Hopefully, Oscar is ready for Seth MacFarlane, because MacFarlane sounds ready for him.
The “Family Guy” creator and “Ted” director and co-writer will live the dream of many a film fan by serving as host of this year’s Oscars, as ABC airs the Motion Picture Academy’s 85th ceremony Sunday, Feb. 24, from Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center.
Since being named by first-time Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (“Smash”) as a surprise choice for the job, MacFarlane has become an Oscar nominee as well: He’s up for writing the lyrics to the “Ted” song “Everybody Needs a Best Friend.”
“In general, we’re trying to make this a more ubiquitous Oscars,” MacFarlane tells Zap2it. “I think that a lot of times, there’s pressure to keep everything about the movies that are nominated that year. While that is a big part of this, we’re also trying to find ways to broaden it a little bit.”
To that end, a 50th-anniversary salute to the James Bond movies will encompass Adele’s first live rendering of “Skyfall” — another nominee for best song — and Dame Shirley Bassey will croon the classic “Goldfinger.”
Also scheduled is a tribute to movie musicals of recent vintage … including Oscar’s best picture of 2002, “Chicago,” of which Meron and Zadan were executive producers. And Barbra Streisand will offer her first Oscar performance since her tune “Evergreen” (from “A Star Is Born”) won in 1977.
Hollywood, and television viewers, got a taste of how MacFarlane might fare at the Oscars from his often irreverent mid-January teaming with actress Emma Stone to announce the nominations. He maintains that wasn’t meant as a dry run for the main event.
“I think that’s how most of the press perceived it, but it really was not that. It was something that the Academy thought would be kind of nice, to make that usually dry ceremony a little more interesting. That was really all it was supposed to be.”
Nevertheless, MacFarlane was reviewed widely for that occasion as if he were presiding over the actual Oscars.
“It was kind of ridiculous,” he says. “That was the result of an overabundance of entertainment media. People are just desperate to write about something, so they turned that into a full-on review. It’s 5 in the morning, and you’re doing a five-minute announcement, so it’s a little silly to review that like a show.”
The Oscar contests themselves are intriguing this year, since some results won’t be sure bets. Best actor candidate Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln”) and best supporting actress contender Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”) seem to be all-but-certain victors, based on their history of winning virtually every honor in their categories during this film-award season. However, others aren’t as predictable.
Jessica Chastain has been a best actress victor many times for “Zero Dark Thirty,” but Jennifer Lawrence earned last month’s Screen Actors Guild Award for “Silver Linings Playbook.” There, actors voted for actors, which is how it also works in the Oscars. That also may help “Argo” in the best picture race; that film’s cast was named best ensemble by SAG, and many of the same voters weigh in on Oscar’s best picture … plus, Ben Affleck has won many awards for directing “Argo” after being denied that nomination in the Academy Awards.
The best supporting actor contest makes history this year, marking the first time every nominee in an Oscar acting race has won the statue already. It could go any of several ways: Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”) won the SAG Award — again, possibly giving him the edge, since actors who voted on that also vote on the Oscars – Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”) took the Golden Globe Award, and Philip Seymour Hoffman (“The Master”) earned the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s Critics’ Choice Award.
With “Ted” star Mark Wahlberg and the blue-language-prone title teddy bear set as Oscar presenters, Norah Jones also will perform, reprising the MacFarlane-co-written number she sang in that film.
“I was positive we were not going to be on that list,” MacFarlane says of his nomination, “so that was a nice surprise. I’ve always thought of myself as something of a Hollywood outsider. I’ve never been in that inner circle, and I don’t know that this will change that too much.”
The Oscar gig is the peak of MacFarlane’s high-profile appearances of late. He hosted the season premiere of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” — which many consider the main factor in earning him the Academy Awards stint — and Barbara Walters put him on her “10 Most Fascinating People of 2012″ list. But to fans of “Family Guy,” as well as “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show” (which he co-created), MacFarlane has long been a star.
“Surprisingly, it’s not that much different,” he says of his current showbiz status. “After the [Oscar] ceremony is over, it might be, but not on a day-to-day basis so far. The only changes have been working on the ceremony itself and the amount of preparation. I’ve been drowning more than I ever have before in my own schedule, but other than that, it’s been more or less the same. Amusingly enough, I still get as many remarks from people about the Comedy Central Roasts I’ve done as about the Oscars.”
Still, for any and all other activities he has, MacFarlane stresses he isn’t minimizing the significance of inheriting the role that others including Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg have filled.
He acknowledges that the Oscars draw “such a massive audience, there’s just no way to treat it as anything other than an enormous opportunity that has to be taken advantage of with a lot of care. It’s really superseded everything else for me.
“It’s not like I’m going in there trying to be Johnny Carson or Bob Hope, though,” MacFarlane adds. “That would be absurd. I’m not haunted by the pressure of trying to measure up to people like that. I just take each one of these developments as it comes, as I have through the course of my career. I just try to do the best job I can and put on a good show.”