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Brian Grazer steps in as Academy Awards producer

FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2011 file image released by NBC, actor Eddie Murphy appears on the 'Today' show to promote his new movie 'Tower Heist' in New York. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011, that Murphy has withdrawn as host of the 84th Academy Awards. On Wednesday, Brett Ratner stepped down as producer of the show. FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2011 file image released by NBC, actor Eddie Murphy appears on the "Today" show to promote his new movie "Tower Heist" in New York. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011, that Murphy has withdrawn as host of the 84th Academy Awards. On Wednesday, Brett Ratner stepped down as producer of the show. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer, file)
By David Germain
AP Movie Writer / November 9, 2011

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LOS ANGELES—Brian Grazer has stepped onto the Academy Awards merry-go-round.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday that the veteran producer has signed on to produce next year's Oscar show after previously named producer Brett Ratner abruptly resigned.

Ratner departed the show Tuesday following uproar over a gay slur, and the host he chose, Eddie Murphy, resigned earlier Wednesday.

Academy president Tom Sherak said Grazer will join co-producer Don Mischer, who was named producer alongside Ratner in August.

Mischer, who co-produced the 2011 telecast, said in a statement that he is "thrilled to welcome Brian Grazer as my partner and that we will be collaborating to produce an outstanding show."

Grazer said, "Don is a legend, and I am excited to work with him."

The 60-year-old Grazer has been nominated for four Academy Awards and won for 2001's best picture, "A Beautiful Mind."

His appointment comes after a tumultuous few days for the academy that included Ratner's use of a gay slur and frank discussion of his sexual exploits, an apology from the 42-year-old director, his resignation a day later, then Murphy's exit on Wednesday after accepting the hosting job in September.

Ratner left amid criticism of his use of a pejorative term for gay men in a question-and-answer session at a screening of his action comedy "Tower Heist," which opened last weekend and stars Murphy and Ben Stiller.

Murphy's exit deprives Oscar organizers of a top star for an often thankless job that's tough to fill, since some past hosts have found little to gain from the gig and plenty to lose if they do a poor job as emcee of Hollywood's biggest party.

The two sides departed with cordial words, though.

"I completely understand and support each party's decision with regard to a change of producers for this year's Academy Awards ceremony," Murphy said in a news release from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. "I was truly looking forward to being a part of the show that our production team and writers were just starting to develop, but I'm sure that the new production team and host will do an equally great job."

Ratner had apologized for the gay slur, saying his comments had been "hurtful and stupid."

Murphy himself has a history of homophobic humor in his early standup years. His 1983 comedy special "Delirious" includes a segment in which Murphy jokes about being afraid of homosexuals and worrying that gay men are staring at his butt.

Academy President Tom Sherak bid Murphy farewell graciously.

"I appreciate how Eddie feels about losing his creative partner, Brett Ratner, and we all wish him well," Sherak said.

Still, losing Murphy is a blow to a ceremony that has struggled to pep up its image amid a general decline in its TV ratings over the last couple of decades and a rush of hipper awards shows that appeal to younger crowds, such as the MTV Movie Awards.

Oscar planners have sought to shorten the sometimes interminably long show and have tried new ways to present awards in hopes of livening things up.

They also have experimented with unexpected choices as hosts, which worked nicely with the song-and-dance talents of Hugh Jackman three years ago but backfired at last season's show, when perky Anne Hathaway was paired with lackluster co-host James Franco.

When the academy picked Murphy in September, it marked a return to the traditional funnyman as host, a formula that delivered some of the best-remembered Oscar pageants when Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal ran the show.

It is now up to Mischer and Grazer to select a host to replace Murphy.

Organizers still have plenty of time. The show is more than three months away, and much of the work in staging it has to wait until Oscar nominations are announced Jan. 24, anyway.

There's also no great rush to name a new host. The academy did not announce Hathaway and Franco as hosts until the end of November last year, while the announcement on Jackman three years ago did not come until mid-December. The Oscars are set for Feb. 26.

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AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen contributed to this report.

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