Jimmy Kimmel returns to the Dolby Theatre — with quadruple-checked envelopes — to host the 90th installment of the Oscars, a.k.a. the most important and glittery awards show that celebrates excellence in film. Last year, as you may recall, the fearless late-night host had to step in and preside over a teeny bit of controversy when the Best Picture trophy initially went to the wrong nominee (sorry, La La Land) before the envelope fiasco was resolved (slightly belated congrats, Moonlight!). Kimmel recently reflected on that fateful foul-up with EW, and now, as he looks ahead to Sunday’s Academy Awards (ABC, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT), we ask: What measures has he taken to ensure that it doesn’t happen again? “I’m not sure what controversy you’re referring to,” he deadpans. “Did something happen last year? If it did, I wasn’t made aware of it.” Before you figure out who to bet on in your Oscar pool — The Shape of Water (13 nominations) or Dunkirk (8 nods)? Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri star Frances McDormand, who’s been on a Best Actress trophy tour? — read on to see how the Jimmy Kimmel Live host feels about his second tour of duty — and what tricks may be up his tuxedo shirt sleeve.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How do you top last year’s host?
JIMMY KIMMEL: I wouldn’t dare even try. The guy is all razzle-dazzle.
Besides fastidious envelope management, what lessons from last year will you be keeping in mind as you approach this year’s ceremony?
Play to the room. Stay loose. Feed the crew.
You go into this year’s Oscars as a slightly different host than you were heading into last year’s. You’re known much more now for voicing political opinions on your show — and, of course, we live in a more heavily politicized world than ever before. How much responsibility do you feel to address the current climate, and how much of this year’s monologue will dive into political waters?
I’m not really sure yet. I have a very fat monologue right now, and I need to pare it down. What I’ve learned doing these awards shows is that there are diminishing returns for dwelling too much on one subject. So I’ll probably just have a couple of hits on a lot of different things.
Last year, you invited us to reach out across the aisle and have a positive conversation. What will you invite us to do this year?
Umm, just stop hitting each other. [Laughs.] People reached out across the aisle, and it turned violent, so I think now we should all stop talking to each other and stop going on the internet. The internet went out at my house last night in the middle of the night for about an hour and a half. It was from 1 to 2:30 a.m., and I was beside myself. I didn’t know what to do. I almost drove to a coffee shop. If I wasn’t in my underpants, I would have went right to a coffee shop.
Will you be checking Donald Trump’s Twitter account up until you’re walking on stage and maybe beyond?
I’m always checking Trump’s Twitter account. Although I refuse to follow him. [Laughs.] I just have a direct link that I go to, over and over again. But it probably is my most-visited site.
Which celebrities or politicians should probably pre-duck and cover with the jokes you’re already planning for them?
This year, I’m planning to go pretty hard at Jennifer Hudson. It’s time.
The #MeToo movement has been the most important story in Hollywood over the last year. We saw Seth Meyers call himself the first astronaut shot into space when he hosted the Golden Globes. How do you plan to address it?
I will not ignore it. One thing I do is read the room. All of that stuff will get its time on the show, for sure.
How elastic will this ceremony be? You’re such a fan of spontaneity and screw-ups. Are you rooting for chaos, like with what happened last year with the envelope?
I don’t want this show to go exactly as planned. There have to be surprises, there have to be notable moments, and rarely do those come from scripted material and your typical awards show fare. So if somebody falls or if somebody says something crazy or if somebody runs naked across the stage, I’m not going to feel bad about it. It’s not going to disappoint me.
When you look out at the audience, you have friends. You have interviewed many of the nominees. How would do you view yourself in relation to them, as opposed to an actor who might host and consider himself “one of them”?
I definitely don’t consider myself to be one of them. I feel like a maître d’ at a very fancy restaurant. These people, in a way, are my clients [laughs] in that I do a talk show, and they are important to that show, so I go into a situation like this a little differently than Chris Rock might go into a situation like this, where he doesn’t give a s—. I have to give a s—. [Laughs.]
Which race intrigues you the most? Do you have a rooting int—
Oscar race. Are there any that you are following closely?
I guess Best Picture is the most interesting one. People handicap this stuff like getting ready for the Super Bowl. But in this case, unlike the Super Bowl, there’s some actual inside information, but that information is never particularly solid. If people are at a party, and two people tell them that they voted for Get Out, they’re like, “Get Out is going to win.” And then you start to believe this stuff. And then I start thinking, “There’s some pretty good odds on Get Out. Maybe I should be putting some money down on this thing.” You know, I’m from Las Vegas. That’s my first inclination when I hear something. [Laughs.] But I think that’s the most interesting category, because it’s the only category where we don’t know almost for sure who’s going to win.
And which film would you like to see win?
Well, I won’t say that because I don’t want to give any appearance of impropriety.
Got it. You’re the referee here. You want to be impartial.
Yeah, we’ve had enough problems with the envelope.
Will you give Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty a chance at redemption?
[Laughs]. Well, Faye and Warren didn’t do anything wrong. They were handed an envelope and they read what was on it. [Laughs.] So I challenge that notion, just to start with.
Will they possibly be playing along in some bit?
I’m not going to give anything away about the show itself.
Speaking of highly trained actors, how much will Guillermo’s acting chops be tested at this year’s ceremony?
Guillermo’s acting chops are tested every time he attempts to speak English. Guillermo will be on the red carpet interviewing people as they come through and probably getting them drunk. So, in a way, he warms up the crowd for me as well.
The Shape of Water is a big favorite this year. Should we brace ourselves to see you naked in a tub or underwater, enjoying an intimate moment with Guillermo — you choose which Guillermo?
Do you have to ruin all my surprises? I love Del Toro, but my Guillermo is numero uno.
Does this year’s crop of film nominated films provide more or less comedy fodder than last year’s bunch?
I think it’s much easier this year. I mean, I don’t think it’s very easy. I mean, just the fact that one of the movies has a woman having sex with a fish guy, that’s a good leaping off point. But the challenge always is that it’s difficult to make jokes that reference movies people haven’t seen. I wonder, if I make a joke about Timothee Chalamet and the peach [in Call Me by Your Name], is the audience going to get that? Last year I made what I thought was a pretty solid joke about the only happy ending being in the middle of Moonlight. Most of the people didn’t seem to get it, and it occurred to me that they voted for a Best Picture they did not actually watch.
But your recovery off that joke was good.
I don’t remember what it was. What was it?
You said, “You haven’t seen the movie, have you?”
Oh, yeah, yeah. Right. I was expecting gales of laughter from that joke, and then it occurred to me that the only possible reason for it flopping was that they didn’t get the reference. Because also, I saw three people laughing at it, so I knew it was funny.
It’s like what you told the French actress [Isabelle Huppert]: “We didn’t see Elle, but we absolutely loved it.”
That’s 100 percent true. There’s no way. You know how that goes. Sometimes people see names that seem like they’re Academy Award-worthy, so they just check that box.
Last year, you brought in some tourists to the theater, and you had celebrities read Mean Tweets. Can you offer a few cryptic teases about what things you have in store for this year?
Well, um… there’s a chance that people might win something other than just an Oscar.
Is there a bit that is threaded throughout the show?
Yeah, but not to the extent that it has happened in the past. There will be some recurring stuff. I’m very conscious of not, you know, beating stuff to death.
On that note, is this good news for Matt—
With that said, I’ve done 25,000 Matt Damon jokes. [Laughs.] As soon as I heard myself say that, I was like, “Wait a minute, I’ve literally beat a joke to death for a period of 15 years!”
What’s one final hint you can give us about the show?
One thing I know for sure: There will be a group of people who are mad. Probably multiple groups of people who are mad. And there’s nothing I can do about that, short of destroying the internet. Maybe net neutrality — or the lack of — will solve that problem for us in the future.
I look forward to the net neutrality part of your monologue.
That’s right. The biggest thing that will actually affect all of us, we don’t even f—ing know what it is. [Laughs.]
To read much more from Kimmel, who was one of EW’s Entertainers of the Year, click here.