Kevin Hart, the comedian and actor who stepped down as Oscars host three days after his appointment was confirmed, now seems set to return to the post.
In an hour-long interview on Ellen DeGeneres’s chatshow, Hart said he was considering his options following a confused episode in which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reportedly asked him to apologise for past homophobic tweets and standup routines or to step down from the role.
Hart stood down, claiming he had already apologised, but then offered an apology anyway. A month on, no new host has been announced.
In DeGeneres, an openly gay two-times Oscars host held in huge public affection, Hart has a formidable champion. On the show, sections of which were released by DeGeneres ahead of the full broadcast on Monday, she says she has been in touch with the Academy to back Hart, that she suspects they hope he will return, and that she is “praying for that to happen”.
Should Hart return, she promises audiences would see “sophistication, class, hilarity and [Hart] growing as a person”.
Interviewer and interviewee concur that the chief problem lies not with Hart but with those who unearthed the tweets in question, from 2008, in the wake of his appointment.
Hart describes this as “a malicious attack on my character … an attack to end me”. He continues: “This was to destroy me, to end all partnerships, all brand relationships, all investment opportunities, studio relationships, my production company and the people that work underneath me.
“This was to damage the lives that have been invested in me. It’s bigger than just the Oscars, it’s about the individuals that are out there now that are finding success and damaging your ‘celebrity’.”
Hart’s homophobic remarks on Twitter included calling someone a “fat faced fag”, comparing a profile picture to a “gay bill board for AIDS” and frequent self-declarations as “no homo”.
One 2010 standup routine includes an extended riff in which Hart discusses trying to drum any hint of homosexuality out of his son. Many declared their distaste at Hart’s initial comments and what they saw as a lukewarm show of contrition.
Speaking to the Guardian about the incident, Steve McQueen – whose film 12 Years a Slave won the best picture Oscar in 2014 – said he thought Hart’s appointment had been made with an eye on falling telecast viewing figures, “but obviously somebody made a mistake”.
On her show, DeGeneres tells Hart that “there are so many haters out there” and urges him to “be the bigger man”. She goes on: “It’s a small group of people being very, very loud. We are a huge group of people who love you and want to see you host the Oscars.”
Hart indicates he would be eager to consider returning to what he has previously described as his “dream job” on crusading grounds: “Somebody has to take a stand against the trolls.”
Some Twitter users have taken issue with Hart and DeGeneres’s version of events, maintaining that the former’s apology remains half-hearted, and that the latter was speaking out of turn – or even betraying the gay community.
Adam B. Vary
A survey conducted at the end of 2018 by Spotted, a data and research provider focused on the celebrity endorsement space, suggested that the furore had barely dinted Hart’s appeal.
The company’s “consumer approval” metric, which measures likability, relatability and trustworthiness among US consumers, measured a nearly 50% rebound following Hart’s apology. More striking was that his initial fall was so negligible: just an 11.55% drop in popularity after the controversy erupted. The Spotted CEO, Janet Comenos, said Hart remained in the top 5% of celebrity talent in terms of consumer approval.
“Kevin Hart has an uncanny ability to recover from scandal,” she said. “His ability to quickly rebound is directly correlated to how high he scores, pre-scandal. When a celebrity is so well-liked in the eyes of consumers, just like a mother’s favourite child, they can almost do no wrong.”
Hart was booked to appear on Ellen to promote The Upside, a remake of French hit The Intouchables. Hart plays a drifter recently released from prison who becomes the carer of a paralysed billionaire (played by Bryan Cranston).