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Plenty of awards pundits have speculated that The Rock would be a dream host for the Oscars, which is in the midst of an especially turbulent year. Now the action star has confirmed that the Academy thought so, too — and elaborated on what he would’ve planned if he had hosted.
“Yeah, well, they actually asked me to host,” Dwayne Johnson says, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter while in Park City, Utah, to promote his film, Fighting With My Family, at the Sundance Film Festival.
“I was so excited to get that call, and I didn’t anticipate it,” he says. “We didn’t campaign for it, but it came and I was over the moon and one of those calls where I said, ‘I’m going to have to call you back.’ I just paused in my silence and was, like, ‘Wow, thank you so much,’ and then immediately my brain started going, ‘We’ll do this kind of number and that.’”
The high-profile job remains unfilled as the Academy is said to be taking an ensemble approach less than two weeks away from the telecast, after Johnson’s Jumanji co-star Kevin Hart stepped away from the gig in December amid a controversy over homophobic tweets he posted years earlier.
Johnson was offered the job before Hart, and says it was scheduling matters on two films — the Fast and Furious spinoff Hobbs and Shaw, which wrapped production in Hawaii this month, and a Jumanji sequel, which is about to start shooting — that kept him from taking the hosting opportunity.
“We spoke to the producers, and it pained me not to be able to host because of the schedule,” Johnson says. “I live in a world of possibility, but it was the immediacy of rolling into Jumanji that put a vise grip on things.”
Johnson said he met multiple times with Oscar producers Donna Gigliotti and Glenn Weiss and began to assemble a team and laid out specific bits and performance numbers. “I had this whole idea about this massive number, and I was going to sing and I was going to bring in this person to sing, this person from the audience, and … oh, my god,” Johnson says. “And they were excited, but finally I had to pass.”
Part of the challenge of the notoriously tricky Oscar hosting job is balancing the often divergent tastes of the global audience watching at home with the nervous nominees and industry personalities seated for the show at the Dolby Theater.
“For me, the goal was, when at that time we were talking about, okay, I think we can make this happen, was I wanted to try and create with the best team around me and we had … a lot of people, as you know were galvanizing,” Johnson says.
“We were going to turn the Oscars on their head this year and make it something special and unique and different, and start a new era of how Oscars are going to be enjoyed,” he adds. “That was the goal — audience first. I wanted to try and create a scenario where, at the end of the night, my friends who won, my friends who didn’t win, all had, despite not winning, had the greatest time. That was the goal. So — one day.”
The 91st Academy Awards are set to take place Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.
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