Oscars: David Hill, Reginald Hudlin Not Returning as Producers (Exclusive)

The two met with Academy officials, but have not been asked to return.
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Reginald Hudlin (left) and David Hill

Scratch two familiar names off the list of possible Oscar producers.

While the top leaders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have met in recent weeks with a number of producers about the 89th Academy Awards, the organization has yet to announce either a producer or host for the show, which is scheduled to be broadcast by ABC on Feb. 26 — and the clock is ticking.

David Hill and Reginald Hudlin, who produced the 88th Oscars on Feb. 28, are among those who have met with Academy officials. Their meeting took place several months ago, and there have been no follow-up conversations since, according to sources close to the situation. At the moment, both Hill and Hudlin have turned their attention to other projects.

Hill and Hudlin declined to comment.

The Academy appears to be casting a wide net in its search for their replacements.

Jeff Margolis, another producer experienced in producing live awards shows, also was called in to meet with the organization, but he, too, has not heard back. Margolis directed a series of Oscar shows between 1989 and 1994 and more recently produced and directed several installments of the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the last of which was in 2014.

The fact that the Academy has not yet named either a producer or a host for the 89th Oscars by Nov. 1 is believed to be unprecedented. (Typically, the Academy chooses a producer or producing team, who then in turn select the host.) "It’s insane," says someone who has been a part of the selection process in the past. "That means they’ve been turned down by dozens of people. The only reason I can think of for that is that no one wants the grief of #OscarSoWhite, although that didn’t fall on the producers of the last show anyway.”

The Academy declined to comment.

The partnership of Hill, a TV sportcasting vet, and Hudlin, an Oscar-nominated producer, was an arranged marriage of sorts championed by Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and president Cheryl Boone Isaacs. The resulting telecast, which came in the midst of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, attracted a slight increase in viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, but had the lowest total viewership in eight years. ABC, which was skeptical about the selection of Hill and Hudlin to begin with, was less than pleased with those results.

Hill, an Aussie described by many as a larger-than-life character, spent nearly three decades working for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation before resigning in June 2015 — right around the time Murdoch's sons assumed power and many senior employees were being shuffled into new roles. He then formed a production company called "Hilly," his nickname.

Hill made his name by launching Britain's Sky Television and then its offshoot subscription channel Sky Sports, which led the self-professed non-sports fan to the job of chairman and CEO of the Fox Sports Media Group. There, he ushered in technological innovations like the NFL first down graphic line, which markedly enhanced the viewing experience. "Loud graphics and sizzle and pop were hallmarks of Hill," the Los Angeles Times wrote. He won an outstanding live sports special Emmy as executive producer of the 2011 World Series. He later became senior exec vp of 21st Century Fox (overseeing, among other things, digital initiatives) and also as an exec producer on the last two seasons of American Idol.

Hudlin became only the fourth black producer ever to receive a best picture Oscar nomination when Django Unchained was nominated in 2013. In March, Boone Isaacs appointed him to the Academy's board of governors. He also is a member of the DGA, WGA and SAG — a rare hat-trick — who has directed major films (1992's Boomerang grossed $131 million worldwide) and hit TV shows (The Office and Modern Family) and thrived as a top-level exec (he was the first president of entertainment for BET Networks).

As for award shows, Hudlin has served as executive producer of the NAACP Image Awards since 2012, and in November 2014 he produced the Academy's non-televised Governors Awards, an opportunity that arose after he produced The Academy Celebrates The Black Movie Soundtrack, a star-studded, one-night-only musical tribute at the Hollywood Bowl, earlier in the year.

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