Oscar turmoil: Murphy’s out, Grazer in?

Actor drops out as kudos host in wake of Ratner's exit

The status of the Oscar telecast was in a state of flux Wednesday, with Eddie Murphy withdrawing as host the morning after producer Brett Ratner stepped down over his use of an anti-gay slur. AMPAS appeared to be scrambling for swift replacements, with Brian Grazer’s name emerging early as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ top producer choice, Variety confirmed.

AMPAS wouldn’t comment on the Grazer rumors after president Tom Sherak announced Wednesday morning that Murphy has withdrawn as host of the 84th Academy Awards.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.

Commented Murphy, “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.”

Murphy’s announcement ends four days of controversy that began when Ratner said “Rehearsing is for fags” at a Q&A session after a screening of his “Tower Heist” in Hollywood, followed by a sexually explicit phone interview on “The Howard Stern Show.”

It also leaves the Academy back at the starting gates for the 2012 telecast, though the org is expected to announce a new producer very soon. Traditionally, the telecast producer is responsible for lining up a host, with input from the Academy, which explains why Murphy bowed out quickly.

Whoever is named the new producer — whether Grazer or someone else — will work in tandem with veteran live-TV producer Don Mischer, who remains in place. Reps for the “J. Edgar” producer did not immediately return messages.

It’s also important to point out that the Academy’s business of handing out 24 Oscars on Feb. 27 takes up a good portion of the three-hour telecast; any host and producer is estimated to have a little less than 40 minutes of time for a monologue and introducing the presenters.

When Ratner was named producer in August, he quickly brought on Murphy as host, with whom the director worked on his latest film, “Tower Heist” — on which Grazer was also a producer.