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Hugh Jackman hosting the Oscars

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Few, if any, celebrities can hold a candle to Billy Crystal when it comes to hosting the Oscars — but the motion picture academy won’t give up the arduous search. A published report today confirms that Hugh Jackman will take over the hosting duties Feb. 22. The Australian actor will certainly mark a departure for the ceremony; the star of Australia, who’s also famous for playing Wolverine, is not a comic. He is, however, comfortable holding the mike center stage: The singing and dancing Jackman has hosted the Tonys three times (pictured hosting in 2005) and received glowing reviews. In fact, a source close to the Broadway kudofest called him “sexy, funny, smart, and talented. Unbelievably collaborative. It wasn’t about him. It was about the show.”

Hosting the Oscars is, quite possibly, the hardest job in Hollywood. Critics are typically unforgiving, and the actors — especially the nominated ones sitting in the Kodak Theater — have little patience for a host who stalls their much-hoped-for march to the stage to retrieve the gold. That’s why it helps if the host really wants and likes to emcee — which is Jackman’s reputation — and is not preoccupied by the P.R. gains such a gig could achieve for their career. What’s more, going with a straight-up charmer like Jackman versus a comedian like Jon Stewart could be a savvy choice in this political climate; with Bush out of office, there’s no one to make fun of at the Oscars, anyway.

More Hugh Jackman and Oscars:

Oscars 2009: EW’s complete coverage

Dave Karger’s Oscar Watch blog

Hugh Jackman: People’s sexiest man alive

Four reasons to love Australia