Chris Rock Rewriting Show in Wake of Oscars Diversity Controversy

Chris Rock
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

UPDATE: A representative for Rock has refuted Hudlin’s comments, saying in a statement that the comedian “has made no decisions about the content of the show.”

Chris Rock will remain host of this year’s Academy Awards and is rewriting his jokes to focus on the diversity controversy that has swirled around the awards show, a producer at the Oscars confirmed in a recent interview.

Speaking at the NAACP Image Awards Nominee Luncheon on Saturday, Academy Awards producer Reginald Hudlin confirmed to Entertainment Tonight that Rock would stay on as host at this year’s ceremony despite calls for him to step down.

Hudlin also said that Rock has completely scrapped his just-completed monologue and is writing an entirely new show with an increased focus on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that has exploded over the past week as critics blasted the Academy for nominating exclusively white actors in top categories for a second consecutive year.

“Chris is hard at work. He and his writing staff locked themselves in a room,” Hudlin told ET. “As things got a little provocative and exciting, he said, ‘I’m throwing out the show I wrote and writing a new show.’ Chris is that thorough. He’s that brilliant, and I have 1000 percent confidence that he will deliver something that people will be talking about for weeks.”

The Academy announced a dramatic overhaul to its voting rules and organizational structure on Friday with the aim of doubling the number of female and minority members by 2020, as part of a broader effort to increase diversity in the organization and, by extension, at the Academy Awards. The move came after more than a week of mounting criticism against the Academy, with high-profile critics like Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Spike Lee, and Michael Moore announcing they would boycott this year’s ceremony due to the lack of diversity among the acting nominees.

Some stars had called for Rock to relinquish his hosting duties.

“There is no joke that he can crack,” actor Tyrese Gibson said in a recent interview with People. “There is no way for him to seize the moment and come into this thing and say, ‘I’m going to say this and say that I’m going to address the issue but then I’m still going to keep my gig as the host.’ The statement that you make is that you step down.”

Two-time Oscar nominee Viola Davis said she hoped Rock would “take it as an opportunity to make a statement, a social statement about change.”

According to Hudlin, Davis won’t be disappointed.

“You should expect [#OscarsSoWhite jokes],” Hudlin told ET. “And yes, the Academy is ready for him to do that. They’re excited about him doing that. They know that’s what we need. They know that’s what the public wants, and we deliver what the people want.”

The 88th Academy Awards will air Sunday, February 28 on ABC.