Oscars bring back Billy Crystal

LOS ANGELES Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:11pm EST

Presenter Billy Crystal stands on stage during the 83rd Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, February 27, 2011. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

Presenter Billy Crystal stands on stage during the 83rd Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, February 27, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Hershorn

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar organizers on Thursday brought back funnyman Billy Crystal to host the film awards after recent days of turmoil that led to the departure of one producer and his handpicked emcee Eddie Murphy.

Crystal, who has hosted the widely-watched Hollywood telecast eight times previously, announced his new job on Twitter with a post: "Am doing the Oscars so the young woman in the pharmacy will stop asking my name when I pick up prescriptions. Looking forward to the show."

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which runs the Oscars, re-tweeted Crystal's post to confirm his hiring.

The announcement follows days of drama at the academy after producer Brett Ratner late last week used the gay slur "fags" at a screening of his movie "Tower Heist," which stars Murphy.

His use of the word raised howls from gay rights groups and academy members. He apologized publicly on Monday, but his contrition failed to stem the firestorm. He resigned one day later. Murphy, who had been lured by Ratner to host the Oscar telecast, followed his boss out the door on Wednesday.

The academy responded by hiring "A Beautiful Mind" producer and Hollywood veteran Brian Grazer to replace Ratner, leaving the choice of a host to him.

Crystal first hosted the show in 1990 when "Driving Miss Daisy" was named the year's best movie, and the awards program was still easily topping 40 million viewers, making it the second-most watched U.S. TV program annually behind professional football's Super Bowl.

The comedian went on to host three more consecutive years, dropped out for two years, then came back for the 1998 telecast when "Titanic" was voted by academy members as the year's top movie and 57 million people tuned in. He last hosted the show in 2004.

The comedian has been among Oscar watchers' favorite hosts over the years and it seems like every year when hosts disappoint, as did James Franco last year, there have been calls for Crystal to return.

The upcoming Oscars for the movies of 2011 will take place on February 26, 2012.

(Editing by Jill Serjeant)

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