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On Thursday, buzz grew among Oscars observers that the Academy had finally found a solution to its host problem. Then it was revealed that the comedian Kevin Hart — who in December was announced as the Oscars host but withdrew amid a storm of controversy over old anti-gay tweets — honored longstanding plans by taping an interview with Ellen DeGeneres on her daytime talk show Ellen in promotion of his forthcoming film The Upside.
Could that interview with perhaps the most well known LGBT media personality be the first step in a path that would lead Hart back to the Oscars?
On Thursday night, DeGeneres, who has twice hosted the Oscars herself, tweeted: “I had an incredible and honest conversation with @KevinHart4real about hosting the #Oscars. It was supposed to air on Monday. I don’t want you to have to wait, so now it’s gonna air tomorrow.” Hart, for his part, posted to Instagram: “I stopped by @theellenshow to do some promo for my new movie ‘The Upside’ & ended up staying on for the entire hour. Trust me when I tell you that you won’t want to miss tomorrows [sic] episode. This was by far the most raw/honest & authentic interview that I have ever done. We talk about the Oscar controversy in depth. Make sure you tune in!!!!!”
Hart was announced as the Oscars host on Dec. 4, but bailed on the gig — which he had previously described as his dream job and lobbied for in years past — on Dec. 6 following an uproar over homophobic tweets that he had posted years earlier. The popular standup and film comedian, who was traveling in Australia at the time, claimed via social media that the Academy had issued him an ultimatum: apologize or be replaced. He refused to apologize, saying he had already done so in the past, and instead withdrew from the show — only to then apologize anyway.
GLAAD, the LGBTQ-rights organization, had called for the Academy not to replace Hart, but to instead use the incident as a teachable moment before an international audience on the Oscars telecast. And sources close to the Oscars production indicate they were hoping that Hart would indeed offer a heartfelt apology and then remain involved with the show. He did not do so — until, apparently, his appearance on Ellen.
If, after the episode airs on Friday, the core trio conducting the search for an Oscars host — first-time Oscar show producer Donna Gigliotti, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and Academy president John Bailey — concludes that Hart’s contrition is genuine and believable, it is well within the realm of possibility that he will be reapproached about hosting the show. (ABC, which airs the Oscars, would have to sign off as well.) That outcome would probably please Hart and relieve the Academy of the stress of having the Oscar search drag on any further; plus, the prospect of Hart hosting the show might actually lead to a spike in ratings as people following the controversy tune in to see what Hart will say. But Hart’s return also could spark a backlash from those who feel that Hart’s ‘evolution’ over the past month is unbelievable or insufficient.
The Academy declined to comment.
See clips from Kevin Hart’s emotional interview on Ellen below.