Oscars get ‘Smash’-ed as Craig Zadan and Neil Meron set to produce 85th Academy Awards

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this morning that Oscar winners Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will produce the 85th Academy Awards.  The best news about this announcement for fans of the grand daddy of all awards shows is that after two years Don Misher is no longer behind the scenes as an executive producer. Misher was part of the 83rd Academy Awards which is now considered one of the worst productions in the history of the event.

In a statement released by the Academy, recently elected AMPAS president Hawk Koch noted, “Craig and Neil are forward thinkers who bring a unique perspective to the Oscar show.  Their enormous collective talent, coupled with their love of film, serves our show perfectly.”

It’s no secret that the producers of “Chicago,” which took home six Oscars including best picture, have long coveted the gig.  Over the years they have seen former colleagues peers such as Bill Condon (“Chicago”), Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”) and peers including Bruce Cohen and Brian Glazer helm the show.  Additionally, last year Brett Ratner was set to produce before resigning over controversial remarks at a post-screening Q&A.  Glazer stepped in at the last minute and along with host Billy Crystal brought some stability back to ABC’s ratings crown jewel.  For Zadan and Meron, their time is now.

“We are very excited to collaborate with Hawk and everyone at the Academy to produce this year’s Oscars,” said Zadan and Meron. “We hope to utilize our experience in producing features, TV and theater to bring something fresh and special to this incredible awards show. When we filmed ‘The Bucket List,” we made our own personal bucket list, and producing the Oscars was #1. It”s truly a great honor.”

Academy CEO Dawn Hudson added, “Craig and Neil have great talent relationships and bring an infectious energy to the production. They are creative producers in the best sense of the word.”

Zadan and Meron’s cinematic exploits have slowed over the decade. They recently produced Paramount Pictures’ reboot of “Footloose” and the afforementioned hit “The Bucket List” with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.  The longtime business partners have found more success on the small screen recently.  They are executive producers of NBC’s “Smash,” Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva” and are behind Lifetime’s remake of “Steel Magnolias” which is expected to air later this year.

Additional credits for the pair include the acclaimed TV movie of “A Raisin in the Sun” which screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and the Tony Award winning revivals of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” and “Promises, Promises.” 

The announcement will immediately fuel speculation that this year’s Oscars will once again be framed in a musical direction as song and dance numbers are basically in the producer’s DNA at this point.  This creative choice is something of a turnaround from the rumored comedy pairing of producer Lorne Michaels and potential host Jimmy Fallon that made waves earlier this month.  A few days after the initial report, Fallon announced on NBC’s “Today” show he would not host this year.  With Meron and Zadan on board, don’t be surprised if “People’s Choice Awards” show host Queen Latifah becomes a prime candidate to emcee this year’s Oscars.  The former nominee has worked with the duo on both the big  (“Chicago”) and small (“Steel Magnolias”) screen.

The 85th Academy Awards will air live on the ABC television network on Feb. 24, 2013.