Among Oscars hosts, few are as beloved as nine-time emcee Billy Crystal (as far as tenure, he’s second only to Bob Hope, who hosted 19 times). Over the years, Crystal received critical and commercial adulation, as well as four Emmys, for his work on the big stage, but to do it again? Eh, not so much. Asked if Oscars brass had asked him back in recent years, Crystal told IndieWire during a recent interview, “No, they haven’t, but that’s okay.”
It’s a few days before the 2021 Oscars ceremony, and Crystal is promoting “Here Today,” a dramedy he co-wrote and stars in opposite Tiffany Haddish; it also represents the first time he’s directed a theatrical feature since “Forget Paris” in 1995. (Sony releases “Here Today” in theaters on May 7.) The last time Crystal hosted was when he stepped in after Eddie Murphy dropped out. (That was 2012, the year then-Oscars-producer Brett Ratner made a gay slur that forced him to exit stage left, Murphy followed of his own accord.) The Oscars have had no host since Jimmy Kimmel in 2018, and Crystal said that today it’s an almost impossible role to fulfill.
“I had nine wonderful experiences for me, some better than the others,” he said. “But most of them were really wonderful experiences, to host a show and be funny and keep the audience awake, both at home and in the audience. It’s a tough gig, because when I first started, there were three critics — that, if you cared about critics, there were three that you paid attention to — which was Tom Shales in The Washington Post, Janet Maslin in The New York Times, and Howard Rosenberg in The LA Times. They were all top notch. Now there’s 2 billion critics, and they press ‘send’ right away. It’s a whole different scrutiny on the job, which makes a lot of people not want to do it. I wish them luck.”
He remains curious about the reception for this year’s show. “I hope it’s a really good show, and I hope people watch,” he said. “Award shows during this time, do they really mean something now? It’s been such a hard year, but the Oscars are special. And I sincerely hope that they have a great show.”
The star also praised this year’s mostly virtual Emmy Awards, hosted by Kimmel. “I thought the Emmys were terrific,” Crystal said. “I thought that they did a great job, and Jimmy Kimmel was fantastic, in an empty Staples Center. I thought they were very creative — and nobody watched. Ratings were, I think, the lowest they’ve ever been, and that’s a shame, because hard work and entertainment, especially during this year, was so crucial to keeping us sane.”
Winners for the 93rd Academy Awards will be announced Sunday, April 25. The ceremony will air on ABC at 8PM ET, and you can read more about how the show will unfold right here.