Oscar Plays It Safe: It’s Billy Crystal

That didn’t take long. About 24 hours after Eddie Murphy withdrew as host of the 2012 Academy Awards, new producer Brian Grazer has settled on the safest possible choice as replacement: Billy Crystal.

The 63-year-old actor and comedian was high on the list as a possible fill-in for Murphy, the assumption being that given the short notice, Grazer and the motion picture academy would prefer someone who knew the routine and wouldn’t get nervous.

The news that he had the job was first broken in a Crystal tweet that was so casual, many initially wondered if it was a joke:  “Am doing the Oscars so the young woman in the pharmacy will stop asking my name when I pick up my prescriptions. Looking forward to the show.”  Shortly thereafter, the Academy confirmed to Deadline.com that Crystal is locked as host.

Crystal has hosted the ceremony eight times, beginning in 1990, but appeared to eventually tire of the pressure (also, critics began to complain that his shtick had gotten overly familiar). He has hosted the Oscars only once since 2000, and that was seven years ago. It was fair to wonder if he’d ever be asked again, but this past Oscars may have represented a turning point. The ceremony was a boring flop, and hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway took much of the blame. But one of its highlights came when Crystal came out for a brief tribute to the most prolific of Oscar hosts, Bob Hope. The grateful applause was a signal that Hollywood, and by extension the audience at home, might be eager to see him host again.

All it took was one ill-considered remark from now former Oscar producer Brett Ratner in order for Crystal’s time to come again.