Comedian and A-list actor Kevin Hart said Thursday that he is “evaluating” whether to return as the 2019 Oscars host after talk show giant Ellen DeGeneres called the Academy to lobby for the move.
Hart stepped down from the role in December following a firestorm of criticism over the comedian’s past jokes about the LGBT community.
During an hourlong sit-down with Hart slated to air on her long-running daytime talk show Friday, DeGeneres revealed details of her conversation with Academy officials.
“‘I have no idea if he wants to come back and host, but what are your thoughts?’ And they were like, ‘Oh my God, we want him to host,'” DeGeneres recalled of the phone call. “We feel like that maybe he misunderstood or it was handled wrong or maybe we said the wrong thing but we want him to host. Whatever we can do we would be thrilled.”
The Central Intelligence star said he would think deeply about hosting the award show, telling DeGeneres, “Leaving here, I promise you, I’m evaluating this conversation.”
“This is a conversation I needed to have, I’m glad that I had it here, and I’m glad that it was as authentic and real as I could have hoped that it would be,” he added. “So let me assess, just to sit in this space and really think, and you and I will talk before anything else.”
Just two days after being named host, Hart stepped down following an outcry over past homophobic tweets by the comedian. Capping a swift and dramatic fallout, Hart wrote on Twitter that he was withdrawing as Oscars host because he didn’t want to be a distraction. “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past,” wrote Hart.
Hart has since deleted some of the anti-gay tweets, mostly dated from 2009-2011. But they had already been screen-captured and been shared online. In 2011, he wrote in a since-deleted tweet: “Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay.’”
DeGeneres, who previously hosted the Oscars, told Hart that despite disagreeing with his previous quips, returning to the hosting gig would present an opportunity to grow as an individual, while taking on the “trolls.”
“As a gay person,” DeGeneres began. “I am sensitive to all of that and I talked to you about all of this and you’ve already expressed that it’s not being educated on the subject, not realizing how dangerous those words are, not realizing how many kids are killed for being gay, or beaten up every day. You have grown, you have apologized, you are apologizing again right now. You’ve done it. Don’t let those people win. Host the Oscars.”
Ahead of the interview’s release, DeGeneres shared a clip of her interview with Hart to social media, tweeting: “I believe in forgiveness. I believe in second chances. And I believe in @KevinHart4real.”
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) January 4, 2019
Leftists quickly took to social media to rip DeGeneres for defending hart.
The Academy has yet to issue a statement on the matter.
It’s not the first time an Oscars host has been derailed by anti-gay remarks. Ahead of the 2012 Academy Awards, producer Brett Ratner, who had been paired with host Eddie Murphy, resigned days after using a gay slur at a film screening. Murphy soon after exited, as well.
That year, a tried-and-true Oscars veteran — Billy Crystal — jumped in to save the show, hosting for his eighth time. This time, speculation has already been rampant that few in Hollywood want the gig, for which few win glowing reviews.
The film academy moved up this year’s ceremony to Feb. 24, giving producers little time to find a replacement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.