For a while, it looked like we had the 2013 Oscar host locked down. After a disappointing few years (Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin felt constrained, Anne Hathaway and James Franco were a flat out disaster, and Billy Crystal was kind of creaky last year), it seemed like we'd be getting some fresh blood, and that did seem to have been the case: "Saturday Night Live" mastermind Lorne Michaels was said to have been approached, and was planning on bringing on one of his former stars, "Late Night" host Jimmy Fallon.
But ABC parent company Disney objected to the idea of giving a competitor a free plug and Fallon was ruled out, with Michaels exiting talks soon after, so they're back to square one again. So with the position vacant, we thought we'd use this week's Oscar column to make a few suggestions. Agree? Disagree? Got your own possibilities? Let us know in the comments section below.
1. Hugh Jackman
Why He Could Do It: The most popular Oscar host of the modern era, Hugh Jackman has both old-school entertainer charms (including the ability to pull off a song and a dance), and appeal to the kids thanks to his role as Wolverine (and with a new film with the character coming up in 2013, the publicity reminder would be a boon). His 2009 hosting gig was one of the most enjoyable in recent memory, and after several disappointing years in a row, the Academy are sure to want him back more than ever.
Why He Might Not: It's been suggested that he's basically been top of the list for the last few years and has turned it down for various reasons. Would this year be any different? This year would also be particularly tricky as he's the lead of one of the hotly tipped contenders, "Les Miserables," and may well be in the running for Best Actor. That wouldn't be unprecedented (James Franco was a nominee two years ago for "127 Hours"), but this is much more high profile, and the Academy might see it as favoritism to pick Jackman this time around. He's currently filming "The Wolverine" and would presumably be free after that, but he is also eyeing a return to Broadway for "Houdini" sometime in the year, so that might be an issue too.
2. Tom Hanks
Why He Could Do It: One of the Academy's most beloved favorites, Tom Hanks has always shone when presenting at the ceremony, able to pull off both gravitas and humor. Indeed, he's also one of the best-loved hosts in "Saturday Night Live" history, which is something that should, in theory, be a serious qualification for the job; being able to cope with live TV and pull off wacky moments too.
Why He Might Not: Hanks is first and foremost an actor, and may not be so keen to play host for an evening like this. Indeed, it's been a long time since an A-lister of Hanks' calibre hosted the awards (although one could argue that Jackman is a recent precedent). Maybe his relationship with Lorne Michaels would have encouraged him, but now that Michaels is out, it's less likely. One shouldn't forget that Hanks is also starring in "Cloud Atlas," which could turn out to be an awards contender; it's less of a major speed bump than with Jackman, but could still be an issue if the film builds awards season steam. He's also not the box office force that he used to be: would he really bring in the younger audience that the Academy craves so much? He'll also have promotional duties for "Captain Phillips," which opens in March, looming as well.
3. Steve Carell
Why He Could Do It: In many ways, Steve Carell is something of a successor to Hanks; making his name with comedy before showing his range with straighter roles. The actor has been good value in some of his presenting appearances so far, and is generally beloved in Hollywood. Plus, as a veteran of Second City, he has plenty of experience with a live show like this.
Why He Might Not: Carell is at a bit of a crossroads of his career: some of his recent films ("Dinner For Schmucks," "Seeking a Friend at the End of the World") underperformed, and he's still looking to cement his movie career after exiting "The Office." He's also got a big year coming up in 2013 with a "Despicable Me" sequel, "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," "Anchorman 2" and Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" — the filming of the latter two could well be a scheduling problem — so he may not have the calendar space available. Furthermore, his comic persona is a little more off-kilter than someone like Hanks — would a ceremony hosted by Carell end up feeling like the Dundies?
4. Robert Downey Jr.
Why He Could Do It: The king of the comeback, Robert Downey Jr. has become, in the last few years, one of the most popular movie stars on the planet. After "The Avengers," he's bigger than ever, and a Downey Jr.-hosted show would be sure to bring in a younger audience. He's been behind some of the highlights of ceremonies in recent years (particularly his double-act with Tina Fey), and in theory, should be able to joke it up, and yet bring some gravitas in for the serious moments. Right now, he's got nothing firm on the calendar after "Iron Man 3" so he might have some time.
Why He Might Not: RDJ's persona has come closer and closer to Tony Stark's in recent years, and his bit with Gwyneth Paltrow last year was more smug than entertaining. Does he really have the right kind of warm and fuzzy feel for the Academy? He's not exactly Billy Crystal.
5. Craig Ferguson
Why He Could Do It: It's clear from the Jimmy Fallon talks that the Academy isn't necessarily leaning towards movie stars, and if they go into the late night world, they're unlikely to go with David Letterman again, Jay Leno seems too milquetoast even for the Academy, and Jimmy Kimmel (the natural choice, given that he's on ABC) has been ruled out because he's hosting the Emmys this September. As such, the obvious candidate would seem to be Craig Ferguson. In many ways, the Scottish actor/comedian is a better fit than his late night rivals: he's a well established actor (most recently voicing a part in "Brave"), he's able to turn on a sixpence from gags to more serious moments, and he's got both an old school chance and a younger following.
Why He Might Not: If ABC weren't willing to let Fallon, who hosts a rival show on NBC, host the awards, we can't see why they'd change their minds for Ferguson, so the chances of this happening are very slim. Maybe the Disney connection through "Brave" would warm them up to the idea, but it still feels unlikely to happen (and the same goes for Conan O'Brien, for that matter).
6. Amy Adams
Why She Could Do It: Adams has quietly become not just an Academy favorite (three nominations in seven years), but also something of an A-list star, leading big hits as diverse as "Enchanted," "Julie & Julia" and "The Fighter." She's got comic skills, can pull off a bit of a song and dance (her performance from "Enchanted" a few years back was a charmer), but could handle the more somber moments too.
Why She Might Not: Adams looks like a serious Supporting Actress contender for "The Master," and might well figure into the race for "Trouble with the Curve" as well, so there'd be a bit of a conflict there. Furthermore, there's not much precedent for an actress hosting solo; they've either been part of a double act, like Anne Hathaway, or an established comic presence like Whoopi Goldberg or Ellen DeGeneres. Co-hosting with someone like Jason Segel might ease the minds of ABC suits, but he's likely to be tied up on "How I Met Your Mother." Plus, Adams may be filming David O. Russell's latest film in the spring, which would count her out.
7. Albert Brooks
Why He Could Do It: An old hand getting a new lease of life at present, the veteran comic came back on the radars of many with a stunning performance in "Drive." That was too sinister to get him an Oscar nomination, but he's on warmer, fuzzier territory this year with Judd Apatow's "This Is Forty," which might be a better fit for something like the Oscars. His sense of humor is quite inside-baseball (his tweets suggest he follows the industry closely), which would play well in the room, and he's a little hipper these days than some of his contemporaries like Billy Crystal or Steve Martin.
Why He Might Not: Again, he may figure into an acting race for "This Is Forty." He's also not quite a household name among younger crowds, even after "Drive," and hasn't always sat easily within the industry; he'd gone several years without a movie until last year, and often worked more independently. And we're just not sure if he'd have any interest in doing it, even if the studios did.
8. The Judd Apatow Players
Why They Might Do It: Let's not forget, the show is without a producer at this point, and one pick that might help to bring in a younger audience would be Judd Apatow. He's edging ever closer to respectability, has written for the Oscars in the past, and the actors who've featured in his films, from Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell to John C. Reilly and Seth Rogen, have often stolen the show at prior ceremonies. So why not let him assemble the whole gang (or at least a selection of three or four reliable hands) for a group show? It'd help keep things fresh, and mean that those who are too wacky to carry a whole show, like Ferrell (who's not really going to be able to announce an In Memoriam reel, for instance), could tap out for someone like Brooks or Paul Rudd, while also showcasing a younger generation of talent like Lena Dunham or Chris O'Dowd. It certainly has the potential to be the most entertaining show in a long while.
Why They Might Not: Multiple presenters have been used in the past, but never on this scale, and the Academy might feel it represented too much of a plug for the Apatow brand. The Academy doesn't mind a little irreverence, but in small measures, and Apatow and his actors would be unlikely to go in for too much of the whole "celebration of the movies" vibe. Plus, there's a chance that "This Is Forty" will be a player in the awards, which would certainly rule him out.
9. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Why He Could Do It: One of Hollywood's most diverse rising stars, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's having a good year with "The Dark Knight Rises" and "Looper," but his skills reach beyond that. One only has to remember his version of "Make 'Em Laugh" on 'SNL' a few years back to know that there's a degree to which he's an old fashioned entertainer, and he did after all start his career with comedy in "3rd Rock from the Sun." It'd help to bring in a younger audience and keep things feel fresh in a year where a lot of the Academy fare looks like it'll skew older.
Why He Might Not: Gordon-Levitt's tied to not one, but two Best Picture contenders ("The Dark Knight Rises" and "Lincoln"). He'd also feel like a slightly odd pick on his own, and might need someone else to help him carry the can (perhaps our final choice below?). But then, let's not forget the last time a brooding, artistically inclined young actor presented the Oscars — James Franco, who was one of the most disastrous choices in Academy history. We can't see Gordon-Levitt tanking as hard, but we doubt the Academy and ABC taking that risk again any time soon.
10. Emma Stone
Why She Could Do It: Emma Stone's entirely charming and hilarious bit with Ben Stiller last year was an absolute highlight of last year's otherwise turgid ceremony, to the extent that it felt like an audition to host in coming years. She's Hollywood's sweetheart after "The Help" and "The Amazing Spider-Man" (the former of which likely helps endear her to older, Academy-aged audiences), would be able to pull off both goofy charm and sincerity, and has nailed 'SNL' hosting gigs in the past. Why the hell not?
Why She Might Not: Well for one, the Franco/Hathaway factor might be something of an issue, although pairing Stone with an older co-host might help dispel fears of that. She's also got Cameron Crowe's "Deep Tiki" set to shoot early next year, and that, plus promotional commitments to "Gangster Squad" and "The Croods," could be problematic.