The year was 2011. Brett Ratner had been selected to produce the 84th Academy Awards with Eddie Murphy as host. But three months before the ceremony, tragedy struck in the form of offensive verbal diarrhea coming out of Ratner’s mouth, and both Ratner and Murphy bailed, leaving the Oscars without a host. Eventually, Brian Grazer stepped in to produce, and Billy Crystal volunteered to host for another safe and boring telecast, which makes it all the more painful knowing what could have been.
In an interview with the Huffington Post promoting Get Hard, Will Ferrell said that he and Zach Galifianakis (who were working on The Campaign together at the time) offered to host, but with a catch — a glorious-sounding catch — but the Academy was all “thanks, but no thanks.”
“We will host the Oscars if you do a campaign that you can’t find an Oscars host up until the last second,” Ferrell said of his idea. “It’s going to be a surprise and we’ll walk out on stage. The whole premise of our hosting was that we were asked at the last second. So we’re always flustered. We don’t know the jokes. We don’t know where the cameras are. We do the entire show as if it’s unrehearsed.”
Ferrell said the producers were into the idea, but didn’t think it would work because of marketing reasons. “They said, ‘Ha ha ha, we think it’s so funny, but no, we have to do promos.'” Ferrell said. “We said, ‘Why do you have to do additional things?’ We gave them gold and … they’ve got to be willing to be unconventional.”
Ferrell and Galifianakis did end up making an appearance at the 2012 Oscars as presenters, and I can’t remember back that far, but I have no doubt it was probably the best part of the show.