Can Hugh Jackman revive Oscars?

Producers planning on new-look telecast

The signing of Hugh Jackman as host of the 81st Oscarcast is a signal that “we are trying to turn a corner and to give the evening more of a nightclub-party feel — which it once had,” said the show’s producer Laurence Mark.

Mark told Daily Variety that they wanted someone other than a standup performer. “Since it’s a celebration of movies, we felt it was important to have someone who’s a movie star.” He added that since the show takes place in the Kodak and is watched by millions of TV viewers and film fans, “We were very lucky to get Hugh, who can hold a screen and can hold a stage.”

Oscarcast exec producer Bill Condon said Jackman will be in town this week to discuss ideas for the show. A standup monologue at the start of the show is unlikely, but “Hugh will entertain the audience throughout the show,” Condon said. Jackman’s goal, as theirs, is “to keep the show hot throughout, to make it communal and great fun.”

When Condon and Mark were announced for their Oscar duties, they said the goal was to keep the show brisk and fast-moving. That will be a challenge, since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences board always insists that all two dozen awards be presented on the air.

Jackman, who was in Berlin tub-thumping for “Australia” on Friday when the Acad announced his new duties, no doubt will get a few plugs in for “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” which bows May 1.

With Condon and Mark producing, some have assumed the Oscarcast will have a more musical slant and the choice of Jackman, at first glance, would seem to back that up: He won a 2004 Tony for his performance in the tuner “The Boy From Oz” and won a 2005 Emmy for his duties as Tony host, in which he sang and danced.

But the show’s honchos reiterated that this isn’t necessarily the case. On Friday, Condon reiterated, “I wouldn’t assume the show will be more musical.”

Mark added, “The good news is that if one wants a musical number on the show, Hugh gives a good reason for one. But if there are musical numbers, there has to be a good reason for their being on the show and they should be numbers we are all excited about.”

Jackman has previously been an Oscar presenter. In a statement, he said, “I am very grateful to the Academy for giving me this opportunity. And, excited to be working with Larry and Bill on what I know will be a fun and memorable celebration.”

Academy Awards will be presented Feb. 22 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood and will be televised live by ABC in the U.S. and in more than 200 countries worldwide.

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