Chris Rock 'No.1 choice' to host Oscars, expected to bring edgier feel

Wed Oct 21, 2015 6:54pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comedian Chris Rock will host the Oscar ceremony in February for a second time, producers said on Wednesday, bringing what is expected to be an edgier feel to Hollywood's biggest night.

Rock, a stand-up comedian and former cast member of the long-running sketch show "Saturday Night Live," last hosted the live Academy Awards telecast in 2005, making headlines for his pointed remarks on politics and race and helping to draw an audience of some 41.5 million U.S. viewers.

The hosting job is regarded as one of the biggest honors in the entertainment industry. But it is also one of the most difficult, as it requires mixing comedic monologues, keeping a three-hour plus show moving, and entertaining both the movie industry's biggest players in the audience as well as viewers at home.

Oscars producers David Hill and Reginald Hudlin said Rock, who is also an actor, writer, producer and director, was their "No. 1 choice. Period."

"We looked at the (2005) Oscars and said it doesn't get better than this. Let's see is Chris is available," Hill told Reuters.

Rock, 50, said in a statement, "It's great to be back."

The producers said they planned to move away from the song and dance show feel in recent years under hosts that included Broadway star Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris. Under Harris last year, the U.S. television audience fell to its lowest in six years with some 36.6 million viewers.

"Rock screams film, and that is what we are doing with the show this year. The show is going to be about movies," Hill said.

The duo denied that the choice of Rock also reflected criticism that last year's nominees for the movie industry's highest awards were overwhelmingly white.   Continued...

Chris Rock accepts the Hollywood Comedy Film Award for "Top Five" during the Hollywood Film Awards in Hollywood, California November 14, 2014.  REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian