Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd are close to a deal to produce the 89th annual Academy Awards telecast, Variety has learned.
With the holidays looming, the Motion Picture Academy has been under increasing pressure to settle on a producer for the upcoming awards show, which is scheduled for Feb. 26. The longest the Academy had previously gone in recent years before naming a producer was in 2009, when Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic were announced on Oct. 21.
The Academy declined to comment.
The absence of a producer has prevented work from beginning on the show and has also held up the search for a host. Having just this summer closed a deal that keeps the Oscars on ABC through 2028, Disney/ABC Television Group chief Ben Sherwood has advocated publicly for the broadcaster’s late-night star Jimmy Kimmel to host the show. Although Kimmel is coming off a well-reviewed turn in September as host of the Primetime Emmy Awards, the Academy has in the past been reluctant to hand the show over to the comic.
Sherwood has previously claimed that the renewed deal gives ABC greater creative input into the show. But the slow movement on finding a producer has become an increasing source of irritation inside the broadcast network, according to sources. From 2012 to 2014, the production enjoyed stability thanks to an agreement that kept Craig Zadan and Neil Meron in place as producers for that span. Producers Reginald Hudlin and David Hill were brought together by Academy bosses Dawn Hudson and Cheryl Boone Isaacs for this year’s awards. That show came together against the backdrop of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, which saw an outcry on social media over the lack of any people of color among any of the acting nominees.
De Luca and Todd currently serve as co-chairs of the PGA Awards — and De Luca had previously told The New York Times that the PGA commitment would keep him and Todd from boarding the Oscars telecast if they were asked to do so. De Luca is a colorful film biz veteran whose recent hits include “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Captain Phillips.” He was a top exec at New Line Cinema and DreamWorks before shifting into producing. From late 2013 through early 2015, he was president of production for Sony Pictures before moving on to a producer deal at “Fifty Shades” studio Universal.
Todd is a film and TV vet who worked closely with De Luca during the New Line Cinema days on such pics as the “Austin Powers” franchise. Todd and her sister, Suzanne Todd, ran the Team Todd production banner. More recently Jennifer Todd has been a producer on “Alice in Wonderland” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” She’s also an exec producer on the new Syfy drama “Incorporated.”