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Exclusive: Oscar producer Adam Shankman talks about hosts Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin

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Director/choreographer Adam Shankman has only been the co-producer of the Oscars for three weeks. But Shankman and his co-producer Bill Mechanic, former head of Twentieth Century Fox, have managed to lock down the biggest part of the job, the host. We talked to Shankman about wrangling veteran Oscar emcee Steve Martin and Academy newcomer Alec Baldwin.

EW: You must be thrilled and relieved to have this part of the job figured out?

Shankman: You have no idea. That’s always the big opening stress. I love that I’m going to be working so closely with two people that I cherish in my life so much.

That’s right. You’ve worked with Steve before. But have you worked with Alec?

I did two movies with Steve Martin, Bringin’ Down the House and Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and I know Alec very well socially through (Saturday Night Live producer) Marci Klein.

How did this all transpire?

When I asked Steve I think he was like, “Really? Again?” And I said, “Yes, because I want the show to feel that we are continuing to build on the Oscars and I’m not trying to make the MTV Movie Awards.” I want there to be some level of tradition that is respected by the community. But I also wanted to twist it up, ratchet up the funny. The two of them have a fantastic, ongoing comic relationship, both through SNL and they just did a movie together (Nancy Meyers’ upcoming comedy It’s Complicated). And I know that they really adore and respect each other. Plus, I know that they’ll be hilarious. I wanted there to be extra comedy in the show. It will keep it high entertainment. People will just be really curious as to what’s going to come out of Alec Baldwin’s mouth.

When was it decided you wanted two hosts?

Bill and I immediately discussed doing co-hosts, so that the burden didn’t fall entirely on one person and you were getting a fresh perspective on each announcement. Playing them together and separately will, I think, really help in the streamlining of the show. That was something we always talked about.

Will either/both of them dance? What about Steve playing the banjo?

I don’t know. I just got them today. (He laughs.) I don’t have a lot of answers. The thing I think is compelling is there had been a lot of speculation surrounding the hiring of me as a signal that there might be more of the song/dance. But I don’t want musical numbers unless there’s an organic fit into the show. I think by doing this we’re signaling to the community that the Academy hasn’t lost their mind but the show will still be fresh and young, because Alec has such a young following.

Can you address the rumors today about Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller?

Oh my God. There were so many names that we’ve thrown around. Those were names that were a quick discussion but I wanted early on to go in the direction we ended up.

We’ve also heard you guys went to Tina Fey and Steve Martin together and Tina said no. Is that true?

Once again, it was a really quick discussion and it was mostly about “do you think that could work?”‘ It wasn’t that she turned us down but her work schedule right in that time, she’s writing the last of her shows, and we realized then that it wouldn’t work. But they were so great on the show together (the Oscars last year) and he’d done 30 Rock. Once again there were lots of discussions in there.

Are you worried at all that the critics will find fault with you choosing two white males? That you’re not deviating from the norm at all?

Believe me, I’m the guy who made Hairspray so there shouldn’t be any question about what I want to do. There will be all sorts of people of multiple ethnicities that will be involved in meaningful ways in the show. This just happened to be a funny pairing. There was no consideration past the comedic possibilities. There will certainly be a multi-racial presence at the show. Remember, also, I made Bringing Down the House, which was also a slam on racism. There’s been a constant theme in my work to be against racism.