Oscars aim for "SMASH" hit with new producers

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 23, 2012 2:50 PM
Oscars aim for "SMASH" hit with new producers

By Zorianna Kit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar organizers on Thursday named "Chicago" filmmakers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron as producers of the upcoming film awards show in the first major move for the newly installed president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Howard Koch.

The decision to hire Zadan and Meron, the team behind other movie musicals such as "Hairspray" and Broadway-themed TV show "SMASH," marks a turnabout from the initial hiring last year of action director Brett Ratner and hints at a more traditional Oscar ceremony with a variety of comedy, song and dance at the world's top film awards.

"We are very excited to collaborate with Hawk (Koch's nickname) and everyone at the Academy to produce this year's Oscars," Zadan and Meron in a statement. "We hope to utilize our experience in producing features, TV and theater to bring something fresh and special to this incredible awards show."

One year ago former Academy head Tom Sherak originally hired filmmaker Ratner to produce the 2012 Oscars with the expectation it might bring a more modern show and lure younger viewers.

But Ratner soon resigned after earning the wrath of Academy members when he used a gay slur at a screening of his movie, "Tower Heist." He also gave an interview on shock jock Howard Stern's radio show in which he spoke in detail about his sex life, which only added fuel to the fire surrounding him.

After Ratner bowed out, Sherak brought in film producer Brian Grazer ("Apollo 13," "A Beautiful Mind") to run the show, and he in turn hired previous host, the popular comedian Billy Crystal, to emcee the Oscars ceremony.

Media group the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation was quick to respond to the hiring of Zadan and Meron with organization president Herndon Graddick calling them "fearless in bringing powerful and entertaining stories to screens."

Indeed, while their background seems a harbinger of a traditional Academy Awards when the curtain comes up on February 24, 2013, Zadan and Meron are known for pushing boundaries of traditional storytelling.

"Chicago," for instance, proved to be a unique film when it debuted in 2002, helping usher into theaters a new round of movie musicals and earning six Oscars, including best film.

"Craig and Neil are forward thinkers who bring a unique perspective to the Oscar show," Koch said in statement. "Their enormous collective talent, coupled with their love of film, serves our show perfectly."

The 85th Academy Awards will be held at the recently renamed Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, and will be televised live on ABC in the United States and on various networks in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

(Reporting By Zorianna Kit; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and M.D. Golan)