LOS ANGELES â€” Of all the scenarios the Oscars could have drawn up, the one itâ€™s currently in â€” losing a producer and, possibly, a host 15 weeks before the show â€” has to be near the bottom of the list, just ahead of the Kodak Theatre roof caving in.
So with Brett Ratnerâ€™s resignation from the gig because of a gay slur (he noted in a post-screening question-and-answer session that â€œrehearsal is for fagsâ€), where does the academy of motion picture arts and sciences go?
To make matters trickier, host Eddie Murphyâ€™s status remains a question mark. He could remain on board, though Ratner, who collaborated with the actor on â€œTower Heist,â€ was a big reason Murphy was involved in the first place. (Don Mischer, the live-event veteran who was producing with Ratner, is staying, but it would be highly unusual not to pair him with a veteran filmmaker.)
The question is one of philosophy as much as personality. The academy brought on Ratner to shake things up. â€œâ€˜You love comedy.
You love to laugh, and we want to bring entertainment value and comedy to this show,â€™â€ is what the academyâ€™s Tom Sherak told Ratner when he was coming aboard, according to the director. But shaking up is not what any group normally does after a scandal like this, let alone a conservative group like the academy.
But wait â€” they canâ€™t retreat too far. New academy chief Dawn Hudson has a mandate, and an intention, to spiff up the telecast.
And thereâ€™s the ever-growing pressure to boost the ratings, which have been sag-sag-saggy in recent years. Conservative wonâ€™t fly.
Back in the day, this might have been about the time that someone in the academyâ€™s offices said to ring Gil Cates, the veteran producer who captained 14 telecasts. Cates, sadly, died last week.
If Murphy does bow out, there are options. Billy Crystal, always a sentimental favorite, has said heâ€™s available. And if ever there was a time to call on Neil Patrick Harris, a host the academy has shied away from, this is it. As Tony and Emmy viewers know, heâ€™s the most capable award-show host whoâ€™s never been offered the Oscar gig.
As for producers, wags and pundits were tossing out names as events unfolded Tuesday: Ryan Murphy, Brian Grazer (whoâ€™s worked with Eddie Murphy frequently), Laurence Mark, Mark Burnett, Judd Apatow (hey, if itâ€™s comedy they want â€¦)
But thereâ€™s a bigger question mark: Whoâ€™s to say that these people, or any others, would want the job? Producing the Oscars is hard work, oft-scrutinized, rarely praised. And youâ€™d be coming in after a scandal, and with just a few months to prepare.
In that regard, at least, Ratner may be right: There wonâ€™t be a lot of time for rehearsal.