It was all set up so well – a Rolling Stone cover, interviews on Fallon, Regis and Kimmel, a War and Peace-length column on his career by Bill Simmons on Grantland (well worth a read here), and the Oscars hosting gig in February. For the first time in a decade, Murphy seemed to be slipping back into the public consciousness for all the right reasons.
And then … Tower Heist opened to decent-but-not-great box office, and the movie’s director (and Oscars producer) Brett Ratner seemed hell-bent on painting himself as a boorish frat-boy through a damning interview and a homophobic slur uttered at a media event. The latter got him canned as the event’s producer, and Murphy quit right afterwards.
There’s no guarantee that Murphy would have brought down the house at the Oscars; many funny people before him have tried and failed. Even Chris Rock never really connected during his one time on stage. When the Academy has tried to think outside the box, the results have ranged from good (Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin) to okay (Hugh Jackman) to plain disastrous (last year’s pairing of James Franco and Anne Hathaway).
Signing up Murphy, who had sunk to near-pariah status in Hollywood, was one of those experiments. It might have failed, but it would have been interesting – something the Oscars ceremony has been severely lacking over the past few years.