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‘Thrilled and terrified,’ Steven Soderbergh is among new producers for 2021 Oscars

Oscar statues lined up in Hollywood before the 2015 Academy Awards.
Oscar statues lined up in Hollywood before the 2015 Academy Awards.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Amid a global pandemic that has upended the usual business of Hollywood’s awards season, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Tuesday that filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and producers Jesse Collins and Stacey Sher will team up to produce the 93rd Academy Awards.

In June, facing a summer surge in COVID-19 cases and an uncertain path ahead, the academy decided to postpone the Oscars telecast from Feb. 28 to April 25. Now, as the nation enters the most dangerous phase of the pandemic yet, much is still to be determined about how the Oscars will be held, including whether it will be an in-person event or a virtual ceremony.

In handing the reins to Soderbergh, Collins and Sher — all of whom have deep resumes in Hollywood but none of whom has ever produced the Oscars before — academy leaders are banking that they will be able to adapt a show that is deeply rooted in nearly a century of tradition.

“The upcoming Oscars is the perfect occasion for innovation and for re-envisioning the possibilities for the awards show. This is a dream team who will respond directly to these times,” academy President David Rubin and academy Chief Executive Dawn Hudson said in a joint statement. “The Academy is excited to work with them to deliver an event that reflects the worldwide love of movies and how they connect us and entertain us when we need them the most.”

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In the latest sign of how the coronavirus pandemic has upended Hollywood, the motion picture academy announced it is pushing back the date of next year’s Oscars

“We’re thrilled and terrified in equal measure. Because of the extraordinary situation we’re all in, there’s an opportunity to focus on the movies and the people who make them in a new way, and we hope to create a show that really FEELS like the movies we all love,” Collins, Sher and Soderbergh said in their own joint statement.

A prolific and unpredictable filmmaker, Soderbergh has directed more than 30 movies since breaking out in 1989 with his feature debut, “sex, lies and videotape,” including “Contagion,” “Out of Sight,” “Magic Mike” and “Ocean’s Eleven” and its two sequels.

He won a directing Oscar in 2000 for the drama “Traffic” and earned a nomination for directing “Erin Brockovich” that same year and earlier earned a screenplay nod for “sex, lies, and videotape.” He’s also has produced a wide range of projects, including “Bill & Ted Face the Music,” “Citizenfour” and “Michael Clayton,” along with his Cinemax series “The Knick.”

Steven Soderbergh reached out to filmmaker Andrew Patterson after seeing the younger filmmaker’s debut, “The Vast of Night.” The two of them talk about influences and moving forward.

A veteran producer with more than two dozen films to her name and a longstanding working relationship with Soderbergh, Sher earned best-picture nods for the films “Django Unchained” and “Erin Brockovich,” which Soderbergh directed. Her other credits include such films as “Pulp Fiction,” “Contagion,” “Man on the Moon” and “Reality Bites,” while her work in TV includes such series as “Mrs. America” and “Reno 911!”

Collins has produced a number of awards shows and events, including the Grammy Awards and BET Awards, as well as many TV specials. He earned an Emmy nomination for the 61st Grammy Awards in 2019. And in early 2021, he is set to co-executive produce the Grammy Awards and executive produce the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show, the first Black producer to helm that event.

Video game giant Activision Blizzard Inc. has hired “The Hateful Eight” producer Stacey Sher to help lead its budding movie and television studio.

In recent years, as ratings for the Oscars have steadily ebbed, academy leaders have sought to drive up public interest in the telecast, which saw its audience hit an all-time low this year. With the pandemic likely to dim the usually glamorous spectacle of celebrities strutting down the red carpet at the Dolby Theatre — and with many of this year’s predicted Oscar heavy-hitters, such as “West Side Story” and “Dune,” delayed to next year — the producers of the 2021 show will need to rely more than ever on innovations.

“Jesse, Stacey and Steven are the ideal storytellers to harness the uniqueness of this moment and celebrate the artists who are dedicated to telling stories that stand the test of time,” Craig Erwich, president of Hulu Originals and ABC Entertainment, said in a statement. “By enlisting this incredibly talented team of television and film producers, I’m confident we will deliver a prestigious event that will be remembered for years to come.”

Rapper Jay-Z and his Roc Nation entertainment and sports company have named Jesse Collins as executive producer of this year’s Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show.


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