Billy Crystal steps back in as Oscar host

Actor, writer, producer, comedian and film director Billy

Actor, writer, producer, comedian and film director Billy Crysta.(Dec. 5, 2004) (Credit: AP )

Call this the safe choice or the obvious choice or the only choice, but Billy Crystal is returning to Oscar host duties.

The Long Beach native announced via Twitter Thursday that he'll anchor one of TV's biggest nights. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences put its official imprimatur on the appointment a short time later.

A surprise? Only to those easily surprised. Crystal had reportedly expressed an interest in doing the show but was passed over for Eddie Murphy. However, Murphy dropped out Tuesday after his friend and Oscar co-producer Brett Ratner was sacked for making a homophobic slur during a press junket for his film "Tower Heist."

To avert a not entirely well-founded impression in the trade press that the 84th annual Oscar ceremony -- to be held Feb. 26 -- was suddenly in chaos, the Academy quickly hired veteran producer Brian Grazer to replace Ratner.

Crystal, 63, is an old hand at this and, to many fans of the show, a particularly reliable one as well. The actor-comedian has a comfortable, insidery rapport with the stars and industry titans arrayed in the theater audience. His Oscar turns have been among the most memorable in recent years -- or the least objectionable. This will be Crystal's ninth hosting gig; his most recent ceremony was in 2004. Only Bob Hope (19) has done more.

"Some of the best moments of my career have happened on the Oscar stage. I am thrilled to be back there. Actually, I am doing this so that the young woman in my pharmacy will stop asking me my name when I pick up my prescriptions."

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