Why? Todd is president of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Pearl Street Films, and both men will likely be in the Oscar race with writer-director-star Affleck’s Dennis Lehane adaptation “Live By Night” (Warner Bros., December 25) and producer Damon’s “Manchester by the Sea” (Amazon/Roadside Attractions, November 18), respectively. So they have plenty of reasons to turn up on the Oscar stage. “They both have movies that could be there,” said Todd. “They’re supportive. I’m hoping they give us great ideas.”
But why not have them host the show? They’re smart as whips and strong writers — they took home 1997 Oscars for the “Good Will Hunting” screenplay. “You never know what can happen,” said Todd. “The guys are fans of the Oscars, which have been meaningful to them in their life experiences. I re-watched the show, the year ‘Titanic’ won. How young they were!”
They’d be so great. They’re both comfortable on their feet with each other in front of an awards show, gifted and natural comedic performers (remember the Jimmy Kimmel bit when Affleck smuggled Damon onto the show clinging to him inside a fat suit?). They know everyone in the room at Hollywood and Highland and understand the demands of the Academy Awards telecast audience watching around the world. They’re perfect. But they’re probably way too busy to take on such a time suck.
Both Oscar-nominated De Luca (“Captain Phillips,” “Money Ball,” “The Social Network”) and Emmy-nominated producer Todd (“If These Walls Could Talk 2”) chased the opportunity to produce the Oscars after doing the honors at the Producers Guild Awards. And they are well-placed in Hollywood to be able to cajole A-list talent into not only hosting but coming on board as presenters. (More on who they are here.)
During a phone interview they gave us some leads on what their Oscar show will be like.
First, neither of them approaches the awards show with cynicism. “This show celebrates one of the only art forms that’s been there for us in good times and bad,” said De Luca. “You can go into a theater for a couple of hours and let your burden down. Jen and I love storytelling and this is a celebration of excellent storytelling. We can bring fanatical fandom to to it. We want to bring a sense of joy to it. This is not a roast.”
So as they shape the show and start the search for hosts, they plan to lean in to comedy. “We want comedians giving one-liners and funny presenters,” said De Luca. “But after two years of political cycles with everyone mad at each other and divided, we want to bring an evening of unified love for the movies that have been the best of the year, a light, breezy, fun, joyous night devoted to the movies that are uniting us rather than dividing us.”
This talented duo could head in the direction of the best Oscar shows in recent memory: 2002 and 2007, produced by the late great Laura Ziskin with taste and flair, and 2009, produced by Bill Condon and Lawrence Mark.
While they may not go as far as the musically-driven shows produced by Meron and Zadan, “music has its place,” said De Luca. “This is not the Tonys. But music should be there, with clip reels used properly and great performances of the nominated songs are wonderful. A tribute musical number aimed at the right thing can be moving and enjoyable.”
But no wall to wall clips, said the producers. They want an organic live show.
The Academy has never waited this long to settle on producers. The 89th Oscar telecast is on February 26, so they need to get started on choosing their host. So which way will they go if not Matt and Ben? They admire Billy Crystal and Ellen DeGeneres, among others. “We’ve just started!” protested Todd. “We have a kitchen sink list.”