Neil Patrick Harris might use his job as Oscar host as a way to meet his favorite stars. “I have, essentially, an all-access pass to the theater,” Harris said during a recent Associated Press interview. “So I love being able to stand there and say hello to people I’ve never met before. I’m very easily star struck, so it’ll be very exciting to shake hands with celebrities.” Harris has hosted the Emmys twice and the Tony Awards four times — and has won both awards. On Sunday, he takes on his first Oscar show.
How is preparing to host the Oscars different from the Tonys or Emmys?
I want to make sure my content is inclusive of everyone watching, and more people watch the Oscars than any other awards show probably combined. I have more filters probably, in terms of content. ... The Oscars — it’s ritual for many people. They see it every single year and all around the world. So I want to be a little classier and try to be a bit more mainstream while trying to maintain a wink and a nod to those in the know.
You watched all the past Oscar hosts as part of your research. Who stood out for you, and who would you most like to emulate?
My initial answer would probably be Billy Crystal. I was just the right age to be so taken by movies as an idea, and he had such joy and exuberance about the world of film. ... But as I’ve done more research, I’m even more impressed now by the older-school generation of Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, and their ability to stand in one place and make [people] feel comfortable just in their demeanor. Because it’s a very classy night — everyone’s in their tuxedos and fancy dresses — so I’m hoping to make it feel like an A-list dinner party that you get to come and attend.
How nervous are you?
Well, my job as host is to not be nervous when the show is happening. But I think, in life, being nervous about something that’s forthcoming is very helpful, whether it’s an awards show or a family gathering or a job interview. If you’re too calm and confident, then I think you aren’t executing to the best of your ability. So I try not to let nerves get the best of me, but I welcome them because it tends to fuel me to try harder.
What are you most excited about for the evening?
I’m hoping that we come in just under five hours. If we can beat that mark, then I feel like it’s a success.
Have you prepared for the possibility of Kanye West coming onstage?
I think the security at Saturday Night Live is still holding him in his seat there from last [week’s] show. So, fingers crossed, he’s detained in New York City. No, nothing would make me happier than something as random as that, as Kanye West deciding to participate in the show in some way. That’s why you want to watch the Oscars. We hope for things to happen that you'll only experience by watching it. ... The crazier the better, as far as I’m concerned.