No one knows the ins and outs of hosting the Academy Awards better than Billy Crystal. For the eight-time host, who will take the stage this Sunday to emcee Hollywood’s biggest night for the first time in eight years, the Oscars have always been deeply personal. “When I would first watch it—[at] 6 or 7 years old, watching on a black-and-white TV—I very rarely could stay up until the Best Picture award, so my mother would write down who won and when I came into the kitchen the next morning, the list of winners would be in my cereal bowl,” he tells EW in an exclusive, wide-ranging interview in this week’s issue. “It’s important that the show be good, and I take it really seriously.”
Still, when he makes his entrance for this year’s show, Crystal may not find that Oscar stage as cozy a place as he did 21 years ago, when he first took on the gig. Ratings for the telecast have steadily ebbed in recent years, complaining about the show has become a national pastime, and last year’s Oscars, hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco, were widely slammed as a clumsy attempt by the Academy to lure in younger viewers. Crystal says he knows how high the stakes are for this year’s show: “There’s a big responsibility to the job—I think more so this year because people were not happy last year,” he says. “I’ve got to deliver.”
For more of our interview with Crystal — including the never-before-reported backstory on how he came to host this year’s show, his Oscar-watching ritual at home, and his thoughts on which movies should have gotten more Oscar love this year — pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands this Friday.
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