Oscar Producers on Chris Rock: ‘We’re Absolutely Stoked’

Oscarcast producers David Hill and Reginald Hudlin on Wednesday enthused about host Chris Rock, with Hill saying he’s one of a handful of people who could do the job: “We’re absolutely stoked.”

On Wednesday morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences confirmed Variety’s Tuesday story that Rock will host the 88th Academy Awards on Feb. 28 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Rock hosted the 2005 ceremony, which included one of Oscar’s most memorable bits. In a taped segment, he interviewed audience members in the lobby of the Magic Johnson multiplex in L.A. about the best-picture nominees; the interviewees were clearly uninterested in the contenders, offering their own suggestions for the year’s best, such as “Saw.” Asked if Rock will contribute such moments, Hill deadpanned, “We don’t have time. We’re already 11 minutes over! And it’s gonna be 20 minutes by the end of this conversation.”

Hudlin said “We’re still very much in the process of putting the show together, but yes, we expect the kind of innovative thinking that led to segments like that. Chris is our partner here.”

Hill, a longtime vet of live TV, said, “He’s a performer, actor, writer, producer, director and documentarian, who also happens to be one of only seven or eight people in the world who can do the job — and also happens to be one of the world’s funniest comedians. If you go back to 77th Oscars, it’s clear he loves the industry and the people in it — that shone through. And the fact he has an acerbic eye is just a plus.”

The host and his/her material are always a juggling act. At the 87th Academy Awards in February, many TV viewers were mystified by many of Neil Patrick Harris’s jokes about films they hadn’t seen, such as a “Birdman” spoof. An Oscar host has to balance the fact that he/she is playing to an industry audience at the Dolby Theatre, but that inside-baseball jokes will go over the heads of most at-home audiences.

Hill said, “With Chris, you don’t have to worry. He has a great inner barometer of what’s funny and what’s not.” Hudlin added that Rock always takes the point of view “of a normal person. That’s the power of his humor, he’s grounded in everyday reality. That sense of perspective is part of what makes him so great.”

Hill concluded, “There’s a hell of a lot of work to do. We won’t really know the shape of the show until the nominations come out Jan. 14. So we’re lighting candles every night and get on our knees by our little beds and hope we get a good crop of movies nominated. Pray for us!”

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