Academy Awards producers Mike De Luca and Jennifer Todd reveal how they convinced Jimmy Kimmel to host the show
Oscar producers Mike de Luca and Jennifer Todd aren’t above the occasional beg or bribe to ensure Hollywood’s biggest night stays that way.
This is the first time producing the Academy Awards for the veteran production execs, and both were determined to find the perfect host to kick off their maiden voyage into live TV.
“We were looking for someone in that Johnny Carson, Bob Hope mold,” De Luca tells PEOPLE. “A true master of ceremonies, someone who could riff as the evening went on.”
With those qualifications in mind, De Luca says Jimmy Kimmel “fit the bill for exactly what we were looking for.”
But the talk-show host, who recently MC’d the Emmys, needed a little convincing. Positive he was the man for the job, De Luca and Todd decided to make a house call.
“Yeah, we went over to his house and groveled — and we brought him cannolis,” Todd admitted with a laugh. “We pitched him on the show, and he asked us, ‘Why would you guys want to do this?’ And we explained to him exactly our vision of wanting to do a show that’s really earnest, really fun and inspiring.”
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De Luca, who produced critically acclaimed films like American History X and Moneyball, and Todd, who produced hits like Austin Powers and Alice in Wonderland, are both huge film buffs, and their love of cinema helped sway Kimmel to the gig.
“We like the nostalgia for movies, and we like it to feel more movie-centric. Sometimes we thought it felt more like the Tonys than the Oscars, so we made a conscious choice not to have any musical acts that weren’t nominated songs,” says Todd of her vision for the show.
That was surely music to Kimmel’s ears, who previously told PEOPLE of his desire NOT to sing and dance. “Unless someone brings a gun out and forces me to sing and dance like Yosemite Sam,” Kimmel said, I probably won’t.”
Instead of relying on big musical numbers, she says, “We will lean-in to clips and ideas around loving film and films for everybody. There are a lot of award shows but we think of the Oscars as the grand dame, it’s the one you dream of winning as a young person growing up and I think it really is the most meaningful.”
Kimmel later called the producers’ enthusiasm for the show “infectious,” and credited their visit with cementing his decision. “We’re glad that he gives us credit for winning him over,” added Todd. “We weren’t going to leave until he said yes, so maybe that’s what did it.”
The Academy Awards kicks off live on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 26, with a 7 p.m. ET pre-show and 8:30 p.m. ceremony. See all the Oscar nominees and get your own ballot here!