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A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron first begged last year’s host, Ellen DeGeneres, whose turn at the podium netted an 8 percent increase in viewership over the year prior.
(That all-star selfie didn’t hurt, either: The picture that broke Twitter was worth $1 billion in publicity, according to one estimate.)
But despite Zadan and Meron’s appeals, DeGeneres — who earned mixed reviews for her performance (including a negative one from this publication) — was firmly against hosting the ceremony for a third time.
Next on the wish list was Chris Rock, with whom DeGeneres shares ICM Partners agent Eddy Yablans, but a deal failed to materialize. Producers then expressed interest in Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who also said no.
Which brought them, in turn, to Harris. A seasoned awards show pro, Harris has made no secret in interviews of his desire to take on the legendary gig. (In a video posted to Twitter announcing the news, Harris lists “host the Oscars” at the end of a long bucket list that includes “meet the president” and “have children.”)
Harris has proved himself a capable emcee during stints at the Tony Awards in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013 — each of which netted him an Emmy — and as host of the Primetime Emmy Awards in 2009 and 2013.
But the Oscars job is another level altogether, a three-hour plate-spinning act that has felled bigger stars (like James Franco and Anne Hathaway) and comedy giants (like David Letterman and, more recently, Seth MacFarlane). For many, the degree of difficulty is too great to justify even trying.
See more Oscars 2014: Best and Worst Moments
But now that Harris has accepted the job, many are left wondering why Jimmy Kimmel, whose late-night show airs on ABC — home to the Oscars’ Feb. 22 telecast — wasn’t this year’s choice, as he has repeatedly proven himself to be gamely up to the challenge.
The comedian shined during his brief appearance at this year’s Emmys, and his annual Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Oscars specials, which feature A-list talent like Meryl Streep and George Clooney, draw consistently strong ratings.
A rep for Kimmel had no comment.
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