Oscar Show Producer Replacements: If Not Brian Grazer, Then Who?

Brian Grazer
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Grazer and partner Ron Howard saw cutbacks for Imagine Entertainment at Universal.

The Academy has never missed the late, great Oscar show producer Gil Cates more than it does today, as it seeks a replacement for Brett Ratner, who had been expected to serve in that capacity for February's 84th Academy Awards. Ratner submitted his resignation yesterday after making a series of comments that offended many in the industry, and Eddie Murphy, whom Ratner directed in the film Tower Heist and recruited to serve as the host of this year's Oscars, also withdrew from the show this morning, leaving things in disarray.

As THR reported this morning, Academy president Tom Sherak reached out to Brian Grazer, the 60-year-old producer and co-chief of Imagine Entertainment, about the job -- but that communication may have taken place before Murphy withdrew from the show. Grazer, who won the best picture Oscar for A Beautiful Mind (2001), made a lot of sense when Murphy was still on-board: he served as a producer on Tower Heist and was credited by the actor with "saving" the film when it ran into trouble during development. It is less clear, though, if he'd still be needed or amenable now that the circumstances have changed.

THR has been surveying the industry for ideas about other candidates whom the Academy might tap if things don't work out with Grazer. Two leading possibilities include...

  • Scott Sanders, the 54-year-old theater producer, who was said to be a finalist for this year's job before the decision was made to go with Ratner. Sanders, who won a Tony for producing the one-woman show Elaine Stritch: At Liberty (2002), comes highly recommended by Academy favorites Quincy Jones, Harvey Weinstein, and Oprah Winfrey, with whom he produced the hit Broadway musical adaptation of The Color Purple, which scored 11 Tony nods.
  • Bill Condon, the 56-year-old writer/director, who won the best adapted screenplay Oscar for Gods & Monsters (1998), was nominated for it again for Chicago (2002), and subsequently directed Murphy in Dreamgirls (2006), for which the actor received the lone Oscar nomination of his career. Moreover, Condon served as the executive producer of the 81st Academy Awards, which was hosted by Hugh Jackman and was one of the best Oscar shows in recent memory. (Laurence Mark was the producer.)

Of course, the Academy might always reach out again to past Oscar show producers like Bruce Cohen, Laurence Mark, Joe Roth, and Adam Shankman, who could hit the ground running.