If anyone doubts the insane pace of the news cycle in Hollywood these days, consider this: The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences just announced that Kevin Hart would be hosting the 2019 Oscars this Tuesday, December 4 and just a little over 48 hours later he had withdrawn. The Academy now faces a dilemma: any potential host they reach out to could feel like they were a second choice or a “safe” choice.
But it doesn’t have to be that way: the IndieWire staff has given a lot of thought to who is most likely to step into Hart’s shoes, given their availability, the image they’ll project for the Academy, what corporate synergy they’ll represent for broadcaster ABC, and any previous statements they’ve given about their desire to host. Based on what we know right now, these are the most likely contenders.
10. Kate McKinnon and Kumail Nanjiani
Anyone who watched the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards knows what a powerhouse comedic duo Kate McKinnon and Kumail Nanjiani are as emcees. The two comedians delivered a knockout hosting gig, with hilarious live bits (not surprising considering McKinnon’s Emmy-winning “SNL” chops) and some amazing pre-tapped videos parodying the nominees (McKinnon’s “Carol” ripoff was hilariously inspired). Oscar host legend Billy Crystal was famous for inserting himself into footage from the nominees, and McKinnon proved tenfold she can carry on that tradition in an innovative new way. Plus, McKinnon and Nanjiani are minorities in Hollywood who have broken through in a big way and that’s worth celebrating. —ZS
9. Will Smith
Few major actors have managed to make charisma a key part of their brand the way Will Smith has maintained it for decades. The actor-producer-rapper remains a major movie star with a sizable audience, even as his kids have matured into their own promising entertainment careers. There’s no question that Smith would make an endearing Oscar host, able to mingle with the A-list crowd without condescending to it, and his sizable fan base — which stretches across many ages and demographics — would likely tune in. On his Instagram, Smith has been charming and personal as he shares intimate moments from his life, proving that no matter how many wisecracking types he’s played over the years, he’s always in his element when playing himself. Unlike Kevin Hart and other comedians, Smith is also down to earth. He could follow the rules with an endearing aw-shucks quality, but wouldn’t waste time on distracting stunts. The Oscars need a safe bet who stands out from the crowd, and couldn’t do much better than this. Plus, Smith has “Aladdin” coming out next year, and it wouldn’t hurt ABC parent company Disney to drum up a little extra PR for its newest genie. —EK
8. Melissa McCarthy
Melissa McCarthy is expected to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Actress thanks to her leading role in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” but hiring her as host wouldn’t be a conflict of interest (just look at the Golden Globes, where “Killing Eve” nominee Sandra Oh is co-hosting next year). A host has been nominated for an Academy Award the year of their hosting gig six times in the past. The Oscars could use McCarthy’s infectious energy and acclaimed comic wit, and she has so many funny friends (Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph, for starters) she could bring on stage with her that the idea of her hosting is quite enticing. McCarthy thrives in the live performance space, having won an Emmy for “Saturday Night Live” hosting duties, so she should be considered as a top contender. —ZS
7. Dwayne Johnson
If ABC is looking for a beloved A-lister with comic chops and some celebrity friends he or she can bring to the party, then Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would be an ideal choice. From a business perspective, Johnson is a member of the ABC-owned Disney family and has the studios’s epic family adventure “Jungle Cruise” with Emily Blunt coming in 2020, which bodes well for his prospects. Simply put, everyone loves Johnson and he’s got a enormous social media presence, which would be crucial advertising for Disney and ABC. Johnson could also bring in the teen demographic the Academy is so desperate to capitalize on. The only minor hiccup is that Johnson co-starred with Kevin Hart in the comedy “Central Intelligence.” Would the Academy hire a host with direct ties to Hart? And would Johnson even be willing to take over a job that canned his friend? It remains to be seen. —ZS
6. Someone Who’s Hosted Before
The truly safe choice for the Academy and ABC would be just to have someone who’s hosted before host again: all parties involved will know the person is question can deliver and do so without being offensive. However, this year the Academy has been trying hard to shake up the Oscars telecast formula, first with the withdrawn “Most Popular Film” category, then with the decision to remand certain technical categories to the commercial breaks to speed up the show. Kevin Hart was appealing because he could bring in viewers who might not normally watch the Oscars. If it’s Jimmy Kimmel hosting again, like he has the past two years, viewers can expect more of the same — and ABC can expect similar ratings to what they had for the ceremony in 2018. As a mini ranking within this larger ranking here are previous Oscars from the most likely (A) to host again this year to the least likely (E):
A. Ellen DeGeneres: She’s the most likely simply because she’s universally beloved and she hasn’t hosted since 2014.
B. Jimmy Kimmel: Continues the corporate synergy for ABC from having him host the two previous years.
C. Billy Crystal: Stepped in for the 2012 ceremony following Eddie Murphy’s withdrawal from the ceremony because he stood by Brett Ratner, who had been widely criticized for his homophobic remarks while briefly set to produce the show.
D. Whoopi Goldberg: Last hosted in 2002, which some may think is too long a gap.
E. Hugh Jackman: Possibly the preferred host overall from within the Academy, but the fact that he has a touring show next year — and may be hosting the Grammys — makes that unlikely. —CB
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