DeGeneres accepts nod to host Oscars

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When the curtain goes up on the 79th Annual Academy Awards on Feb. 25, Ellen DeGeneres will be attending her first Oscar show ? but instead of swanning about as a presenter or sweating it out as a nominee, she'll inaugurate the proceedings as the evening's host.

Laura Ziskin, who is producing this year's ceremonies, said Thursday that she offered the gig to DeGeneres, who quickly accepted.

"When Laura Ziskin called, I was thrilled," DeGeneres said. "There's two things I've always wanted to do in my life: One is to host the Oscars. The second is to get a call from Laura Ziskin. You can imagine that day's diary entry."

DeGeneres isn't an awards show novice.

"I've always wanted to host the show, ever since I hosted the Emmys," DeGeneres added. "Obviously, it's a huge honor, although it's not always a great situation. If you do well, they don't talk about it, and if you don't do well, you're torn apart. But I like the challenge, and I'd like to put my stamp on it. In fact, I'm thinking of stretching it out even longer to two nights like 'Rock Star: Supernova.' "

The comedian and syndicated talk show host co-hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards in 1994 and then served as solo Emmy emcee in 2001 and '05. Her 2001 appearance, which took place in the wake of Sept. 11 and earned DeGeneres kudos for her expert handling of the difficult time, particularly impressed Ziskin, who at the time was preparing to produce her first Oscar show. Louis Horvitz, who was directing both shows, invited Zuskin to watch the Emmys from his control booth, where she was able to observe DeGeneres up close and in action.

"That was the brilliant show Ellen did," said Zuskin, who now is producing her second Oscar show. "I always thought that if I ever produced the Oscars again, and I wasn't sure I would, she'd be at the top of the list. She is a spectacular host ? she does that now on a daily basis ? and also a crackerjack entertainer. And you're always happy to see her ? hopefully, viewers will be just as happy to see her two and three hours into the show."

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Sid Ganis agreed with Zuskin's choice, saying of DeGeneres, "She just sparkles. She is such a pleasure to watch. Her wit cuts to the truth of things, but in a wonderfully warm-spirited way. I think she'll be a fantastic host for this show, and we're extremely pleased that she's agreed to do it."

DeGeneres' film r?sum? is fairly short, though she did earn her spot in movie history by providing the voice of the memory-impaired Dory in "Finding Nemo." Her other film credits include "EDTV," "The Love Letter," "Goodbye Lover," "Mr. Wrong" and "Coneheads."

She starred in the series "Ellen" for ABC and "The Ellen Show" for CBS. "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," her daily talk show syndicated by Warner Bros., this year won its third Emmy for talk show and earned DeGeneres her second Emmy for talk show host.

DeGeneres said she plans to go back and review old Oscar shows and hosts. "It's impossible to do something brand new, but at least I'll try to do something that hasn't been done in awhile." Because the broadcast comes at the end of the February sweep, she won't put her talk show on hold while she rehearses, but she said, "I'll put my attention on both equally. I think it can be done."

The 79th Oscars will be broadcast live by ABC from the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland.
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