The Academy took its time finding its Oscar producers this year.
For three years in a row (2012-2014) they could rest easy knowing that Craig Zadan and Neil Meron were in charge, but since they moved on the AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and CEO Dawn Hudson are back to trying to convince someone to take on the often arduous and thankless task.
They usually pick a team to split the chores as they did last year with Reginald Hudlin and David Hill, who by all reports, were like oil and water. That wasn’t going to happen again. With less-than-glowing reviews for the last few Oscars, Isaacs and Hudson were looking for someone they could count on to elevate the event.
The Academy has never found another producer like director Gil Cates, who produced the Oscar show 14 times between 1990 and 2008, bringing in Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Chris Rock and Jon Stewart as hosts, and taking home an Emmy in 1991.
Who is willing to take on producing the Oscars? Someone with the time, the energy, and the confidence that they can do better, who is attracted to the prestige and glitter of the event. But the Academy likes to find someone with Hollywood cred who they can boast about. And they have to be well-placed enough to be able to cajole A-list talent into not only hosting but coming on board as presenters.
The Academy has never waited this long. The 89th Oscar telecast is on February 26, and they need to get started on choosing their host. Back in 2009 they waited until October 21, the latest in recent history, to announce Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic as producers.
So the Academy has made a deal with Oscar-nominated producer Michael De Luca (“Captain Phillips,” “Money Ball,” “The Social Network”) and Emmy-nominated producer Jennifer Todd (“If These Walls Could Talk 2”) to produce the 89th Oscars. In a statement, Boone Isaacs cited the fact that the duo have worked together before (they are co-chairs of the PGA Awards). “Mike and Jennifer have a great working relationship and a tremendous love and respect of film,” she said, “and will surely draw from their vast experience to create an exceptional and unforgettable event for movie fans everywhere.”
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.
Both have great relationships with talent. Veteran New Line Cinema, DreamWorks and recent Sony executive De Luca now hangs his production shingle at Universal, where he is producing the last two films of the “Fifty Shades” trilogy, “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed,” which will be released in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Todd is currently producing Ben Affleck’s “Live by Night” via his production company Pearl Street Films, where she is president. Given its move to a December 25 berth, “Live by Night” is in the Oscar race, even if Affleck is also chasing a commercial hit. Todd also produced with her sister Suzanne such films as “Alice through the Looking Glass,” “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Across the Universe,” “Memento,” “Boiler Room,” and the “Austin Powers” films.