Neil Patrick Harris performing at the 2011 Tony Awards. (CBS )
NEW YORK -- In several hours the visage of Neil Patrick Harris will be beamed into millions of homes as the performer takes the stage for the 2013 Tony Awards, broadcast on CBS. Like Harris' other hosting gigs, it's a turn that has earned him acclaim every one of the years he’s done it (three, in this case).
All of which raises a question that just keeps percolating: Should Harris have a crack at the Oscars?
Fans have been crying yes, but producers have yet to ask him. Harris himself? The actor, who will also host the Emmys this year, plays it carefully when asked if he wants the gig.
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"It’s such a strange question to have to answer because if you answer in the affirmative -- 'I'd love to host the Oscars' -- it looks like you're pandering," he told The Times at a Tonys rehearsal session several days ago. "And if you say you're not interested then it seems like you're too good or have something better to do."
Fair enough. But would he consider it a disappointment if he went through his career having never stood on the Academy Awards stage? "Probably," he said. "I would think hosting the Oscars would be a great bucket list check-off,” though he also acknowledged that the incredible scrutiny does make him “reticent.”
He was definitive, however, in dismissing an argument, made by some skeptics, that his prolific turns on stage at other shows disqualified him for the high-profile gig.
"I personally feel like the hosting chapters I’ve had in my past are an education for doing things in the future, as opposed to the 'now I’m damaged goods' kind of mentality," he said.
Harris is shooting the Western comedy “A Million Ways to Die in the West” with director Seth MacFarlane, who knows a little about Oscar scrutiny. Harris says the two have talked about the pressures of the job, saying that MacFarlane tried to tune out some of the criticism and that he would likely do the same.
So how realistic is it? The Motion Picture Academy is bringing back 2013 producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to oversee the 2014 Oscars. The pair have deep Broadway and musical ties — something Harris counts on his resume as well. MacFarlane has said he will not return as host in 2014.
Ricky Kirshner, one of the two Emmy-winning producers returning for this year's Tonys, said he'd like to see Harris get a shot. (Incidentally, he also doesn't seem to quite appreciate how the Oscars borrowed from the Tonys in its use of a closing-number written in real time. "I think we proved from doing that for a couple years that amateurs shouldn’t try it," he said dryly. The Oscars of course went with a 'Here's to the Losers' number at this year's ceremony, mirroring, among other Tony bits, the rap Lin Manuel Miranda wrote in real-time for Harris at the 2011 show recapping what had transpired the previous few hours.)
Harris says he has tried not to lose sleep over the fact that he hasn’t been given a chance to host the Oscars, pointing to the level of politics and bureaucracy associated with landing the gig. "That show more than any other has a group of people that just decides things and goes through many rings apparently before it gets to an approval."
But he couldn’t resist an addition. "Maybe if 'A Million Ways to Die In the West' is a big hit financially,” he said drolly, “then they'll ask me to host.”
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