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Kevin Hart Addresses Oscars Controversy in Exclusive Interview: ‘Would I Ever Do It Again? No, I’m Done’

Kevin Hart insisted he would not host the Oscars in an exclusive interview with Variety just hours before the comedian seemed to reopen the door to emcee the telecast during an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show “The Ellen Degeneres Show.”

“Would I ever do it? No, it’s done. It’s done,” Hart said. “The moment came and it was a blessing and I was excited at the opportunity and I still am. In my mind I got the job, it was a dream job, and things came up that simply prohibited it from happening. But I don’t believe in going backwards.”

Later that day, Hart’s stance appeared to soften. In a conversation with DeGeneres, Hart revealed he was reconsidering his decision last month to step down as host after controversy erupted over the comic’s past homophobic tweets and jokes. He had a sympathetic ear in DeGeneres. The talk show icon — a two-time Oscars host herself — revealed she had called the Motion Picture Academy to lobby for Hart’s return to the post.

It’s been an eventful month for Hart. The comedian has a new film on the way and is fresh off a stand-up tour in Australia that broke records, but those haven’t been the headlines for him. When the 39-year-old star of “The Upside” was tapped to host the 91st Oscars last month, his hire prompted fierce backlash from the LGBTQ community. After first refusing to apologize for the material, he eventually did so while stepping down from the position. Hart was emphatic with Variety‘s “Playback” podcast that the door to the Oscars was closed.

“When I go on that stage, it will be because I’ve somehow figured out a way to win the Oscar,” Hart said. “Somehow I’ll get to the stage but it’s not going to be in this way because it just comes with such a weird cloud at this point.”

He added, “There’s no ill will toward the Academy.”

During the 40-minute “Playback” conversation, Hart was still rather defiant in the face of the ongoing criticism, much as he was in a pair of Instagram videos he recorded while in Australia during the initial dust-up. He blasted internet “trolls” for digging into the past and refusing to accept that he’s changed and grown as a person since delivering some of that material, which he admitted was immature and part and parcel of a smaller world view than the one he has today.

“You’re living in times where words and points of view can be misconstrued because of how strong the internet is,” Hart said. “The manipulation of headlines is what was amazing when this whole thing hit. It was, ‘Kevin Hart steps down because he refuses to apologize for homophobic tweets.’ This was what was said and it was blasted all over the internet, and the word ‘again’ somehow got lost, which was a major word. I’ve addressed this several times.”

As on DeGeneres’ show, Hart maintained that he had not only addressed these missteps in the past (such as breaking down one particular joke from his 2010 “Seriously Funny” special in a 2015 Rolling Stone interview), but that he had also apologized. However, many have searched in vain for that previous mea culpa.

“It’s easy not to find the good,” Hart said when asked where the elusive apology is. “When me and Will Ferrell did ‘Get Hard,’ and we did the promo tour, that’s when Kevin Hart was hit with so much stuff … I remember the span in 2011 when this came up, and I had to say to a person in the LGBTQ community, ‘Hey, I understand. And you know what? I’m wrong. But I can’t do nothing about that joke because it was done. I can’t do nothing about the tweets because they’re out there. I was wrong. It’ll never happen again and I’m sorry. Please accept my apology.’ So when people say, ‘Yo, I can’t find it,’ well, go ask the individual who dug up the stuff from 2009 to go do the same. I can’t put that energy into something that’s in my past. I can’t put that energy into negativity.”

Ultimately Hart confessed that the Academy’s ultimatum — apologize or the organization would need to find another host — rubbed him the wrong way and put him on the defensive. He also noted how much comedy has come under a microscope in recent years. Just last week, for example, comedian Louis C.K. found himself under fire for tasteless jokes about trans individuals and survivors of the Parkland, Fl. school shooting.

“Comedians are some of the biggest risk-takers,” Hart said. “Comedians are the people that are going to say what you think but never say. It’s our job to put humor in the world. That job can be done distastefully. It can be tacky. Someone’s approach to that job can be a little edgy and rub people wrong. But that’s where the art of comedy comes in and that’s where the individual that’s performing said jokes has to maneuver the way they feel is best for them. Where I was at that point — an immature comic. It’s 2008, 2009, I’m figuring it out. I’m just now getting there … Within a 10-year span of my career you don’t see any blemishes. You don’t see any signs of me going back to that young comedian that I was then that was looking for an ignorant laugh.”

Whether Hart will indeed return to the fold as the 91st Oscars host is still to be seen. He told DeGeneres that she had given him some things to think about, and the applause from the studio audience no doubt gave him a sense of security about the prospect that he didn’t have while appearing on “Playback.” But he did take the opportunity during the Variety interview to apologize once more for his past words.

“I stepped down because I’m not going to allow this to tarnish an amazing night for the other actors and actresses that are going to be on stage that night,” Hart said. “It shouldn’t be about Kevin Hart and his tweets of old. And I’ll state it again, to anybody I’ve hurt, I’m sorry.”

Listen to the full episode of “Playback” below.

Kevin Hart photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback Podcast.
Dan Doperalski for Variety
Kevin Hart photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback Podcast.
Dan Doperalski for Variety

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