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Never Scared

Oscar producer defends Rock's EW interview. Despite the comic's irreverent comments about the Oscar ceremony, Gil Cates backs him as a host who'll make the show livelier

Chris Rock | THE OSCAR GROUCH Rock kids because he loves
Image credit: Chris Rock: Bob D'Amico
THE OSCAR GROUCH Rock kids because he loves

Chris Rock hasn't been shy about biting the hand that feeds him. As the host of the Oscars in two weeks, he finds himself booked for a show he's dismissed as irrelevant, most recently in an Entertainment Weekly interview two weeks ago. Now he's facing a backlash, thanks to Web gossip Matt Drudge, who claims that unnamed Academy insiders took offense at Rock's EW comments and would like to see him fired as Oscar host. The Academy took Drudge's report so seriously that Oscar show producer Gil Cates issued a statement Monday insisting that Rock still had the Academy's backing and would not be booted.

Talking to EW, Rock said he'd never watched the Oscars before, except in 2002, the historic year of Denzel Washington and Halle Berry's victories. For one thing, he said, ''Awards for art are f---ing idiotic. Unless two people are doing the exact same thing, how can you really say somebody's better than the other?'' For another, he said, as a heterosexual black comic, he found little that appealed to him about the Academy Awards ceremony. ''Come on, it's a fashion show,'' he said. ''What straight black man sits there and watches the Oscars? Show me one. And they don't recognize comedy, and you don't see a lot of black people nominated, so why should I watch it?''

According to Drudge, one veteran Hollywood mogul called Rock's comments a ''disgrace,'' saying, ''This guy is out there saying 'awards for art are f---ing idiotic' and he is hosting the show produced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? I guess the joke is on us!'' Drudge also cited a nominated actress who wondered if Cates was aware that Rock claimed never to have watched the show.

If anyone should have been offended, it's Cates, who's producing his 12th Oscar telecast this year. But Cates indicated in his statement that he knew Rock's comments were the words of a comic hired specifically for his edge and his perceived ability to shore up the show's ratings by attracting a younger and hipper viewing audience. ''Chris's comments over the past few weeks are meant to be humorous digs at the show that some people, obviously including Chris himself, think may be a bit too stuffy,'' Cates said. He also disputed Drudge's report of disgruntled Academy members. ''The academy has heard no grumbling from its members and has no intention of even suggesting that Chris step aside,'' Cates said. ''The Academy is excited about Chris Rock hosting this year's Oscar telecast and looking forward to a very funny evening with him.''

Originally posted Feb 15, 2005