office hit “Shrek” franchise, Murphy was also the voice of Mushu, the Dragon, in the successful animated epic “Mulan.” Murphy will next be seen in the comedies “Tower Heist,” co-starring Ben Stiller from Universal Studios and “A Thousand Words,” from DreamWorks.
Pierce O’Donnell gained showbiz prominence as the crusading Los Angeles litigator who represented newspaper columnist Art Buchwald against Paramount over the movie Coming To America and sought to expose the Hollywood studio practice of “creative accounting” on net profit statements. And he very ably represented me when Disney and News Corp tried to unfairly punish this journalist for reporting the truth about Big Media. I consider Pierce both a loyal friend and great attorney. So with a heavy heart I convey that O’Donnell pleaded guilty today to two misdemeanor charges of making illegal campaign contributions to John Edwards’ presidential campaign in March 2003. In a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, O’Donnell agreed to serve six months in federal prison. A sentencing hearing has been set for November 7th.
Universal Pictures has released a trailer for the Brett Ratner-directed Tower Heist, a comedy that stars Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda and Tea Leoni. Alda plays a Bernie Madoff-like financier whose ponzi scheme wipes out the pensions of the staff of a luxury high rise …
UPDATE EXCLUSIVE: Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard have reached a milestone unusual in Hollywood: partners for 25 years. When they first got together, Grazer was a TV producer. Howard, after growing up on the small screen in The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, had only directed a couple of TV movies and the low budget Roger Corman-produced Grand Theft Auto. Grazer and Howard have been at it together ever since, building a company that over 25 years has been one of the most consistent generators of content. Their TV series output includes 24, Parenthood, Arrested Development and Friday Night Lights; their movies have grossed $13.5 billion worldwide. That includes A Beautiful Mind, which won Howard the Academy Award for Best Director. Grazer and Howard shared Best Picture Oscars that night as well. Not everything they’ve done has succeeded, of course. They they took their company public and repurchased the shares; they helped launched and fold the online venture Pop.com; their most recent film together, the adult comedy The Dilemma, was a misfire that created controversy over the inclusion of the word “gay” in a trailer. They’ve had way more hits than misses.
In honor of Imagine’s Silver Anniversary, Deadline invited Howard and Grazer to look back over their quarter century together, and into a future that includes something never tried before by anyone in Hollywood. They’re adapting Stephen King’s 7-novel series The Dark Tower into a film trilogy, and a limited run TV series in between. It has pushed the envelope enough that their longtime home studio, Universal Pictures, postponed a planned late summer start until next year and asked the filmmakers to cut the budget. Some question the studio’s resolve on such a massive undertaking. The studio has to green light the film by next month or the rights revert to Imagine, Akiva Goldsman and King, who are determined to make it regardless.
DEADLINE: Not many marriages of any kind last 25 years in Hollywood. What is most important about the anniversary?
HOWARD: It’s such a challenging time to get movies made. And yet, look at all we have coming out. Tower Heist, the Gus Van Sant movie Restless, J Edgar with Clint Eastwood and Leo DiCaprio, Cowboys & Aliens, this big broad appeal four quadrant fantasy adventure story with Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. With The Playboy Club getting on the air, and Parenthood getting picked up, I’m proud we’re doing what we’ve always done. A wide variety of projects that got made because we care and put in the energy to get them done in light of how difficult it is these days.
DEADLINE: Simple as that?
HOWARD: Because I’m in New York, we’re not forced to stare at each other’s faces 24/7. But I think that’s not really it. We love what we’re doing, we have fun doing it and our sensibilities are in sync. In a business that can create so many feelings of anxiety and self-doubt, I learned to trust in that. Brian is smart and cares about me doing well and feeling good about what I’m doing. It’s a partnership built on support. It has been that way since the beginning.
GRAZER: It works because we have similar tastes and not only gravitate toward the same material but also what lives inside the core of the movie it becomes. We’ve done, and Ron has directed, all kinds of genres. We have a common interest in the humanity aspect of a movie, regardless if it’s a comedy or a drama. We also share a similar work ethic.
DEADLINE: When you cover all genres, does Imagine have a wheelhouse? For a company looking to last, is it advisable to have one?
HOWARD: The process is what gets Brian and me excited, whatever the genre. Not specializing has given our company a sense of flexibility and adaptability to whatever the market or the zeitgeist is suggesting. We’ve always respected each other as creative people. If Brian loves something and I don’t quite get it, I’ll tell him that but I’ll never try to impede the progress. He’s the same with me. With Apollo 13, I wasn’t sure the genre would work, because space films hadn’t done that well. Brian was instantly so excited about it, and made me realize we were onto something. 8 Mile, I don’t know anything about rap. This was something he understood. I didn’t know how to make that movie, but I recognized a great idea. Whenever the two of us get excited, on films like Splash, Night Shift and Parenthood, those have resulted in the building blocks of the company. I’ve always liked TV but I phased it out for awhile and it was Brian’s perseverance that has made us strong in both TV and films. Independent companies are rarely strong in both.
GRAZER: What we’ve do is agree on the moral center of a project, but nobody’s better at finding the language of a particular movie than Ron. He’s got a grasp of understanding new vocabularies, whether it’s the The Da Vinci Code, fantasy like Cocoon or Splash, or Backdraft and The Grinch. He is great at inhabiting a world and completely understanding and expressing its language. In A Beautiful Mind, he entered that world and understood the medical science of mental illness. So there have been times where he led the charge, and I was drawn in by his excitement.
DEADLINE: What was the last hard conversation or professional disagreement you can remember?
HOWARD: I can’t think of one offhand, but even when we have disagreements, I can’t think of a case where one of us ever said, ‘Oh, please don’t do this.’ If there’s a lot of passion from one or the other, then the support of the company is going to be there.
Paramount said today that it will release DreamWorks’ Eddie Murphy starrer A Thousand Words on Jan. 13, 2012. The comedic drama — directed by Brian Robbins, who previously teamed with Murphy on Meet Dave and Norbit — had been sitting around awhile.
EXCLUSIVE: Brett Ratner has set Oscar-nominated Precious star Gabourey Sidibe and Michael Pena to join Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy and Alan Alda in Tower Heist, the action-comedy that Universal Pictures is gearing up to start production in New York next month. Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer is producing. Sidibe and Pena will play employees who work in a luxury high-rise and discover their pension funds have been drained by a Bernie Madoff-like Wall Street crook who is living under house arrest in the opulent penthouse apartment. Led by the building’s manager (Stiller), the employees figure out a way to use their knowledge of the building to rip him off.
EXCLUSIVE: Eddie Murphy is set to join Ben Stiller and Alan Alda in Tower Heist, the Brett Ratner-directed caper film for Universal Pictures. Imagine’s Brian Grazer is producing, and Murphy will join Karen Kehela Sherwood and Kim Roth as executive producers. Jeff Nathanson, Ratner’s accomplice in the Rush Hour films, is rewriting the latest version by Ted Griffin. Murphy has been mentioned as a possible participant going back to the film’s original configuration as an African American version of Ocean’s Eleven, when it was called Trump Heist. Trump was dropped as was that casting equation, and now, the storyline deals with operations and maintenance workers in a luxury Manhattan high-rise whose pension funds were looted by a Bernie Madoff-like Wall Street crook, who is living high style in a penthouse apartment, under house arrest.