Whoopi's Oscar Miss
The Transom also learns that former BFF's Zucker and Zaslav have not spoken
Hollywood Transom is part of your Ankler subscription. Written by Jeff Sneider, the column’s mission is to deliver brief scoops and news about this industry’s current state of play and its players.
1. ACADEMY MESS, Part I
By now, the world knows that the Oscars will be hosted by Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes. It's a three-hour show, so the current assumption is that each actress — all of them funny in their own way — will host an hour or so of the broadcast.
As with all things Oscar, the road to get here was tortured and painful, a typical AMPAS farce with some unexpected players dropping in along the way.
Here's the tea, as it’s been explained as of this hour.
Originally, there were going to be two hosts per hour. Hall was going to be paired with Tiffany Haddish because they starred in Girls Trip together — a movie that was produced by Will Packer, who is producing the Academy Awards this year. Packer pushed for Hall, and we've also heard that at one point, Packer reached out to Issa Rae, who has worked with the producer on films such as Little and The Photograph, though she also passed on a hosting slot.
It has already been reported that Packer and the Academy made an overture to the Only Murders in the Building trio of Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, who are said to have turned down the opportunity due to scheduling issues. But I also heard there was an attempt to lure Gomez away from the show on her own — leaving Martin and Short to shoot their Only Murders scenes while she was away doing Oscars prep — and she would've been paired with Schumer.
It was also reported that Jon Hamm was in talks to co-host the Oscars up until the 11th hour, but no one really asked why it didn't work out. Well, I've heard that he did not get along with Packer, and it was ultimately the producer's way or the highway. Reps for Packer did not respond to requests for comment.
And now for the kicker. I hear that the Academy was deep in conversation about giving one of the hosting slots to Whoopi Goldberg, co-host of ABC's own talk show The View. For Goldberg it would have been her fifth time in the job. Additionally, I hear, she loves hosting the Oscars. And it makes sense: ABC could promote one of their own, and she is an actual Oscar winner (an EGOT actually). The discussion however, was derailed by the recent controversy about her comments regarding the Holocaust. Representatives for Goldberg did not respond to multiple requests for comment, while an Academy insider disputed that version of events. ABC also did not respond to requests for comment.
Once Goldberg was out of the running, the search for a diverse hosting line-up led to Hall and Sykes (big names, yes, but not the sort of household on-tv-every-day sort of name Goldberg has). But having said that, the Academy is still the Academy, i.e. very old and very white, and I'm told there was a feeling among some involved in the decision-making process that the Oscars couldn't just be hosted by two Black women, and that some felt they “needed” Schumer to mix it up.
So to recap, we've heard Goldberg's offer was walked back, Haddish and Rae were approached but ultimately passed, and Hamm decided not to go through with it at the last minute due to the spat with Packer, so the Academy was eventually left with just the one set of three hosts. Expect Schumer to lead things off before ceding the show to Hall and Sykes as the evening progresses.
2. ACADEMY MESS, Part II
Meanwhile, many Academy members were up in arms regarding the organization's decision not to require everyone at the Oscars to be vaccinated, and I'm told that the three hosts — each of whom is believed to be vaccinated — weren't happy about it either, as they weren't told about it in advance of the announcement. But they had already signed on by that point, so there was nothing they could really do.
On Thursday, knowing this story and certainly others were in the works, the Academy revised its policy, saying that only presenters and performers at the Oscars won’t be required to show proof of vaccination, while nominees and other invited guests will need to show proof and two negative PCR tests. Rest assured, the presenters and performers will be subject to rigorous testing, according to the New York Times . Additionally, guests sitting in the mezzanine section will be required to wear a face mask, but guests closer to the stage won't be required to mask up because they'll be seated farther apart from one another. The Dolby Theatre is expected to be filled to 75 percent capacity, which translates to roughly 2,500 guests.
Multiple sources confirm to the Transom the Internet rumblings that last year's Best Supporting Actor winner, Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), is among the planned presenters who are not vaccinated. Kaluuya's reps did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
One individual we spoke to about the vaccination issue expressed disappointment that media outlets would report on an actor's private medical status, but nonetheless opened up about the hypocritical charade that Hollywood's vaccination policies have become. This source, someone who deals with the talent community, threw out a conservative estimate that one-third of the industry is using fake vaccination cards in order to work, with corporations willing to look the other way when it comes to big stars.
They went on to question the double-speak of the Screen Actors Guild, which is allowing some of its most influential members to attend an Oscar ceremony that won't fully adhere to the guild's own safety policies, which now require those working in Zones A and B to have received booster shots in order to be considered “fully vaccinated” or “up to date.”
”Why is SAG allowing this [to happen at the Oscars], yet all the unions renewed their [safety] protocols? And why are we still requiring boosters...no one wants to get the booster because people who get it are still getting sick anyway!” (It is proven that a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine significantly reduces an individual's odds of hospitalization from the Omicron variant.
I spoke to an Academy member this week who asked why AMPAS is so willing to abandon a safeguard that helps stop the spread of COVID, questioning the org's motivation in not forcing attendees to show proof of vaccination, and whether the decision was made internally, or in consultation with Los Angeles County public health officials such as Dr. Barbara Ferrer.
”At events my clients have done that I attended, participants had to show vaccine passports, government-issued ID, and a negative COVID test, and COVID compliance officers were on-site to check the above and reinforce mask mandates,” said the individual. “It’s puzzling and we are hopeful that they change their mind. It just makes them look ill-informed and apathetic about their members' health, and others who are in attendance.”
3. ZASLAV AND ZUCKER: BFF’S NO MORE
Back in May 2021, the New York Times reported CNN chief Jeff Zucker once remarked that David Zaslav, a former NBC colleague, was “the best friend that anyone could ever want, and I’m lucky that he’s mine.” They golfed, chatted on the phone and — so it sounded — did everything but braid each other’s hair. Oh, but corporate life is cruel. The Transom has learned that, ever since Zucker announced his resignation from CNN, under the watchful eye of outgoing WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, the two Z’s have not spoken, even though both New Yorkers recently were in Los Angeles. In recent days, while Zucker was staying at the Four Seasons on Doheny, the future king of Warner Bros. Discovery, Zaslav, was down the street holding court at the Polo Lounge, and later attending the Genesis Invitational Golf Tournament at the Riviera Country Club (an event, that no doubt, the two men who used to bond over their rounds of rounds of Hamptons golf might have once attended together.) A rep for Zaslav declined to comment for this item.
Also on The Ankler:
Ted Turner Biographer: 'John Malone...Speaks for Ted Turner' Porter Bibb recounts the CNN’s founder’s opposition to 'what Zucker did with CNN' and his close bond with the news network’s top critic.
Warner Bros. Discovery and the Worst Case Scenario Our own analyst, Entertainment Strategy Guy, goes under the hood of the assets in the about-to-wed companies, diving into DC, Harry Potter, HBO and more, and how the combined company could go sideways.
RUMBLINGS: 5 Names Whispered for Warners The crown is coming for the right candidate as Discovery and WarnerMedia head to the altar. Richard Rushfield names the executives that have the town talking.
Podcast: Tom Cruise and how the Mission: Impossible franchise was saved over one very awkward dinner. An interview with the legendary Christine Peters, a producer who also was Sumner Redstone's girlfriend, Jon Peters' wife and helped oust Les Moonves with her #MeToo story.
On The Optionist:
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