Whoopi Goldberg will host the 71st Oscar ceremony, replacing reigning Academy Award quipster Billy Crystal, who has opted not to return for a seventh show this year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Tuesday.
The announcement is a boon for Goldberg, who hosted the 66th and 68th Oscars and was credited for rescuing the show after David Letterman's one-time hosting stint (for the 67th awards) drew criticism.
"I am thrilled to escort Oscar into the new millennium," Goldberg said in a statement. "Who would have thought that I would be hosting the last Oscar telecast of the century? It's a huge deal."
The awards ceremony, which will air on ABC on March 21, has increasingly become a showcase not just for celebrity speeches and occasionally outlandish fashion, but for off-the-cuff comedy as well. Crystal had proved himself a master of spontaneous commentary. And his prepared skits have been inspired, whether he took the stage in a Hannibal Lecter mask (1994) or appeared as the star of all five best picture nominees (in a film montage airing in 1997).
Gilbert Cates, the telecast's producer, said it was "wonderful" that Goldberg was returning to the host spot.
"Whoopi is astonishing. When I asked her to host her first Oscar telecast, she thoroughly surprised and entertained the audience," he said.
Crystal is reportedly considering a one-man stage show that could have conflicted with his duties as Oscar host. Goldberg, meanwhile, is working on Sony Pictures' "Girl, Interrupted," in which she appears with Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie. She also co-stars with Michelle Pfeiffer in "The Deep End of the Ocean," which opens in March, and performs regular stints on "Hollywood Squares."