Duo to co-host 82nd Academy Awards

The Oscars keep multiplying.

After the Academy increased its best picture category to 10 films and tapped a pair of producers, it announced that there will be two hosts for the 82nd annual Academy Awards — Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin — the first time the show has had multiple hosts since the 1987 ceremonies.

Almost immediately after Tuesday’s announcement, insiders began speculating that Tina Fey — who presented with Martin at the most recent Oscarcast and co-stars with Baldwin on “30 Rock” — will join the team as one of its key writers. The show will air live March 7 on ABC.

Martin and Baldwin are familiar to both TV and film audiences, and both have been a presence at past Oscars.

Martin hosted the show in 2001 and 2003. Baldwin has been a presenter, and proved a lively performer on “Saturday Night Live,” hosting that show more than anyone else during its run. He was considered to be on Shankman and Mechanic’s shortlist after winning raves for hosting Elle’s Women in Hollywood event just weeks ago (Daily Variety, Oct. 21).

Baldwin also was nominated for an Oscar in 2003 for his supporting role in “The Cooler.”

He and Martin also co-star in Nancy Meyers’ comedy “It’s Complicated,” which Universal will distrib on Christmas Day. The rollout of that pic should help put a spotlight on Oscar’s new hosts, similar to the cross-promotion last year when Fox’s “Australia” fed into the PR machine for host Hugh Jackman.

Martin is currently touring with the bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers in support of his latest album, “The Crow: New Songs for the Five String Banjo.”

“I don’t play the banjo but I’m thrilled to be hosting the Oscars — it’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” Baldwin said.

The comedic duo replace last year’s host Jackman, who helped the show enjoy a rare ratings boost.

The decision to find a replacement for the hosting gig fell in the hands of Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic, who took over producing duties of the show this year from Bill Condon and Laurence Mark.

“We think the team of Steve and Alec are the perfect pair of hosts for the Oscars,” said Shankman, who directed Martin in the comedy “Bringing Down the House,” and Mechanic in a statement. “Steve will bring the experience of having hosted the show in the past and Alec will be a completely fresh personality for this event.”

When Martin took the stage for the 73rd installment of the show, he quipped, “Hosting the Oscars is like making love to a beautiful woman — it’s something I only get to do when Billy Crystal’s out of town.”

He generally got thumbs-up from critics, but not necessarily TV audiences. The show in 2001, during which “Gladiator” won the top prize, lost millions of viewers for the first time in four years. Even more of its audience fled in 2005, making the show the least watched and lowest rated telecast since auds were measured in 1974, until the 80th ceremony established a new low point in 2008.

Oscar had a string of multiple hosts in the 1970s and ’80s, with sometimes four or five people sharing the chores. The 1987 telecast was fronted by Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Paul Hogan.

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