In what could be the most challenging producing assignment ever for an Oscar show, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today tapped Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher and Steven Soderbergh to produce the 93rd Annual Academy Awards. The show is set for Sunday April 25, their latest date ever, due to delays caused by the coronavirus crisis.
This will be the first involvement in steering the Oscar show for each of them, though Soderbergh is no stranger to the event; he won the 2000 Directing Oscar for Traffic after also being nominated in the same category that year for Erin Brockovich. His numerous directing credits include sex, lies, and videotape, the Oceans trilogy, Magic Mike and his latest debuting this week, Let Them All Talk.
Sher, a veteran producer, is a two-time Best Picture Oscar nominee for Django Unchained and Erin Brockovich, the latter repping a previous professional pairing with Soderbergh, for whom she also produced Contagion and Out of Sight. She recently was nominated for an Emmy for Best Limited Series for FX’s Mrs. America and is a producer of MGM’s upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic Respect.
Collins brings impressive live awards-show experience to the Oscars as a veteran of such events as the BET Awards, Soul Train Awards, UNCF An Evening of Stars and numerous others including the 2019 Grammys, for which he received an Emmy nomination. He is going to be very busy this season also as executive producer of the upcoming Grammys and as EP of the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show, both in early 2021. He is founder and CEO of Jesse Collins Entertainment.
The first task for the producers might be in finding a host. Or not. The past two Oscar shows have gone the hostless route, with mixed results. As the September Emmys proved with Jimmy Kimmel — a two-time Oscar show host as well and the most recent to do it — a host guiding things in a pandemic world seems like a necessity. But we will have to see which direction they decide to take it all.
Despite a debunked trade report last week, the Academy has not yet announced plans for the format of the show — live, virtual or any combination thereof — and did not include any mention of those plans in today’s release. Now that it has producers in place, things can move apace. With his vast live TV experience, Collins will be of immense help in creating an Oscar show that promises to be like no other. This seems like a very smart team, if you ask me, even if producing an Oscar telecast can be a thankless task considering the microscope the media puts on it.
Although none of this trio has produced an Oscar show, clearly it is an inspired matchup with Soderbergh known for innovation as well as digital expertise in making his films not only as a director but also a prolific producer. His past association with Sher — especially with their joint experience ironically on the timely Contagion (!) — should come in handy for a show that will provide a host of known, and unknown, difficulties as it likely will follow the lead of others like the Emmys in having to come up with some sort of virtual/live hybrid depending on the pandemic situation in April.
“We’re thrilled and terrified in equal measure,” Collins, Sher and Soderbergh said in a statement. “Because of the extraordinary situation we’re all in, there’s an opportunity to focus on the movies and the people who make them in a new way, and we hope to create a show that really feels like the movies we all love.”
Said Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson in a statement: “The upcoming Oscars is the perfect occasion for innovation and for re-envisioning the possibilities for the awards show. This is a dream team who will respond directly to these times. The Academy is excited to work with them to deliver an event that reflects the worldwide love of movies and how they connect us and entertain us when we need them the most.”
Added Craig Erwich, president of ABC Entertainment and Hulu Originals: “Jesse, Stacey and Steven are the ideal storytellers to harness the uniqueness of this moment and celebrate the artists who are dedicated to telling stories that stand the test of time. By enlisting this incredibly talented team of television and film producers, I’m confident we will deliver a prestigious event that will be remembered for years to come.”
The Oscars air April 25 on ABC and will be jointly celebrated that week with the long-awaited and delayed opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on April 30.