When Eddie Murphy was announced as the host of the Academy Awards in early September, we were equally excited and concerned. Sure, he's a brilliant comedic talent, but ... well, when was the last time he showed that genius? "Dreamgirls," sure. "Bowfinger," absolutely. The "Shrek" films? OK, fine, whatever. What seemed so promising about him in the gig is that none of us knew what we'd get in a Murphy-hosted Oscars ... and that's also what gave it the potential to be a complete disaster. But what we couldn't have expected -- and what we definitely didn't want -- was for it never to happen at all. But that's the situation we now find ourselves in. The morning after Brett Ratner stepped aside as Oscar producer, Murphy is exiting, too.
The Academy didn't beat around the bush in their statement:
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak announced that Eddie Murphy has withdrawn as host of the 84th Academy Awards.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.
So, that's that. Pretty dry and to-the-point -- but nowhere near as depressing as Murphy's statement:
"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."
It feels like it was written by 1,000 PR flacks making sure they got every word exactly right. In other words, it doesn't have any of the wit or sparkle that would have made Murphy such a potentially great host.
The question now, of course, is who that new host is going to be. (We imagine that Billy Crystal's been sitting by the phone since the Ratner scandal first broke. The people want their Oscar champion!) But while that rampant speculation will start immediately -- and rumored Ratner replacement Brian Grazer will have a lot to say about who gets the job -- we'd like to spend a moment mourning what could have been.
There is absolutely no guarantee Murphy would have killed as Oscar host. But at least we were intrigued by what that sort of show might look and sound like. It was a chance for the Academy Awards to have a live-wire edginess they hadn't possessed since Chris Rock hosted in 2005. Plus, there was always the (unlikely) possibility that Murphy wouldn't show up at all -- a fact Murphy joked about just a few weeks ago -- which threw in extra levels of unpredictability and excitement surrounding the event.
But now ... well, you can forget all that. Whoever takes over the 2012 Oscars, the chances are good that safe, safe, safe will be the marching orders. Which means boring. As safe and boring as Murphy's statement. But from the minute that Ratner stepped down, you could see the writing on the wall. Ratner had picked Murphy for the Oscar gig after working with him on "Tower Heist." It was seen as Ratner's way of restoring some of Murphy's lost luster after so many bad movies. Murphy got the job thanks to Ratner. And now thanks to Ratner, he lost it.
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Eddie Murphy Exits as Host of 84th Academy Awards [The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences]