Hart failure: angst as Oscars show forced to go on without host
Awards show threatens to be a leaden affair after departure of Kevin Hart leaves organisers with no compère
It should, in theory, be one of the most exciting days in Hollywood. On Tuesday, the nominations for the Oscars will be announced, and the flutter of anticipation will explode, for nominees, into a fully fledged frenzy. And yet for the producers of the ceremony, to be held on February 24, the approaching awards show is cause this year for consternation rather than celebration.
It now looks likely that there will be no host for the star-studded gala – a bizarre state of affairs caused by the unearthing of homophobic tweets from comedian Kevin Hart, forcing him to step down days after he was appointed.
Despite an energetic campaign from comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, Hart’s friend, who admitted she rang the academy to plead for his reinstatement, the backlash from Hart’s apology – deemed to have been insufficient and grudgingly issued under sufferance – has proved too strong. Instead of a host, this year a series of stars will introduce the various categories and presenters – something that has only happened once before, 30 years ago.
With no one to attempt to riff off Donald Trump’s government shutdown or crack jokes at the expense of Brexit Britain, it may help the producers with their goal of shortening the ceremony to under three hours. But it may also make for a leaden night.
Such is the Oscars producers’ desperation to secure megastars for their show, they have reportedly been pressuring agents to prevent their clients presenting awards at any other show this year – a tactic derided as “graceless” intimidation by the Screen Actors Guild, the US’s largest actors union.
Then there is the ratings concern, causing sleepless nights for Donna Gigliotti, the producer who was handed the reins this year with a mission to make the show shorter, snappier and more relevant. Gigliotti, who won an Oscar as a producer of Shakespeare in Love and was nominated for producing The Reader, Silver Linings Playbook and Hidden Figures, is having to turn all her talent to reversing the downward spiral.
The 2018 show drew record low ratings; the all-time high of 55 million viewers in 1998 plunged to a mere 26.5 million. Certainly there is a correlation between the ratings and the total box office of the nominees; 1998 was the year that Titanic swept the board, and Robin Williams’s turn in Good Will Hunting delighted film goers. The nominees in 2018, by contrast, failed to catch fire. To combat that, in August the academy announced “a new category designed around achievement in popular film”. But the outcry was immediate and, with accusations of dumbing down, it was swiftly scrapped.
Gigliotti and her team are bravely soldiering on, though, and are rumoured to be calling on superheroes to ride to their rescue. The Hollywood Reporter said the organisers are hoping to bring together an all-star Avengers gathering – going one better than 2013, when Robert Downey jnr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L Jackson all showed up together.
Black Panther, now the third-highest grossing film in American history, is one to watch for on Tuesday, as is Crazy Rich Asians – both films bringing a much-needed dose of diversity. Green Book, Roma and Bohemian Rhapsody are also hotly tipped. Lady Gaga is expected to be nominated for her role in A Star is Born. British hopes lie with Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz for The Favourite; Christian Bale for Vice; Emily Blunt for Mary Poppins Returns and Claire Foy for First Man.
– © The Sunday Telegraph