All eyes will be on Billy Crystal at the 84th annual Academy Awards.
Crystal resumes his host duties on the Oscars following an eight-year absence. Hosting the movie industry’s biggest night is old hat for the comedy veteran – he’s done it eight times before – but each Oscars broadcast is different and Crystal returns to the show following last-year’s widely panned host turn by James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Not exactly a hard act to follow.
Accordingly, there has been rampant speculation in recent days about how Crystal will handle his Oscar return. Will he come out singing and dancing?
Will his first zinger be directed toward Jack Nicholson?
Here are five things to expect from him on Sunday night’s show.
A big musical opener
“Where’s that big, terrible musical number that usually opens the Oscars?” queried Crystal in his first host turn in 1990. He then launched into the lilting, “It’s a wonderful night for Oscar,” which thereafter became his signature tune on subsequent hosting stints.
Crystal’s theme song could be resurrected on this Sunday’s broadcast.
Either way, the opener will be of the musical variety, according to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Tom Sherak, who said he attended an advance preview.
“We were hysterical listening to it,” said Sherak. “Each time he went over it, he was more and more energized.”
A movie montage
Whether merged into the opening musical number or shown separately, the show will include a movie-montage wherein Crystal will inject himself into scenes from the best-picture nominees. He’s done it before and filming of the montage was confirmed by Oscars co-producer Brian Grazer with USA Today earlier this week.
“It was just Billy shooting against a green screen on the Paramount lot,” said Grazer, “but you would have thought he was playing against one of the greatest actors in the world.”
The tricky part: In Oscar galas past, Crystal’s movie montage was based on five best-picture nominees. This year, there are nine.
A subtle youth movement
He’s probably not going to be cracking jokes about Justin Bieber or Jersey Shore, but at the behest of the show’s producers, Crystal will definitely try to slightly skew his hosting style toward a younger viewing demographic.
“There’s a younger audience, some of them will be seeing me for the first time,” Crystal told Entertainment Weekly this week. “Hopefully, they’ll watch the show and say, ‘He’s really funny.’ That’s important to me.”
While last year’s hosts Franco and Hathaway looked like they were struggling to keep awake (as were viewers), Crystal pays close attention to what’s happening onstage throughout the show and works in the wings with writers to come up with quick one-liners. Normally it’s a gentle jibe, but in some instances it can defuse an awkward moment.
Case in point: The 1992 Oscars paid homage to 100-year-old director Hal Roach, who was honoured with a standing ovation. The film legend then chose to deliver a rather lengthy speech from his seat in the audience, which nobody could hear since he wasn’t miked.
After a respectful pause, Crystal quipped: “I think that’s fitting since Mr. Roach started in silent films.”
Star-friendly presenter intros
Unlike Ricky Gervais, who made jaws drop with his cheeky introductions to Golden Globes presenters Robert Downey Jr., Tim Allen and Bruce Willis (“Please welcome Ashton Kutcher’s dad!”), Crystal will not go after any of the Hollywood talent handing out the trophies – even though Sunday night’s presenters list includes such tantalizing targets as Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lopez and, seriously, Miss Piggy and Kermit.
The 84th Academy Awards are broadcast live on Sunday, beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET, on CTV and ABC.