By John Cerilli
Wolverine hosting the Oscars? Of course, bub.
Wolvie's the best at what he does and the actor who portrays him, the multi-talented Hugh Jackman, is pretty damn good himself—a natural choice for the gig—just ask Sid Ganis, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a member of Marvel's Board of Directors.
Ganis graciously took some time out of his seemingly non-stop schedule to chat with us about all things Oscars and super heroes: Jackman's selection, what you'll be seeing on your TV come Oscar time on Feb. 22 and in this watershed year for the genre—why super hero films are so popular and moviemakers have a gigantic obligation to keep delivering the goods.
Marvel.com: Why Hugh Jackman and why now—especially after such a long run of comedians and actors with heavy comedic backgrounds hosting the show?
Well, actually, there are a couple of things. First of all Hugh Jackman is very funny. Take a look at that big gorgeous guy and put that beautiful smile on his face and a joke in his delivery; he actually turns out to be a very funny guy.
Marvel.com: Yes, he hosted the Tonys three times…
This is a stage actor. He knows what it is to perform before a live audience, whether it's the Tonys or a benefit or, of course, a Broadway musical. He knows what it means to work an audience. It's a very different scene than doing a movie and working the audience through the lens. He's completely familiar with it and prepared to move in any direction. He's prepared to deal with his audience—and he's got one hell of an audience to deal with that night. He's got a gigantic television audience, of course; one of the biggest. And then he has the esteemed audience in the Kodak Theatre.
Marvel.com: It's quite a mix to contend with, no question. How do you think his presence will shape the show and the broadcast? For example, will there be a standard "opening monologue" or will it give way to something more akin to Jackman's song and dance abilities and background?
I'm happy to talk about it, but in talking about it, I won't tell you anything, because I really want you to know that we are, for one thing, still in the planning stages. The second thing is it's going to have a different feel to it than previous shows for a number of reasons. One reason is that we have to freshen it up and make sure that the audience is intrigued and curious. That's one big reason. The other big reason is that we have this guy…We have Hugh Jackman. We have our man—near and dear to us at Marvel and familiar to the audience—who's going to bring a different sensibility to the whole thing.
Marvel.com: Undoubtedly. Which begs the question, what criteria are you going to use to judge his hosting abilities, or is it simply a matter of the ratings?
I'm not going to use any criteria to judge his hosting abilities in the sense that others will do it for me. You will! You're going to say to the guy sitting next to you, "Hey, man. That was sensational last night!" Or, "Oh boy, that sucked." So you're going to do the judging for me—thank you very much. I feel really good and secure in terms of the talent. When I say talent I mean he's a major talent and he's talented as a major talent. He's got the stuff. This man can sing and dance.
Marvel.com: Let's talk super heroes for a moment. 2008 has been a huge year for the likes of "Iron Man," "The Incredible Hulk," and that guy with the bat on his chest, "The Dark Knight." Is Hugh Jackman's selection connected to this?
No. Absolutely, positively not. It just so happens that I am fortunate enough to be the head of the Academy and also a Marvel dude at the same time. All that means is that I know what Jackman has done for our franchise. Other than that, no. I'll tell you what is important. You'll be seeing a lot of what the movies have to offer this year on the show. Not just the nominated movies, but the movies of the year. There have been quite a few super hero—as you put it—movies out this year that are important movies, regardless of whether they are nominated. We are going to feature the movies of the year a lot more than we've ever done [on the broadcast].
Marvel.com: That's really cool to know! So, to continue on the topic of super hero film popularity, in the last decade or so, we have seen audiences for these films grow dramatically. From your unique point of view—as a Marvel board member and as President of the Academy—why has the interest in these films become so widespread?
I can tell you why. It's simple. I can't do it from either of those points of view, but I can do it from my own understanding of film, of the art of film and the storytelling aspect of film. They have become absolutely fascinating documents. The stories associated now with the super hero films and this year's films are a perfect example—"The Dark Knight," "Iron Man " and who knows what "The Spirit" is going to bring (I know it's not really a super hero film)…We are interested as moviegoers because the stories are sensational, absolutely sensational. That's why. In the old days, they were less sensational. I do go back a bit with it as I worked at Warner Bros. at the time when we released and marketed the very first "Superman" movie. I've had that experience over the years in this genre and I've seen it change. I've seen these stories become so much more complex and reality driven.
Marvel.com: When "The Incredible Hulk" opened this summer, William Hurt (Thunderbolt Ross in the film) gave us this wonderful response to a question we asked on the red carpet that speaks to what you're saying. Hurt said the Hulk story, "Is not frivolous nonsense." In fact, he called it a "classic."
They endure for a reason. A bad story won't endure, but a good one will, whether it's a comic book, a poem or an F. Scott Fitzgerald story. Whatever it is, if it's good it will endure. People are fascinated and want to be transported today more than ever. We have a gigantic obligation to the movie-going public out there. We have to keep it on the level that we have just been talking about.
Marvel.com: With that in mind, do you ever imagine a day when a super hero film will win Best Picture?
[laughs] Boy, you really have to stretch your imagination for that. But yes, only because I am an optimist and have been my whole career. No kidding around, I will answer your question–sure, one day. Give us the right material and the right performance. Goodness gracious, we had two movies this year that bit into this possibility. One was "The Dark Knight" and the other was "Iron Man."
Watch the Academy Awards on ABC, Sunday, February 22, 2009 at 8 PM ET.
Hugh Jackman stars in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" opening in theaters May 1, 2009.
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