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Jennifer Todd Says She Wouldn’t Want Anyone but Jimmy Kimmel to Host 90th Oscars

Variety logo Variety 5/17/2017 Kristopher Tapley
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ABC announced Tuesday the return of Jimmy Kimmel to host the 90th annual Academy Awards. The network’s late-night host will re-team with 89th Oscarcast producers Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd for what they hope will be another celebration of the nostalgia of film. Todd spoke to Variety about the pros and cons of chaos in a live telecast, luxuriating in long lead time to prep for next year’s show (as opposed to mere months last year), and whether she would be willing to make an annual gig out of it going forward.

So are you guys sick of hearing about the envelope yet?

I mean, it’s amazing. I didn’t realize I would be talking about Pricewaterhouse for so much of my life! But yeah, it’s simmered down. There are bigger problems these days than an envelope.

Something Damien Chazelle told me the next morning, which I didn’t have a chance to include in our cover story, was that it’s almost like you want that chaos. You want the streaker. You want Sacheen Littlefeather. You want someone to read the wrong thing. Is that true for you guys? Is a little mess good for the show?

Obviously I would like a mess that didn’t disrupt people’s experience, especially winners being told they won and not. But it’s funny, right before the show last time Mike and I were like, “We hope for Sacheen. We hope for David Niven, the streaker.” We said exactly that. We were excited about the unexpected moments. We didn’t know how that was going to come to us, but it’s something we learned as first-time live television producers. There’s only so much in your control. You’re not responsible for a lot of elements that go sideways, and in truth, up until that moment, we really loved our show. We were very happy with it. It was what we wanted it to be creatively. So I guess it comes with the territory.

Now that you’ve got one of these under your belt, what worked on the show and what didn’t work?

I hate to be like, “I loved my show,” but what’s nice for us is we have a lot of reverence for movies. We’re obviously film producers ourselves. We have a lot of respect for the craft and people that are there winning awards, and we understand that the Oscars are the best commercial for movies around the world. So we were trying to address all those things. What we didn’t know, what we were so happy with, was that Jimmy’s comedy and style blended so well with what we had planned for the show. We thought all of our elements tied together really well. Even to the last minute he was coming up with new creative ideas. It was very synergistic. So I’m very excited to work again with him. The fact that it’s the 90th, we’re going to try to come up with some spectacular things to celebrate a banner year in Academy history.

Speaking of which, do you have any early thoughts on how to celebrate that milestone on the show?

I think obviously, even in the last show, we had a love of the nostalgia of film. I think we would do the same this year. Looking back is important. Acknowledging and reflecting on 90 years of Academy history will be important. Hopefully we’ll get a lot of talent involved in the movies that have led up to here involved in the show, and again, still reminding people about the excitement of going to the movies. So we’ll figure out how to land all of that in the coming months.

Regarding Kimmel, was he your top choice to return? Was this your call or does the network have a heavier hand in that decision now?

It’s really the Academy and us, but we just loved him and he’s an amazing guy to work with. As you can tell from his persona, he’s one of the nicest guys in the world. I just think he’s in a league of his own. I think to me he’s Bob Hope of today. He’s so funny, so quick, so warm. He understands how important the night is to the people there. He loves movies himself and he just understands what the night is. He’s never mean-spirited, always self-deprecating, even the joke about the envelope being all his fault. I’m thrilled to get to do it with him again. I don’t know that I would want to do it with anybody but him because he’s such a pleasure to work with. And I’m sure giving him this much lead time is a fantastic thing, because he will come up with amazing stuff.

I have to say he really rose in my estimation a bit after that touching monologue about his son a few weeks back. It really got me.

And that’s who he is. He has so much character as a person. Half of his family works for him. A lot of his staff has been there for 15 years. Everything he does, he does with great respect. That monologue was heartbreaking and he really put himself out there with people in a way that you can’t help but love him and feel for him and root for him. He’s an incredible guy and I’m excited to have a long time to think about the show.

Finally, the Academy seems to want consistency with the Oscars. They booked Craig Zadan and Neil Meron for three years, for instance. Would you be willing to take on this gig again and again?

I kind of have to look at it year to year, but what I’m excited about is it was a big learning curve for Mike and I. It’s not what we do in our day jobs. We had such a great time and learned so much about it that we’re excited to apply all of that to the next year. I do think that it makes sense to use producers again. Thankfully they were happy with us. Because you know the inner workings a lot better once you’ve been through it.

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