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In what quickly is becoming a tradition, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is entrusting the Oscars to two producers, tapping Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer to guide the 83rd Annual Academy Awards.
Given the job’s ever-increasing demands, the Academy has used similar teams for the past two years, turning to Laurence Mark and Bill Condon for the 81st ceremony and Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman for the show in March.
Mischer also will direct the Oscarcast, set for Feb. 27 on ABC from the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland.
Cohen, an Oscar winner as one of the producers of 1999’s “American Beauty” and a producer of last year’s best picture nominee “Milk,” brings a wealth of Hollywood associations to the assignment.
Mischer, a proven hand at producing and directing awards shows and live events, has 15 Emmys and 10 DGA awards on his mantle. This past awards season, he picked up a DGA musical/variety award for helming “The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial.”
Together, Cohen and Mischer executive produced the Emmy-nominated “Movies Rock,” a 2008 special about how music shaped the film industry that aired on CBS.
More recently, they collaborated to produce the Academy’s inaugural Governors Awards ceremony, which was held in November at Hollywood & Highland. That event, freed from the tyranny of TV cameras, drew rave reviews from all who attended as a throwback to an earlier Hollywood era where stars mingled comfortably with industry executives.
The pair’s challenge in taking on the highly scrutinized Oscar broadcast — a first for both — will be to retain some of that warm, freewheeling atmosphere amid the night’s pressure and restrictions.
“We had such an amazing time doing (the Governors Awards), and we worked together so well together that I couldn’t be more excited that we are doing this together,” Cohen said. “It’s been a dream of mine to produce the show for a long time, and ever since Don and I worked together on ‘Movies Rock,’ in my fantasy, Don and I were going to produce it together someday.”
Mischer acknowledged that mounting the broadcast is far different from orchestrating the Governors Awards.
“Without television, you’re able to take a low profile, keep the lights down low, and that contributed to a certain mood in the room,” he said. “There’s no question that with something this important, this high profile, it’s tough to minimize the impact of television, so it will have a different feeling at the Kodak.”
Although the two haven’t decided exactly what direction to take with the Oscar ceremony, Cohen said, “Having been there several times, and having been fortunate to be a nominee twice, there’s an electricity in the room, a combination of tension and excitement that is magic. It sounds cliche, but it is palpable. If we can present that to the TV audience and remind them what they love about movies and what they love about their favorite movie stars, then we’ll have done our job.”
Mischer added that because he has worked with Cohen, he felt confident taking on the directing role. (The last producer who also directed the Oscarcast was Richard Dunlap at the 43rd awards in 1971.)
“He brings so much credibility as a producer, that allowed me to say comfortably I feel like I could then put on the directing hat three or four weeks ahead of the show,” Mischer said. “I wouldn’t be able to do both by myself — it’s too intense. But when you’ve been intimately involved in the creation of the program, I think you then gain a lot when you sit in the director’s chair.”
In announcing the selection, which he presented to the Academy board Tuesday evening, AMPAS president Tom Sherak said of the new team, “Their work in producing the Governors Awards was exceptional, and I am confident they will bring their creative vision and extraordinary talent to produce/direct a most memorable Oscar show.”
Mischer, who first will executive produce the Primetime Emmys on Aug. 29 before he focuses his attention on the Oscars, added that coming aboard early — a full eight months before the broadcast — should allow him and Cohen “more time to explore the options and possibilities.”
Cohen’s other film credits include “The Flintstones,” “Down With Love,” “Big Fish,” “The Forgotten” and “The Nines.” On the TV side, he executive produced “Pushing Daisies,” “Traveler” and “Side Order of Life.”
Mischer produced last year’s Emmys as well as other Emmy broadcasts. He has directed numerous Super Bowl halftime shows — including three in a row from 2005-07 — and the Opening Ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Mischer also has produced specials with such musical performers as Barbra Streisand, Willie Nelson, Beyonce, Yo-Yo Ma and Carrie Underwood, and he produced and directed 1983’s award-winning “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever” on NBC.
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