Veteran Author Bruce Vilanch Tells All (and Extra)

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The 1989 Oscars, notorious for his or her 11-minute opening manufacturing quantity that noticed Snow White dueting with Rob Lowe on “Proud Mary,” ended the profession of the present’s producer, Allan Carr. That 12 months’s ceremony, nevertheless, proved a extra auspicious starting for first-time telecast-writer Bruce Vilanch, who would go on to work on 24 extra reveals. “They gave me a T-shirt that stated, ‘I wrote all the pieces however Snow White,’” Vilanch, 72, says. The humorist began as a author for the Chicago Tribune earlier than Hollywood got here calling. Through the years, he’s written not only for the Oscars but additionally the Tonys, Grammys, and Emmys, making him a form of awards-show éminence grise, if somebody as blond as Vilanch can technically be thought of such a factor.

Right here, he talks to Andrew Goldman about previous Oscar ceremonies and provides just a few COVID-era what-not-to-dos for the first-time producers of April 25’s Oscars.

Hearken to the total dialog with Vilanch on Los Angeles‘ podcast The Originals.


A giant a part of the job of an Oscar author is writing the bits that the celebrities say whereas presenting. Would you get a whole lot of pushback from stars?

You get notes, and everyone will get into the act. I imply, I actually obtained a name as soon as from a man who was Goldie Hawn’s yoga coach, who stated, “She left a script on the studio, and I took a take a look at it. , she’s not going to say this.” This really occurred.

Who was notably laborious to write down for?

Keanu Reeves was laborious to write down for as a result of there’s no stage persona there. Johnny Depp was the identical factor. I imply, when actors inhabit characters, it’s on the web page and that’s their job. However they’re not like Shirley MacLaine or Billy Crystal or Bette Midler, who strut out on stage each night time and have the stage persona. I had a bitter failure with Keanu, who’s a extremely terrific man. We thought we’d give him a Invoice and Ted form of factor to do. It was ridiculous. He tried to promote it. It simply didn’t work. Forty years later and I’m nonetheless apologizing to him.

Oscar telecast historical past is stuffed with jokes that don’t land. In your function as a author, have been you ever in a position to forestall a catastrophe?

Effectively, one apparent one involves thoughts. We had a joke [for host Billy Crystal] concerning the rumor about Richard Gere and a gerbil.

Oh my God. I can’t imagine you thought of doing a gerbiling joke on the Oscars.

Effectively, there was a film that 12 months known as An American Tail about Fievel the mouse. And the joke was “Richard Gere was going to current this award with Fievel, however Fievel backed out.’ Richard was on the present presenting one thing very severe like documentary, so he’s sitting on the market, and we’re backstage wanting on the displays. And while you’re sitting on the Oscars and also you see a man arising the aisle with a digital camera, you understand one thing’s going to occur involving you that you just don’t find out about. So Richard sees the digital camera and he’s terrified. And so Billy simply appears at him and says, “We are able to’t. He’ll have a coronary heart assault. Take a look at him, he’s pale already.” So we lower the joke. I want I may say that I stated to chop it, however Billy stated it.

Vilanch and Daryl Hannah on the Governor’s Ball in 1992

The Oscars have been experimenting with having no host in any respect as a result of evidently regardless of how high-profile a gig it’s, it’s laborious to seek out somebody prepared to host.

It’s inconceivable.

Why?

As a result of if you happen to’re sufficiently big to host the Academy Awards, you possibly can solely get in your personal manner. Issues that you’d do on another present and never get seen . . . everyone notices it while you do on the Academy Awards. David Letterman didn’t have to host the present, and he was residing with it for years afterward.

Is there any individual elusive that producers are all the time going after to host who’s by no means stated sure?

Tom Hanks. I believe he as soon as stated they’ll by no means nominate me once more if I host the factor. I don’t suppose that’s true, however I simply don’t suppose he desires to do it. One 12 months Billy was very sick—had like extreme migraines—and we have been fearful about whether or not he would make it. Tom was the standby. He would have come and executed it, however Billy rallied and was nice.

Do you bear in mind folks politicking to host?

Jay Leno needed it very badly, however I believe ABC was not taken with selling him. Which is bizarre as a result of Johnny Carson did it [five times between 1979 and 1984].

If somebody hosts solely as soon as, is it truthful to imagine that particular person wasn’t deemed profitable at it?

Perhaps. Or it is likely to be that they didn’t prefer it. These persons are so wealthy and well-known already that they don’t want undergo all of the agita. They don’t want the cash. And if you happen to’re going to do it the best way a performer does it, you’re going to spend so much of time on it—time that you possibly can spend making a Marvel comics film.

You labored on the notorious Anne Hathaway-James Franco present. What went incorrect?

The concept was that they have been younger and that was all that mattered. However that they had no actual chemistry. Once they obtained collectively to do the promos for the present, they have been edited to look as if that they had chemistry, however that they had no chemistry.

Once you say no chemistry, do you imply that they didn’t notably take care of each other?

I might hate to say that about both of them as a result of I do know them each they usually’re good folks. However Anne’s a precision instrument. She’s very disciplined and knew what she was going to do every time. And James is freewheeling, so he was not likely in his consolation zone. Plus, James had introduced in a bunch of Judd Apatow writers who had by no means been concerned with the present earlier than, throwing him stuff.

Even with one of the best hosts, there’s some extent at which the printed appears like it can by no means finish. Is there any method to repair that?

Yeah, it’s important to eradicate classes. However the Academy’s not going to try this. Yearly, I say, “When the rankings get low sufficient, they’ll begin eliminating.” There are 24 classes, and solely 4 of them have actors. A part of the explanation that individuals get drained is as a result of they’ve seen awards reveals just like the Golden Globes the place everyone is recognizable. And the Oscar present is filled with nerds. A few of them are saying some fantastic, vital issues, however folks aren’t listening as a result of they don’t give a shit about them.

So what can this 12 months’s Oscar producers—Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher, and Jesse Collins—study from different COVID-19 period awards reveals?

Effectively, the Emmys did it nice. The Golden Globes tried to duplicate a few of that, however that they had a few of their very own concepts that didn’t work. Their comedy sketches swung vast, with Kristen Wiig after which Maya Rudolph and Keenan Thompson doing that factor. They have been each humorous premises, however they simply didn’t land, particularly after they had an viewers of fifty first responders. It was a pleasant concept, however no person desires to see an viewers with out celebrities in it. Plus, the present was laden with a lot—they have been carrying the guilt of the white race the entire present. Don’t do the present that you’d usually do; do one thing utterly completely different. Steven Soderbergh producing is a superb concept as a result of he’s a filmmaker, and he’ll do one thing completely different with it. As a result of he is aware of that he can’t do the identical previous, standard. As a result of we’re in a unprecedented 12 months.


RELATED: The Final Time the Oscars Didn’t Have a Host All Hell Broke Free


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