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Brian Grazer Steps In to Save Oscars After Ratner, Murphy Depart

Film producer Brian Grazer stepped in to oversee the 84th Academy Awards in place of Brett Ratner, who left the show this week after making controversial remarks and was followed out the door by host Eddie Murphy.

Grazer, who produced Oscar winner “A Beautiful Mind,” will supervise the Feb. 26 telecast along with Don Mischer on Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences said yesterday in a statement.

The producing team faces a deadline of less than four months and the immediate task of replacing Murphy, who quit yesterday. Ratner, the director of the comedian’s most recent film, “Tower Heist,” stepped down on Nov. 8 after after being criticized for making a gay slur and for publicly recounting sexual exploits with actresses.

“It’s very gratifying to be part of a show that honors excellence in the medium to which I have devoted so much of my career,” Grazer said in the statement. “Don is a legend, and I am excited to work with him.”

Grazer took the job hours after Murphy withdrew as host. The academy had turned to Murphy, a television comic whose success on the big screen parallels past hosts like Billy Crystal and Steve Martin, after last year’s show lost 9.1 percent of its viewers.

Murphy, 50, was working with Ratner and a team of writers to headline the show. Last year, the academy announced hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco on Nov. 29, suggesting there is sufficient time to stage the event.

‘Choice Material’

“There have been hosts named later than this, but the Brett Ratner situation and then Eddie Murphy stepping down, I’ve never seen any confluence of events quite like this,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office research at “This will offer a lot of choice comedic material for anyone who ends up hosting.”

The academy has also tinkered with the best-picture category, expanding it to 10 this past year in an effort to include more popular movies.

This time, five to 10 nominees will be announced on Jan. 24. The television audience for the Oscars has historically been biggest when blockbusters like “Avatar,” the highest-grossing movie of all time, are up for the top honors. Grazer, 60, the long-time partner of Ron Howard for filmmaking, was a producer on “Tower Heist.”

Ratner was criticized for a gay slur he made after a “Tower Heist” screening, and for remarks about sexual escapades with actresses he made in a Nov. 7 appearance on Howard Stern’s radio program.

Disney, the Burbank, California-based theme park operator and owner of ESPN and Pixar animation studio, fell 4.3 percent to $33.79 yesterday in New York trading. The shares have declined 9.9 percent this year.

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