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Posted at 05:09 PM ET, 11/10/2011

Billy Crystal to host Oscars, replace Eddie Murphy


Billy Crystal will return to the Academy Awards to host the ceremony once more. (Scott Gries - GETTY IMAGES)

Billy Crystal is replacing Eddie Murphy as host of ABC’s Feb 26 Academy Awards broadcast.

The eight-time Oscar host was tapped to take over for first-timer Eddie Murphy, by Brian Grazer, the movie mogul who was tapped to produce this year’s Oscarcast, replacing Brett Ratner.

Yes, that is, in fact, a double accidental upgrade – in just 24 hours. Way to go motion picture academy!

“Am doing the Oscars so the young woman in the pharmacy will stop asking my name when I pick up my prescriptions,” Crystal tweeted Thursday afternoon, adding, “ Looking forward to the show.”

TV industry navel lint pickers had been wondering since Murphy stepped down Wednesday who would be willing to become the academy’s “second choice.”

Crystal had been quoted saying he was itching to host again.

Meanwhile, the academy was looking for a way to recover from its disastrous decision to hire loose-cannon Ratner in a naked grab for the young viewers that advertisers lust after — having apparently learned nothing from that other naked grab for younger viewers: James Franco, whose co-hosting of the last Oscarcast is considered one of the franchise’s most epic flame-outs ever. Murphy, who is starring in Ratner’s new flick, “Tower Heist,” was Ratner’s choice to host for obvious, commercial reasons.

It was a match made in heaven.

“He’s a comic legend and Oscar icon, and it feels good to have him back where he belongs,” motion picture academy president Tom Sherak said of Crystal in Thursday’s announcement.

Crystal started hosting the Oscars more than two decades ago. He first helmed the ceremony in 1990 – the year “Driving Miss Daisy” was named Best Picture. For that he got such rave reviews, he was asked back in ’91, ‘92 and ’93. Then Whoppi Goldberg took a whack at it , folloed by the best-forgotten David Letterman year, then back to Whoopi. The academy handed the baton back to Crystal in ‘97 and again in 1998 — which remains the most watched Academy Awards broadcast in history, clocking a whopping 55.3 million viewers with the potent combination of Crystal and, mostly, “Titanic.”

Crystal came back in 2000 and, finally, in 2004 – the year of “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” With his ninth appearance in February, only Bob Hope will have hosted more Academy Awards ceremonies than Crystal; Hope did it 19 times, between 1940 and 1978.

Murphy resigned as host on Wednesday in an apparent show of support for Ratner, who resigned on Tuesday when word got out he’d said at a “Tower Heist” screening that “rehearsing is for [homophobic slur],” after which he went on Howard Stern’s radio show to prattle on happily about masturbation, the size of the family jewels, and how he insists that the women he wants to sleep with first get checked out by his doctor to make sure they don’t have any sexually transmitted diseases.

Ratner is the director of Murphy’s new flick “Tower Heist” in which Murphy is hoping to make his career comeback. Hosting the Oscars was also going to be part of that comeback trail. But the movie got trounced at the boxoffice in its first weekend by the second week of animated “Puss in Boots” and now Murphy’s not hosting the nation’s most watched trophy show either.

Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Murphy’s resignation, the academy announced it had replaced Ratner with Grazer – whose Imagine Entertainment produced “Tower Heist.” This caused some speculation Murphy, whose closest brush with Academy Awards fame came in 2007, when he stormed out of the hall in a huff after losing the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in “Dreamgirls”, might be coaxed into returning.

And now we know that’s not happening.

By  |  05:09 PM ET, 11/10/2011

 
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