A Host-less Oscars?! Academy Might Not Hire One in Wake of Kevin Hart Controversy Say Insiders
With 75 days to go before the 2019 Academy Awards and Kevin Hart officially out as host, the show’s producers find themselves back to square one when it comes to finding a new emcee — and according to a new report, they might not pick anyone at all.
Two insiders, including a top comedy agent speaking on the condition of anonymity, tell Variety that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences were “blindsided” by Hart’s exit and are “freaking out,” as neither they nor ABC had any contingency plan in place.
The conversation remains “fluid” but one option on the table? Scrapping an official host entirely and pulling together “a bunch of huge celebs, something SNL style, and buzzy people” to usher the show along, sources told Variety, with “a stunt like a group monologue” even being floated as a possible scenario.
Meanwhile, a source familiar with the situations tells PEOPLE, “All options are open, including going without a host or some variation of multiple hosts. There has been a lot of interest from within the industry offering up names of potential hosts. Nothing has been decided yet.”
Reps for the Academy and ABC did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, but Variety reported that the Board of Governors are scheduled to meet Tuesday evening where “the matter will inevitably be discussed.”
The Oscars have gone host-less before, though not since 1988 (when Rain Man took Best Picture).
In the past decade, comedians like Jimmy Kimmel, Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres, Billy Crystal, and Steve Martin have hosted the show, as have actors Neil Patrick Harris, Hugh Jackman, Seth MacFarlane, Anne Hathaway, James Franco, and Alec Baldwin.
Ratings have been consistently down. Last year’s ceremony dipped to a record low of 25.6 million people, Entertainment Weekly reported, a 19 percent drop from the previous year.
That’s part of the reason the Academy and ABC are worried, Variety reported. Someone too edgy, like Hart turned out to be, has allegedly left them “gun shy.” But someone too safe might not draw viewers.
Adding to the pressure to solve the problem, according to Variety‘s sources? The looming date of the Feb. 24 broadcast. Traditionally, Oscar hosts are made public months in advance — like Kimmel, who for last year’s show, was announced in May 2017.
Hart’s Oscar-hosting gig was announced on Dec. 4, the comedian calling the the job “the opportunity of a lifetime” on Instagram. But moments after news hit, people began resurfacing previous tweets Hart had written (under the hashtag #OscarsSoHomophobic) in which he used anti-gay slang, made transphobic comments and joked about the AIDS epidemic.
A clip form Hart’s 2010 comedy special Seriously Funny in which he made a homophobic joke was also sent around — Hart admitting in the video, “One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay. That’s a fear. Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic. Be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, as a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will.”
Back in 2015, Hart addressed his comments in a Rolling Stone profile, saying his words were “about my fear.“ When the Academy allegedly asked him to issue an apology this time around, he initially refused.
“So, I just got a call from the Academy and that call basically said, ‘Kevin apologize for your tweets… or we’re going to have to move on and find another host,’ ” Hart said in a video shared to his Instagram on Wednesday. “I chose to pass, I passed on the apology,. …. I’ve addressed this several times. This is not the first time this has come up. I’ve addressed it. I’ve spoken on it. I’ve said where the rights and wrongs were. I’ve said who I am now versus who I was then. I’ve done it. I’ve done it.”
“I’m not going to continue to go back and tap into the days of old, when I’ve moved on and I’m in a completely different space in my life,” he continued. “The same energy that went into finding those old tweets could be the same energy put into finding the responses to the questions that have been asked years after years. We’re feeding the internet trolls and we reward them. I’m not going to do it, man. I’m going to be me, I’m going to stand my ground.”
Eventually, the father of three did issue another apology — and stepped down from hosting the Oscars in the same statement.
“I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscar’s….this is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past,” he tweeted on Thursday.
“I’m sorry that I hurt people.. I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart,” Hart added. “Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again.”