LOS ANGELES (NYTIMES) - The Oscars, seeking cultural relevance again after last year's ceremony hit record low ratings, have a host again. Three, in fact.
Comic actresses Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes are in final negotiations to host the 94th Academy Awards next month, according to six sources with knowledge of the discussions.
The trio come to the gig with varying levels of expertise, including stints hosting the MTV Movie Awards (Schumer in 2015) and the BET Awards (Hall in 2019).
Sykes also had her own talk show, which ran from 2009 to 2010, and has hosted ceremonies including the Glaad Media Awards. The news was reported earlier by Variety.
Film producer Will Packer, who was hired in October to produce the Oscars telecast, explored several unconventional ideas for structuring the show, including the option to pair two hosts for each hour.
Until last weekend, Packer was also in discussions to add actor Jon Hamm as a fourth Oscars host, and invitations were also extended to previous hosts, including Chris Rock and Steve Martin.
Martin was pursued for the role alongside his Only Murders In The Building co-stars Selena Gomez and Martin Short. But that plan was scuttled because of scheduling conflicts.
Schumer, Hall and Sykes will be taking on one of the most high-profile jobs in town, and also one of the most scrutinised.
Hosting the ceremony was once viewed as a feather in the cap by top comedians like Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg.
But the Oscars have gone hostless for the past three years, which began as a matter of expediency when comedian Kevin Hart dropped out of the 2019 ceremony after refusing to apologise for jokes and tweets that were considered homophobic.
Since then, the academy has instead asked stars simply to open the show, including the comic trio of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph at the 2019 Oscars, as well as actress Regina King, who delivered an earnest monologue at the top of last year's ceremony.
Those kickoff positions have proved easier to book, since many stars are still leery about the time commitment and potential backlash that a solo hosting gig can bring.
But without a host, there are fewer opportunities for the show to produce viral, talked-about moments like the star-packed selfie taken by host Ellen DeGeneres in 2014.
And in an era when television ratings are dwindling, the Oscars need all the buzz they can get: This year's show is viewed as a make-or-break moment by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that votes on the Oscars and recently opened a pricey museum in Los Angeles.
After last year's edition pulled record-low ratings, the academy has sought new ways to draw eyeballs, including a contest letting viewers vote on their favourite film of the year.
That winner, which will be announced on the telecast, provides a potential berth for blockbusters like Spider-Man: No Way Home that failed to make the best-picture race when the nominations were unveiled last week.
The academy is set to officially announce the hosts on Tuesday (Feb 15) on Good Morning America. The 94th Academy Awards will be held on March 27.