In light of the 2016 Oscars ceremony tomorrow night, and all the chatter that typically leads up to each annual event on who should host…
The Hollywood Reporter interviewed former Oscar night host Alec Baldwin a few years ago, when he shared his concerns for producers of future Academy Awards, who he said would face big challenges in finding celebrities to front the show – because it’s a thankless job that pays “chicken feed,” and isn’t at all worth the censorious aftermath that has followed recent hosts.
He starts with: “The Oscars is a completely thankless job. It’s really tough.”
When asked whether he’d ever host again (he hosted with Steve Martin in 2009), he replied: “No. Never, never, never. And I enjoyed doing it. What the Oscars absolutely, unequivocally should be is a show with a little bit of entertainment and a very reverential overview of movies of that year. And that show would last about two hours, and it would be a very tight show with a lot of serious, cineastic appreciation. But the Oscars is also a television program that raises 90 percent of the Academy’s budget for the year in a single night. When the Oscars is three hours — when they bullshit you and say that the Oscars is running long, and that’s a problem — that’s not a problem. They’re making more money. So ABC and the Academy, they have no interest in doing a tight, better-produced show. They are forced, because of economic constraints, to have a flabby, tired show.”
The interviewer asked about hosts facing strong criticism, and Baldwin continued: “They need to gamble on the show, and they’re not gambling. I am a member of the Academy, but everyone who has done it lately has been crucified. So they’re not going to get anybody who is reasonably talented or special to take that chance anymore. They don’t pay you any money; the Oscars pay you like chicken feed. It’s all about the honor of helping to extol film achievement. But they’re going to have a tough time. I’m dying to see who they get to do it next year. They’re going to have to go dig someone up from a cemetery. They’re going to have to go dig up Bob Hope.”
And when asked if there was anyone at that time he would consider the best candidate for the job, Baldwin said: “Ellen DeGeneres. She would work. Everybody likes her, and she can be edgy without being too edgy.”
And he was right. Just months after that interview took place, Ellen DeGeneres was named host of the following year’s Oscar ceremony.
It’s worth noting that other recent Oscar hosts, like Seth MacFarlane and Neil Patrick Harris, have echoed very similar sentiments about the gig, saying that they wouldn’t do it again. Soon after last year’s Oscars, Harris said in an interview with the Huffington Post that he didn’t think “he could bear it again,” stating specifically, “I don’t know that my family nor my soul could take it… It’s a beast. It was fun to check off the list, but for the amount of time spent and the understandable opinionated response, I don’t know that it’s a delightful balance to do every year or even again […] It’s so difficult for one who’s simply watching the show to realize just how much time and concession and compromise and explanation has gone into almost every single thing. And I’m not saying that to defend everything I said as if it was the absolute best choice, but it’s also an award show, and you’re powering through 14 acts filled with 20 plus awards. So, my job was to try and keep things as light and specific to this year’s set of films as possible. And if people are critical of that, it’s a big giant platform, so I would assume that they would be.”
But I love *insider* stories like this. I like hearing from those who are right there on the front-lines, and who aren’t scared to be upfront with their thoughts and feelings, in an industry that seems to discourage that kind of thing.
I’ve always imagined that hosting the Oscars was a job that most Hollywood personalities would want to have, or at least would be honored to be asked to do. Kevin Hart, for example, campaigned for the job last year, and he may some day host the show.
I never really considered the host’s salary; it just always seemed like more of a prestige thing to me. And as one of the most-watched televised industry events in the entire world (the ceremony is broadcast in some 225 countries), I considered it a way for whomever is hosting to raise their international profile, which can translate to more work, more paychecks, etc.
But as Baldwin said, fewer and fewer stars are willing to risk hitting the Oscars stage to host the ceremony, because it actually may have more of an adverse effect on them and their careers, or just isn’t worth it, as any benefits/rewards one might see from taking the job, are being trumped by the drawbacks.
Per the Fortune magazine video below, as of this year, the pay range for Oscar hosts is $15,000 to $25,000. Or as Baldwin puts it, “chicken feed.”