The 2021 Academy Awards won’t have a host for the third straight year. Before the show kicks off, here are some of the stars who have taken on the role in the past.
The 2019 Academy Awards show made history as going host-free for the first time since 1989. It wasn’t originally planned that way. Kevin Hart was previously enlisted for the gig, but before long, Twitter users began resurfacing years-old homophobic tweets. Hart then stepped down from the role amidst the backlash against him and no one stepped in to take the gig. In the years since, the show has gone without a host to shepherd the exhausting three to four hour telecast along, and it has managed to not miss a beat. Of course the delightful opening monologues and audience interaction throughout the telecast will always be missed. But the show must go on and is doing so in 2021 via celebrity presenters having a bigger part. Here’s a list of stars who took on Oscar hosting duties over the years to varying degrees of success.
Jimmy Kimmel: 2017 and 2018
ABC was pleased with the network’s late night talk show host’s performance in 2017, especially how he handled the debacle of La La Land incorrectly being named Best Picture over the actual winner Moonlight. It earned Jimmy Kimmel a second go as host in back to back ceremonies, returning in 2018. Thanks to his home base in Hollywood and his tight knit circle of A-list friends, Jimmy was right at home in front of the starry Oscars audience. It also helped that Jimmy Kimmel Live‘s head writer — and Jimmy’s wife — Molly McNearney took over the telecast’s writing duties to keep the show’s humor current and hip.
Chris Rock: 2005 and 2016
Chris Rock had the unenviable task of hosting in 2016, the year that there were zero nominations for actors of color, at the 88th Academy Awards. As a result, the Black comedian had to address the #OscarsSoWhite elephant in the room. He ripped into the topic in his monologue, jokingly referring to the ceremony as the “White People’s Choice Awards.” He added that in years past there hadn’t been an uproar over the lack of diversity because “we had real things to protest; we’re too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer.” He also added, “This year, in the In Memoriam package, it’s just going to be black people that were shot by the cops on their way to the movies.”
Neil Patrick Harris: 2015
Neil Patrick Harris was already a veteran of hosting several Tony Awards telecasts, and brought his song and dance skills to the Oscars. Actress Anna Kendrick joined him onstage for a lively musical opening number, and he seemed to enjoy hosting the show. That was, until he read Twitter afterwards. NPH later appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and said he’d never host the show again after looking at Twitter and finding “Uniform hatred,” of his hosting duties. He went on to tell the Huffington Post, “I don’t know that my family nor my soul could take it. It’s a beast. It was fun to check off the list, but for the amount of time spent and the understandable opinionated response, I don’t know that it’s a delightful balance to do every year or even again.”
Ellen DeGeneres: 2007 and 2014
Back when daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres was still known as the “Queen of Nice,” the upbeat comedian was asked back in 2014 after hosting the show in 2007. Rather than poke fun at the Oscars or bring any controversial jokes, she mixed and mingled with her A-list front row audience. Ellen infamously gathered Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper, Lupita Nyong’o and more together for a massive celebrity selfie. She later had boxes of pizzas brought in which she served up to the same hungry movies stars, with Brad Pitt even helping pass out paper napkins and plates.
Seth McFarlane: 2013
Add Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane to the list of hosts who never want the job again. He did a disastrous and misogynistic song and dance number called “We Saw Your Boobs,” where Seth named off actresses and the movies where they appeared topless. Seth also made a joke about Kim Kardashian’s “dark facial hair.” He later told Entertainment Weekly, “It’s a format that’s about as current as the 1950s variety show format. There’s always an effort to make it interesting and exciting to viewers who are used to a very different entertainment landscape in the modern era, and it’s often times fitting a square peg in a round hole. So it’s not an easy job, and I’m not surprised that they have a tough time finding takers.”
Billy Crystal: 2012 plus eight other times as host
After the total disaster that was Anne Hathaway and James Franco’s Oscars co-hosting duties in 2011, the Academy brought back “safe” stalwart Billy Crystal, after their first choice Eddie Murphy withdrew from the gig. He reigned as the host of the show seven times between 1990 and 2000, and was a familiar and beloved presence for the audience and viewers. But Billy played it too safe to the point of being boring. Washington Post critic Hank Stuever wrote that Billy “seemed to be overseeing a cruise ship dinner show designed to appeal to the over-50 travel club,” adding that, “Early on, it hit the rocks and started to list. Almost everyone drowned.”
Anne Hathaway and James Franco: 2011
Anne Hathaway unfortunately had a super rough go at it when she co-hosted the show with James Franco in 2011. The two were ill-matched thanks to Franco’s utter lack of enthusiasm, which Hathaway then tried to overcompensate for with a ton of energy. And the worst part is the Ocean’s 8 star didn’t even want to host to begin with! “Can I dish some tea?” Hathaway told People, in an interview published Feb. 10, 2019. “I turned that gig down, and James is the one that convinced me to do it.” She then added that she would have likely been fine if Franco admitted it was all a joke. “If he’d turned around and said ‘I’m pranking you right now.’ I think I would have been okay with it. I would’ve been like, ‘That sucks, but it’s epic,” she said. “When all the dust settled, I was just like, you gotta be kidding me. Your first instinct is usually the right one, and all the reasons why I turned it down came true,”
The 93rd Academy Awards air Sunday, Apr. 25 at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST on ABC.