Hugh Jackman is hosting the Oscars

Actor won an Emmy for emceeing Tonys

Coming off a record-low ratings year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Friday made an unconventional choice to host the Oscars, tapping Hugh Jackman to preside over the show.

It will be the Australian actor's first time as host of the Oscars, though he demonstrated his hosting skills -- as well as his singing and dancing chops -- when he emceed the 58th annual Tony Awards in 2004, earning an Emmy for his efforts.

Laurence Mark and Bill Condon are producing next year's telecast, which ABC will broadcast live from the Los Angeles' Kodak Theater on Feb. 22.

The pair have said they hope to boost viewership for the 81st annual Oscars by finding ways to include movies from the previous year, including blockbusters, that do no figure prominently in awards categories. The selection of a movie star like Jackman could be one step in that direction.

The Academy has in the past few decades rarely chosen a pure actor to host the ceremony, preferring instead stand-up comics or television hosts such as Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal and David Letterman. Jon Stewart hosted the event two of the past three years.

Jackman has starred in a host of films, including titles in the "X-Men" franchise, "Flushed Away" and Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige." He has also appeared onstage in "The Boy From Oz," for which he won the 2004 Tony for best actor in a musical, as well as "Carousel," "Oklahoma!" "Sunset Boulevard" and "Beauty and the Beast."

Jackman also starred in one of the fall film season's disappointments, "Australia," setting the stage for at least a few potential onstage jokes about the movie and its boxoffice performance.

Mark and Condon said in a statement that the performer was the perfect choice because he "had style, elegance and a sense of occasion." They also noted that he was a "consummate entertainer and an internationally renowned movie star."

Last year, the prospect of a writers strike hovered over the telecast, and ratings came in at the lowest in history; only about 32 million people watched the show.

In addition to starring in a youth-oriented franchise like "X-Men," Jackman was recently voted the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine, a factor that could boost viewership.
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