A Minute With: Billy Crystal, former host of the Academy Awards

Wed Feb 20, 2013 5:02am EST
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By Zorianna Kit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Few people have more experience hosting the Academy Awards than actor Billy Crystal, who was the master of ceremonies for the movie industry's highest honors for the ninth time last year.

As "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane prepares to host the Oscars for the first time on Sunday, Crystal, 64, spoke to Reuters about his own experiences and offered some tips.

Q: What is the secret to being a good Oscar host?

A: "Anytime I've been asked by new hosts - Chris Rock called me, Jon Stewart called me - I always say the same thing: 'Whatever your approach, the world is a rough room. And it's a big room. Not everybody is going to like what you have to say. But when you're up there, look like you want to be there. You're the captain of show business that night. That's your job.'"

Q: Is there a particular way to handle the audience?

A: "You've got the first five rows of people who are all nominated actors. They are really nervous. The women are in uncomfortable dresses. The men aren't used to wearing tuxedos. For most of them, it's the end of a really long awards season. The lights are bright, it's usually really cold in there and there are cameras running everything to get reaction shots. So make them feel relaxed. And you have to be funny."

Q: In those conditions, that sounds like a pretty tall order.

A: "It's a really difficult job because it goes against everything you want to do as a performer and I always found that hard. As a performer who loves his job on stage, I don't really like to see the audience, I like to feel them. So I try to encourage (new hosts) to understand that it's not going to be what they're used to."   Continued...

Actor Billy Crystal speaks during a hand and footprint ceremony for actor Robert DeNiro at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn