The Washington Post

‘Smash’ execs to produce the Academy Awards

Craig Zadan, left, and Neil Meron (MICHAEL A. MARIANT/AP)

Not only is Jimmy Fallon out as host of next year’s Academy Awards show, but Lorne Michaels is also out as producer.

Instead, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron — aka Friends of ABC — will produce the trophy show, which will air on that network, as usual, on Feb. 24.

While Zadan and Meron have many films to their credit – including 2002’s “Chicago,” 2007’s “Hairspray” and both the original and the remake of “Footloose” — they’re especially big in TV circles as the go-to guys for programs with big musical production numbers. (That is useful for someone producing the Oscars.) This dates back to their days producing the Bette Midler remake of “Gypsy” for CBS, and — here’s where ABC comes in — the Brandy/Whitney Houston remake of “Cinderella,” the Matthew Broderick remake of “Music Man” and the Kathy Bates/Victor Garber remake of “Annie.”

More recently, they’re the guys exec-producing NBC’s let’s-put-on-a-Marilyn-Monroe-musical drama series, “Smash.” The show is about to go into its second season, in which someone will suddenly realize that Katharine McPhee is not, as had been thought all of the first season, the living embodiment of all things Marilyn.

Getting back to Meron and Zadan: They’re also respected theater producers, having done the re-stating of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “Promises, Promises” on Broadway.

“When we filmed ‘The Bucket List,’ we made our own personal bucket list, and producing the Oscars was No. 1,” said Zadan and Meron — who produced that 2007 hit flick starring Jack Nicholson — on Thursday.

Thus ends all the hooplah of a few weeks ago, when a report got out that Fallon would host the next Oscars, which would be produced by his mentor Michaels (aka Friend of NBC).

That report seemed odd to anyone who stopped for a moment to remember that the Academy Awards ceremony has been broadcast on ABC for, like, forever. Which, apparently, the outgoing motion-picture academy president, Tom Sherak, did not stop to do when — in his boyish enthusiasm on his way out the door — he approached Michaels, the NBC prime-time and late-night impresario, about producing the Oscarscast, with Michaels’ protégé Fallon hosting. That lapse of memory was surprising because Sherak was the guy who brokered the new Oscar deal between the academy and ABC, as well as a global distribution deal with ABC parent Disney that runs through 2020.

Anyway, as we heard it, Sherak’s parting move surprised not only incoming motion-picture academy President Hawk Koch — who made Thursday’s announcement about his choice of producers — but also to various execs up and down the ABC and Disney food chain.


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