New Oscars Producer Reginald Hudlin Teases Host Search: "Who Is a Little Dangerous?"

Reginald Hudlin Horizontal - H 2014
AP Images

Reginald Hudlin Horizontal - H 2014

A champion of diversity in the industry, the newly named Academy Awards producer hopes the show will be "a celebration of every kind of movie."

Reginald Hudlin was in the middle of a liver transplant when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Tuesday that he and David Hill had been tapped to produce the 88th Oscars show, which will be broadcast on Feb. 28.

More specifically, he actually was directing an episode of the new NBC medical drama Heartbreaker, and, as he explains, “you always save the complex things in the operating room for the last day.” But, then, just as he was making sure the blood was spurting correctly, he felt his phone begin to buzz frantically with dozens of incoming messages and calls of congratulations. And so Hudlin got an immediate introduction to what his life is likely to be like for the next six months as the frenzy around the annual Oscars show builds.

Not that he’s complaining. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he says.

Now that the Academy has designated two new producers to take over the show — Hudlin, an experienced film and TV writer, director and producer who’s also produced the Academy’s own nontelevised Governors Awards and other awards broadcasts like the NAACP Image Awards, and Hill, whose forte is overseeing live sports broadcasts — the speculation immediately has turned to whom the two will ask to host the show.

Hudlin insists no decision has been made yet. “Hosting the Oscars requires a pretty unique set of skills,” he says. “We’ve done a first pass on a list. We’re going to take a look at that again, very quickly, and then we’re going to start knocking on folks’ doors."

Declining to address the speculation — or even to say whether he and Hill are looking for a single host or a duo — he nevertheless offers some hints, saying, “There are so many factors you can consider. Where is the state of comedy right now? What comedians reflect that? What comedians have an inherent connection to the movie business? Who is a little dangerous? We have talked about all those kind of considerations.”

Hudlin, an Oscar nominee as one of the producers of best picture nominee Django Unchained, also has been a voice arguing for more diversity in the film industry — both in front of and behind the camera. Asked how he might address those concerns as a producer of the Oscars, he says, “I think it’s always a concern to create a show that reflects both what’s happening in terms of the arts and in terms of society in general. And if you look at what’s really exciting in both categories, it’s the fact that more people of color, women, sexual orientation ... there are so many different kinds of people doing great work. Part of making a great show is celebrating excellence. We want to connect with everyone who is doing excellent work and invite them to the party.”

But what if the nominations don’t reflect that diversity, as seen last year when all the acting nominations went to white performers? Says Hudlin, “The most important part of the show, the nominees, is not in our hands. That was decided by the movie studios 18 months ago, when they decided what movies to greenlight. But in any given year, there is excellent work by people of every type of description. I’m really grateful that the Academy has made such efforts in the past years to open its ranks, to bring in more people than ever, so that the voting block reflects where we are as an industry.”

Although Hudlin had not worked with Hill before, he says the two immediately hit it off. “One of the things I love about Dave,” says Hudlin, “is he’s a guy who goes, 'Why do they do it that way?' And ‘because they’ve always done it that way' is not an answer. And that’s my temperament as well. We’re taking no part of the process for granted and are taking a hard look at everything.”

"Hopefully," he adds, "we’ll put together a show that reflects not just cultural diversity, but a celebration of every kind of movie. I’m not a snob. I love art films, I love big summer popcorn films. I love documentaries. I love animated movies. I think the strongest show is a show that celebrates everything that movies are and everything that movies can be. If you focus on that, it takes care of itself."