Comedian Jimmy Fallon is in talks to host the Oscars in February, with “Saturday Night Live” veteran Lorne Michaels producing, three people with knowledge of the discussions said.
ABC has raised objections to having the late-night star from rival NBC play emcee on its Oscar broadcast, these people said, but the network has no authority to veto the choice of host.
The show is put on by the Motion Picture Academy, and Tom Sherak initiated the discussions before his term as academy president ended on Tuesday, according to the people who were not authorized to speak publicly.
A spokeswoman for the academy denied that talks with Fallon and Michaels were taking place. Representatives for Fallon could not immediately be reached for comment.
ABC is owned by Disney, and Disney chief executive Bob Iger is said to be unhappy with the idea of showcasing Fallon, whose show competes with ABC’s late-night show featuring Jimmy Kimmel. Fallon and Kimmel are in a neck-and-neck competition for viewers.
Disney declined to comment. The people briefed on the talks cautioned that they could still fall apart.
While in the last few years the academy has primarily turned to film stars to host its biggest night, talk show hosts such as Jon Stewart and David Letterman have hosted the telecast before. But Letterman took the Oscar stage in mid-1990s, before ABC had a late-night show of its own, and Stewart’s show airs on Comedy Central, a cable outlet with a smaller audience.
Fallon has experience hosting high-profile awards programs, headlining the 2010 Emmys, a show that was met with positive reviews. Kimmel is hosting this year’s Emmy Awards, which would rule him out as an Oscar host.
The job of selecting an Oscar telecast producer usually falls to the academy president. Hawk Koch, who was elected to replace Sherak on Tuesday, said in interviews Wednesday that his first order of business was to find an Oscar show producer and that comedy was a priority. The producer usually selects the host.
[Update, 3:45 p.m.]: Sherak, reached for comment Wednesday afternoon, said that the academy’s Board of Governors gave him the authority two months ago to find a producer for the 2013 show. Sherak would not say whom he was talking to, but said he wasn’t able to complete a deal before his term was up. “I couldn’t meet that deadline, so I stopped all negotiations,” he said.
Finding an Oscar producer and host is often a challenging task; last year, Brett Ratner was hired and then resigned amid controversy and Billy Crystal came on after Eddie Murphy bowed out of hosting duties.
Sherak, who recently led the academy in renegotiating its broadcast deal with ABC, said in an interview in early July that contractually, the network does not have veto power over whom the academy selects as producer or host. But he added that the relationship with ABC has improved over the years. “I felt that we were partners, and I included them in our decisions, even though I didn’t have to,” he said.
Koch and Michaels worked on the 1992 movie “Wayne’s World,” which originated with an “SNL” sketch, and the follow-up “Wayne’s World 2." Michaels produced the films; Koch served as executive producer.
Fallon, who appeared on “SNL” from 1998 to 2004, started his midnight show in 2009 and it is produced by Michaels as well.
Times staff writers Meg James and Joe Flint contributed to this report.