Brett Ratner and Don Mischer to Produce Oscars Telecast

4:52 PM PST 08/04/2011 by Gregg Kilday
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Brett Ratner

Comedy will be "a big part" of the Feb. 26 broadcast, Ratner says

Brett Ratner and Don Mischer will produce the 84th Academy Awards telecast,
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak announced
Thursday.

Ratner, a surprise choice who has directed such movies as the Rush Hour series and X-Men: The Last Stand, said that he suspected one reason that Sherak and the Academy's new CEO Dawn Hudson turned to him is his love of comedy. "To their credit, Tom and Dawn really understand what is needed, and comedy is a big part of it and I want to make that part of it," Ratner said.

While the Oscar show assignment usually goes to a more experienced Hollywood hand, Ratner is just 42, but he's long had a fascination with Old Hollywood lore -- he lives in Beverly Hills in a home known as Hilhaven Lodge, which once belonged to Ingrid Bergman, and he has palled around with Robert Evans -- and his sense of Hollywood history is something he could well draw upon in wrestling the Oscar show into shape.

Before he accepted the challenge, though, he also me with Mischer, who produced this past February's broadcast with Bruce Cohen, and Ratner said that gave him the confidence to say yes because, "the guy is just a pro." Speaking on a call with Ratner, Mischer, who will also direct the live broadcast, added of his new producing partner, "His enthusiasm was just overwhelming. We met for what was to be one-half hour and it turned into two-and-one-half hours as we talked approaches and ideas."

Their first order of business will be deciding on a host, but both men insisted they haven't zeroed in on a choice. "We haven't discussed hosts yet," Mischer said. "It's wide open."

When Sherak and Hudson first began discussing potential candidates to produce the show, it was Hudson who suggested calling in Ratner. "We just had an instinct that he would have a fresh point of view for the show. He's young, he's enthusiastic, and mostly he comes with a deep, deep love of movies," Hudson said of her intuition. "Brett is such a renowned cinephile, and such a student of this industry and of the Oscar shows. He knows the ins and outs of the shows from the beginning of time. He has a very broad sense of entertainment, a great sense of comedy, and he's a showman." Plus, she added, "He has great talent relationships," which is always useful in lining up a host and presenters.

Sherak said he sparked to the idea immediately, and so he called Ratner in for a meeting a couple of weeks ago without telling him what was on the agenda. "But we started talking with him, and before we knew it, it was three hours later," Sherak said. 

Sherak also set up a meeting between Ratner and Mischer. "Don gives us continunity," said Sherak of Mischer, who has been nominated for an Emmy for his work on this year's Oscars. "We wanted Brett and Don to like each other, and they fell in love with each other."

One concern that Ratner had was how the Oscar job would fit into his existing schedule. He's currently finishing post-production on the comedy Tower Heist,  starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, which Universal releases Nov. 4. And he's developing a couple of projects: 39 Clues for DreamWorks and Hercules: The Thracian Wars for MGM, while also producing Relativity's Snow White.

Mischer assured him that it was "absolutely doable. We have a lot of support and systems in place, having done it last year. So I'm not worried about Brett's schedule at all." Said Ratner, "I'm finishing a movie in a few weeks, then I'll do press and there will be a premiere I can't miss. Then I'm working on two movies that are in early, early pre-production. I foresee the day when I wrap [the Oscar show], and then I'm immediately shuttled off to a location to start pre-production on one of them."

Before making a decision, though, Ratner first took a vacation, during which he reviewed a lot of past Oscar shows. Then, Wednesday night, he emailed Sherak -- who had been re-elected for a third term as Academy president the previous day -- and requested a meeting Thursday at which he accepted the assignment.

As a student of the Oscars, Ratner knows the risks he faces for he now shares a further link with the late producer Allan Carr, who also once lived in Hillhaven. Carr produced the 61st Academy Awards in 1989, and that show drew a firestorm of criticism, much of it directed at its kitschy, overlong production numbers. But Ratner doesn't consider that an omen. "Look, Allan was a showman in his way, and it was a very different time," he said. "And by the way, he did some good things too. He had some good ideas. It was on that show that they changed the line 'and the winner is' to 'and the Oscar goes to'."

Next year's awards show will be broadcast live by ABC on Feb. 26 from the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood.

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