The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has confirmed that one-time Oscar nominee Eddie Murphy will host next year’s awards night ceremony.

Murphy, 50, was the first choice of show co-producer Brett Ratner, who recently directed Murphy in the upcoming action comedy Tower Heist and issued the following froth-from-the-mouth press statement:

Eddie is a comedic genius, one of the greatest and most influential live performers ever. With his love of movies, history of crafting unforgettable characters and his iconic performances – especially on stage – I know he will bring excitement, spontaneity and tremendous heart to the show.

Next February’s ceremony will mark the first time the former Saturday Night Live star has performed a live comedy gig since his filmed 1987 show Raw. Back then a coked-up Murphy clad in Michael Jackson-esque purple vinyl wooed audiences with a snappy array of irreverent rants. Some of them, about gay people and HIV, he later apologised for.

Murphy has appeared in Oscars broadcasts numerous times before, including presenting the Best Picture category in 1988 and awarding the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Jerry Lewis in 2009. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2007 for Dreamgirls, but, given his critically maligned turkey Norbit opened roughly the same time Academy members cast their votes, it was perhaps not surprising that Murphy lost to Alan Arkin (for Little Miss Sunshine). He reacted in the manner of a colossal bad sport and famously exited the Kodak Theater after Arkin name was announced.

Murphy’s career is studded with early successes (Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, The Golden Child, Another 48 Hrs etc) but took a spectacular dive in the 90s and naughties, with a wide array of what-was-he-thinking clunkers including Doctor Dolittle, Holy Man, Life, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Daddy Day Care, The Haunted Mansion and Imagine That.

Regardless, selecting Murphy was a smart move from the Academy. Even with such a startling collection of clangers to his name there is no denying Murphy’s natural charisma, and there is something interesting about picking a borderline has-been with a checkered on and off screen reputation. On the other hand, 15 or 20 years ago Murphy would have been a wild choice; now, after demonstrating time and time again that his once risque shtick has been watered down and homogenised, he will make a safe pair of hands.

Naturally, Murphy leapt at the opportunity and issued the following statement:

I am enormously honored to join the great list of past Academy Award hosts from Hope and Carson to Crystal, Martin and Goldberg, among others. I’m looking forward to working with Brett and Don on creating a show that is enjoyable for both the fans at home and for the audience at the Kodak Theatre as we all come together to celebrate and recognize the great film contributions and collaborations from the past year.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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