Eddie Murphy at Top of List to Host 84th Academy Awards

Eddie Murphy - 2010

Oscar show producer Brett Ratner, who is high on the comic after directing him in the upcoming "Tower Heist," may also find a role for Billy Crystal.

Eddie Murphy is emerging as the leading candidate to host the 84th Academy Awards.

While Brett Ratner and Don Mischer, who are producing the upcoming awards broadcast, haven’t yet sat down with Academy officials to present the choice for hosting duties, Ratner, who has just finished directing Murphy in the upcoming comedy Tower Heist, is said to be keen on drafting the star to front the Oscar show.

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The website Humormillmag.com, which covers urban comics, reported Saturday that Murphy definitely has the gig, but the report proved premature. Ratner and Mischer are scheduled to meet with Academy president Tom Sherak immediately after the Labor Day holiday to discuss who they would like to have host the show, and following that meeting, there’s sure to be further negotiations before they have a host in place. The Academy had hoped to finish the process by mid-September, although it’s looking like a decision could now come earlier than that. Academy officials were not immediately available for comment Saturday night.

Ratner, when he was chosen to produce, told THR that comedy will be “a big part” of what he intends to bring to the broadcast, and choosing Murphy, who has never hosted the Oscars, could ensure that.

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Billy Crystal, who hosted the Oscars eight times between 1990 and 2004 and who took part in the most recent broadcast in a segment toasting Bob Hope, is another name that’s been circulating. Crystal himself has said he’d be interested in returning to host again, and he has a lot of fans in the Academy, who appreciate what he brought to past shows. It was not immediately clear what role Crystal might play if Murphy is chosen, but the two did cross paths on Saturday Night Live, which Crystal hosted in 1984, Murphy’s last season with the show, before becoming a regular himself. And so insiders are hoping that there might also be room for Crystal on the broadcast as well.

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Murphy received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor for his work in the 2006 musical Dreamgirls. And he’s made several other appearances on the show: He took part in presenting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Jerry Lewis in 2009, presented best picture in 1988 and best visual effects in 1983.

The star, who made an immediate impact when he first appeared on SNL in 1980, had a meteoric rise on film, starring in 1982’s 48 Hrs. and 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. In recent years, he’s also cultivated a family audience with his voice work as Donkey in the Shrek movies along with live-action movies like The Nutty Professor and Dr. Doolittle.

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Ratner’s currently finishing postproduction on Tower Heist, which stars Ben Stiller and Murphy, who team up to rob a Bernie Madoff-type character played by Alan Alda. Universal is releasing the movie, which is expected to put a fast-talking Murphy back in the spotlight, Nov. 4. And Murphy has a second film, A Thousand Words, coming from DreamWorks, on Jan. 13, which would further raise his profile in advance of the Oscar’s Feb. 26 broadcast date.