As the Academy Awards tradition goes, each year the Oscar for Best Actor is presented by the previous year's Best Actress, and Best Actress by the previous year's Best Actor. But at the 2018 Oscars, we're seeing a break in that tradition, as 2017 Best Actor Casey Affleck quietly bowed out of the duty, the Academy and his personal rep both confirmed in January. (Similarly, 2017 Best Actress Emma Stone will not be presenting this year's Best Actor with his statuette, but she will appear on stage to hand out an award for a different category.)
Affleck's stepping down has opened up the category presentation for a female-powered lineup, with former Best Actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster presenting Best Actor, and former Best Actresses Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren presenting Best Actress.
Although the rep for Affleck released no further statement, letting his action speak for itself, the Academy's statement — "We appreciate the decision to keep the focus on the show and on the great work of this year" — seems to indicate a swift avoidance of the controversy that marred the actor's awards season run.
Last year, as the awards campaign for Manchester By the Sea gained speed, allegations made against Affleck in 2010 — with him on the accused end of a sexual harassment lawsuit — resurfaced. The case was settled before it went to trial, presumably to the satisfaction of all parties involved.
Although a clause of the settlement prohibits public discussion of the allegations, since his win, Affleck has publicly condemned sexual harassment in general, telling the Boston Globe, "I believe that any kind of mistreatment of anyone for any reason is unacceptable and abhorrent, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect in the workplace and anywhere else." Still, an online petition against Affleck presenting at the 2018 Oscars garnered almost 20,000 signatures ahead of the actor's resignation.
Regardless of the official reasoning behind the move, it seems safe to say this decision wasn't made because Affleck is ungrateful for the honor.
"I'm really proud to be a part of this community in general and I look out at all of you, and I have this whole year, and I'm just dumbfounded that I'm included, and it means a lot to me," he graciously said at last year's ceremony while accepting his award. It also meant a lot to his older brother, two-time Oscar-winner Ben Affleck, who looked on with tears in his eyes as his little bro stood on stage.