When I hopped on the phone at different times yesterday with Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and returning Oscar show producer (with Mike De Luca) Jennifer Todd, I told them they have set a land speed record for announcing not only the producers, but also the host Jimmy Kimmel so early in the process.
Last year, news of who was going to produce didn’t come until very late – November 4 – and that Jimmy Kimmel would be host exactly one month later. Todd laughed when I said next year’s March 4 airdate is about nine and a half months away. “It’s literally like we are going to have a baby. We just found out we are pregnant and now we have all this road to go. I do hope we can talk about something other than just the Oscars in all that time,” she cracked.
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I am certain this busy producer will be doing that, but it is unusual to get this news this early. Usually ABC and the organization wait at least until an Academy President is elected in August – and we will have a new one as Cheryl Boone Isaacs is termed out after four years – but Boone Isaacs felt the team that put on this year’s successful, if star-crossed, 89th Academy Awards (including host Kimmel) should have the opportunity to do the landmark 90th edition too.
“This is a great team and they gave us such a great show. And next year is our 90th and they have come up with so many wonderful ideas already. They have already gone through the exercise so what better to do than just keep moving forward?” she said. I mentioned that in fact De Luca had told me while he was still knee deep in producing this year’s Oscars that what he really wanted to was the 90th because he already had so many ideas for it.
“Coming up on the 90th ABC and the Academy just decided, ‘Why wait?’ (to announce), ” she said and this is certainly the first time I can ever recall that a network has used the occasion of the annual May upfront presentations, not to mention the opening of Oscar’s glamour rival the Cannes Film Festival where I am writing this, to put this kind of news out there.
“I think it is very good news. As Mike has also said, and certainly said to us that they have gone through the process of doing it and were very pleased with the show, as they should be, and we and the Board were very pleased, so knowing that we have a big celebration let’s just keep rolling. It’s a marvelous milestone for any organization, and certainly for ours,” she said, and noted that the Academy’s relationship with their accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers was back on track after changes were made following the Best Picture fiasco when presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were mistakenly given the wrong envelope and Dunaway blurted out La La Land as the winner when it was actually upset champ Moonlight.
“We have certainly changed our direct relationship (with PwC) with regard to the envelopes and to our procedure,” she said. When I asked if they were going to go back and change the design of the envelopes to something more fool proof (this year was the first for a new design that was more subtle in its labeling on the envelopes) she paused but then reiterated that each year they go back and look at everything where there can be some improvement and then they will make it. PwC partner Rick Rosas, who lorded over the envelopes from 2002 to 2013 will reportedly be returning in that capacity with even new fail safe methods to make sure there is no screw up like that again, especially for the 90th Oscar show.
Todd emphasized how thrilled they are to have Kimmel back as host, especially considering the instant history he has with one of Oscar’s most notorious, if not the most notorious, moments in history. “He’s fantastic, and obviously we have a lot to work with from last year because you know anything can happen. We have a lot to work with now,” she smiled, especially when I asked if perhaps they were considering bringing back Beatty and Dunaway to have another go at presenting Best Picture (now that would be worth the price of admission if you ask me).
“I mean you can’t not think about it. I think anything is up for grabs at this point but we’ll see. Being that it is going to be a banner year we will be going to get a lot of great talent. We had a lot this year too but it’s fun to start thinking about what to do. It’s great too to start thinking in May, and not so under the gun like we were when we were driving to Jimmy Kimmel’s house (last Fall) and begging him to host. We are grateful to have the time, and I think he is too,” she laughed. “The truth is it is a job you learn so much doing the first year you do it. It will be a pleasure to go back a second time knowing what we do, and I think for Jimmy as well. It will be very fun, and we have an amazing technical team we will bring back. It’s exciting and now we just have to see what movies get there.” She’s also hoping for some great song nominees like Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling” which led to a rousing and much acclaimed opening for this year’s show.
Beatty and Dunaway’s possible return aside, I asked her how they are thinking about incorporating the entire history of Hollywood and Oscar into the show since it is going to be the milestone 90th. “Obviously you know from the show, Mike and I love the nostalgia of Hollywood and we did some things that were exciting to us last year, and have to come up with our new ideas now, but knowing it is the 90th I think it’s a real opportunity to look back on all the movies and talent of these times and kind of think ‘what can we do to service it the best’. Ultimately the Oscars have to be a big commercial for what our entire business is and keep people excited about the movies. As much as we are honoring the movies of that night we have to make sure we keep people globally excited to have to go to the movie theatre,” she said.
As for Boone Isaacs she says she has no idea who the next President of the Academy will be, the person who will preside over the 90th Oscars, and though she says she will “be always be around” she decided not to return to the Board even though she was still eligible to run again for another three year term as one of three Governors of the PR branch. Incidentally De Luca has thrown his hat in the ring as a candidate for Governor repping the Producers branch in next month’s Academy BOG election, but not Todd even though her sister Suzanne Todd is running for the same position.
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