The pairing of showbiz veterans Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin seemed plenty safe enough when they were announced as this year's Oscars co-hosts. And I'm sure the 30 Rock star and the formerly funny comedian (who's hosted twice before) will do a perfectly fine job, though their retiree appeal promises to make this year's banter as fresh and young as their 2009 hit, It's Complicated. But according to Adam Shankman, the March 7 show could have been very, very different, because his first choice to emcee the 82nd annual Academy Awards was none other than British prankster Sacha Baron Cohen.
Shankman shared the revelation in an interview with NPR's Teri Gross (via Reuters), saying that when he and Oscars co-producer Bill Mechanic first took on the revitalization of the show, they both wanted the man behind Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, "Da Ali G Show," and last year's Brüno to host.
Not so shockingly, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, an organization known for being, well, a little bit old and fussy, said no to the controversial candidate. "The Academy swatted it down," Shankman said. "They thought it was too big of a wild card."
Personally, I'd love to see the Academy shake things up by letting someone like Cohen host, although you can't blame them for going for the sure thing over the gamble that'd be probably awesome (but only to viewers under the age of 40). Even then, history has shown that letting racy young British funnymen host awards shows hasn't always gone so well. (I'm looking at you, Russell Brand. And that was at the VMAs.) I'm not sure I'll live to see the day when the historically stuffy, older-leaning Oscars lets a comic madman like Sacha Baron Cohen loose on stage. But then it wouldn't be the Oscars, would it?
What this tidbit of information does give us is an indication that Shankman and Mechanic's 2010 Oscars production could be, well, exciting. If these guys thought "Sacha Baron Cohen!" off the bat, and are changing the game in various other ways (more Taylor Lautner! More Channing Tatum!), this could be a fun year for Oscar watching after all.