Eddie Murphy has withdrawn as host of the Oscar ceremony, the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences announced on Wednesday.
The decision came a day after his friend Brett Ratner resigned as producer of the telecast in the wake of his making offensive public remarks that upset AMPAS members.
In a statement Murphy said, "I completely understand and support each party's decision with regard to a change of producers for this year's Academy Awards ceremony. I was truly looking forward to being a part of the show that our production team and writers were just starting to develop, but I'm sure that the new production team and host will do an equally great job."
Because Murphy had accepted the hosting gig at the invitation of Ratner, many Oscar-watchers (including this one) speculated that Ratner's resignation might lead to this outcome.The two have just collaborated on the comedy caper, "Tower Heist."
Murphy already had a stormy history with the Oscars. He appeared on the show several times, most recently when he presented Jerry Lewis with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 2009, but is famously known for making an early exit from the Kodak Theater in 2006 after losing to Alan Arkin in the Best Supporting Actor category.
That nomination, for "Dreamgirls," was the only one of Murphy's career.
Murphy was reported to be upset at Ratner's departure, but most Academy members contacted after the producer's departure speculated that Murphy would wait before deciding whether to exit.
"He needs to stay on and work with the new producer, or it'll look like he's supporting the stuff that Brett said," said one member of the public relations branch on Tuesday afternoon. "He won't look good if he leaves now."
Murphy, though, recently told Rolling Stone that he considers himself "a semi-retired gentleman of leisure," and said, "I only want to do what I really want to do, otherwise I'm content to sit here and play my guitar all day."
Early in his career, Murphy dealt with his own charges of homophobia, and apologized for joking about AIDS and using derogatory language to refer to gays.
Murphy's exit leaves the Academy with two big holes to fill in the upcoming show: a producer to work alongside Don Mischer, and a host to replace Murphy.
While the producers are virtually always in place by this time of year, it is common for the Oscars not to have a host at this point in the calendar.
Of the last three Oscar hosts, or host teams, only the Steve Martin/Alec Baldwin pairing at the 2009 Oscars was announced in early November. Last year's hosts, James Franco and Anne Hathaway, weren't in place until November 29, while 2008 host Hugh Jackman wasn't announced until mid December.
In the past, hosts have been announced as late as early January.
The AMPAS press release:
Eddie Murphy Exits as Host of 84th Academy Awards®
Beverly Hills, CA – Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak announced that Eddie Murphy has withdrawn as host of the 84th Academy Awards. "I appreciate how Eddie feels about losing his creative partner, Brett Ratner, and we all wish him well," said Sherak.
Commented Murphy, "First and foremost I want to say that I completely understand and support each party's decision with regard to a change of producers for this year's Academy Awards ceremony. I was truly looking forward to being a part of the show that our production team and writers were just starting to develop, but I'm sure that the new production team and host will do an equally great job."
Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2011 will be presented on Sunday, February 26, 2012, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar® presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.