Kevin Hart gave his first interview since stepping down as Oscars host to Ellen DeGeneres, who passionately advocated for Hart to return to the gig for the 91st Academy Awards. The daytime talk show host is devoting her entire January 4 episode to Hart, clips from which have already been made available online. In the video below, Degeneres says she personally called The Academy on January 3 before taping the interview with Hart and heard from them they want Hart to return. DeGeneres has hosted the Oscars twice.
DeGeneres said the Academy told her, “We want him to host, whatever we can do, we would be thrilled, and he should host…We feel like maybe he misunderstood or it was handled wrong, or maybe we said the wrong thing. But we want him to host. Whatever we can do, we want him to host.”
Hart was announced as Oscars host on December 4, but the next day several controversial jokes from his past containing homophobic language resurfaced on social media and caused a backlash. Hart officially stepped down December 7, writing on Twitter he was sorry that he hurt people and that his decision not to host was made because he didn’t want the backlash to distract from a night meant to “celebrate so many talented artists.”
DeGeneres pushed Hart to reconsider hosting during much of their conversation. Speaking about the online backlash, the host said, “There are so many haters out there. Don’t pay attention to them; they are a small group of people who are very, very loud. We are a huge group of people who love you and want you to host the Oscars.”
“[The haters] will win if you don’t host the Oscars,” DeGeneres continued. “You can’t let them destroy you because you have too much talent, and for them to stop you from your dream, from what you want to do, what you have the right to do, what you should be doing… Don’t let those people win, host the Oscars…Thats why [the Academy] haven’t found another host, because they are secretly hoping that you would come back.”
Hart said he is conflicted over whether or not to return as Oscars host because he views the backlash as “an attack, a malicious attack on my character, to end me.” The comedian explained the backlash was bigger than just the Oscars and aimed to destroy his entire career, from brand partnerships to his production company. DeGeneres said that Hart will show real growth by hosting the Oscars, which echoes a similar sentiment shared by GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
“What we’re going to get to see on stage with you hosting the Oscars is sophistication, class, hilarity and you growing as a person,” DeGeneres told Hart. “Because most people would say, ‘I’m walking away.'”
While DeGeneres didn’t get Hart to re-commit to hosting the Oscars, she did move the needle as Hart said he would leave the taping of their interview and reflect on what hosting again would mean. “Leaving here, I promise you I’m evaluating this conversation,” the comedian said. “Let me assess, just sit in the space and really think, and you and I will talk before anything else.”
The 91st Academy Awards air Sunday, February 24 on ABC.