After a long search, the Oscars have found their next host in funny man Kevin Hart. The comedian and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the news Tuesday.
“For years I have been asked if I would ever Host the Oscars and my answer was always the same,” Hart wrote on social media. “I said that it would be an opportunity of a lifetime for me as a comedian and that it would happen when it’s suppose to. I am so happy to say the day has finally come for me to host the Oscars.”
He added, “I will be sure to make this years Oscars a special one. I appreciate the @TheAcademy for the opportunity ….now it’s time to rise to the occasion.”
The Academy retweeted Hart’s message, adding, “Welcome to the family.”
The Academy has weathered a rocky ride in recent years, with the #OscarsSoWhite debacle set off by two consecutive years of all-white acting nominees, a Best Picture mishap on stage in 2017, and the lowest ratings to date from this year’s ceremony, where host Jimmy Kimmel had to tackle the immediate aftermath of the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up campaign. The show only drew 26.5 million U.S. viewers, down from 32 million in 2017.
The biggest issue facing the Oscars is the lack of popular films among its nominees, as voters have a penchant for honoring weighty dramas or independent and art-house fare. This year saw Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water edge out Lady Bird, Get Out, Dunkirk, Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, The Post, Phantom Thread, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in the Best Picture race. None of the contenders were among the year’s top 10 films at the U.S. box office, which included Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Wonder Woman, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (the latter of which starred Hart).
After an aborted attempt to introduce a new category at the 2019 Oscars that would honor “popular films” of the year — a proposal that was widely panned, given the lack of clear criteria of how to judge what’s popular — the Academy needed more than ever to harness a host with recognizable star power and an ability to attract and engage audiences around the world.
Hart, 39, has carved a career through stand-up into big-budget action-comedies such as the Ride Along franchise, Central Intelligence, and Get Hard, films that don’t get a look in at the Oscars. He’ll be next seen alongside Bryan Cranston in The Upside, a remake of the French film Les Intouchables, about a wealthy entrepreneur who is left paralyzed after an accident and hires a recently paroled man to be his live-in assistant, a role that will allow Hart to showcase more of his dramatic side.
With the Oscars, Hart will take on the biggest hosting gig on U.S. television, while following in the footsteps of fellow comedians like Kimmel, Chris Rock, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg.
The 91st Academy Awards will be held Feb. 24.