Academy Awards show honchos reportedly believe Oprah Winfrew as host could expand the annual broadcast’s audience. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP
Updated: July 7, 2011 2:15AM
It’s a suggestion floated frequently in the past, but now I’m hearing from solid Motion Picture Academy sources that Oprah Winfrey is topping the list of candidates to host the 84th Oscars next February.
If the widely seen gig is accompanied by a behind-the-scenes special and a post-Oscars show airing only on the Oprah Winfrey Network, it would give the struggling cable channel some added exposure. But I’m hearing that is a very separate potential deal.
After all, ABC continues to have exclusive rights to Oscar broadcasts — and likely would not be happy about giving up rights to backstage access, etc. However, given Winfrey’s longtime relationship with ABC — anything is possible.
The main thing: Academy honchos firmly believe Winfrey could greatly expand the show’s audience.
They also believe the best time to hatch this plan is this first year following the end of the 25-year run of “Oprah” — while that show’s huge audience of viewers still miss their daily “fix” the TV icon gave them for the past quarter-century.
† Speaking of Winfrey, the producers of “Oprah! A Comedy!” are planning a nice give-back to the community. The spoof has been having a healthy run at Annoyance Theatre, and the entire box office receipts from this Sunday’s performance will be donated to Make-a-Wish Foundation. Co-creator Marc Warzecha’s sister, once a cancer patient, was the recipient of a wonderful Make-a-Wish grant allowing her entire family to enjoy a special vacation in Hawaii.
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MAKIN’ MOVIES: Producer Brad Krevoy sure has a full slate these days! When I caught up with the major Hollywood filmmaker in Aspen last weekend, Krevoy told me he is working hard on two big remakes. He’s looking for “just the right” British actor to play the title role in a redo of “The Saint,” and he’s optimistic about a new “Dumb & Dumber” with the original cast of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.
Krevoy and producing partners Will Smith and James Lassiter currently are prepping “What Will Kenny Do?” starring Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher. He also is making an English-language version of the Oscar-winning foreign film “Departures” and has finished “Arena” with Kellan Lutz and Samuel L. Jackson — due out this fall.
The Krevoy-produced “Catherine and William: A Royal Love Story” will air on Hallmark Channel in August, and veteran action star Jean-Claude Van Damme will play the lead in “6 Bullets,” which starts lensing next month in L.A. and Europe.
FUNNY FOLKS: Another Chicago area native has joined the cast of the “Three Stooges” film, currently shooting down in Atlanta.
Wilmette’s own Brian Doyle-Murray will play Monsignor Ratliffe, the parish prelate who affects the outcome of the orphanage where the Stooges grow up.
Murray will share most of his scenes — and likely some good Chicago tales! — with two other local lights: Emmy-winning “Glee” mainstay Jane Lynch and Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson — who both portray nuns in the comedy, directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly and due out next year.
AGENDA ACTION: “Twilight” star Jackson Rathbone (“Jasper Hale”) will be in town tonight, rockin’ out with his band, 100 Monkeys, in a 6 p.m. show at the House of Blues.
† If you miss Meredith Vieira on “Today,” you could win a shot at seeing her again, and face-to-face — if you are knowledgeable and quick! Auditions are being held from 7 to 11 a.m. and 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Friday for the 10th season of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” debuting with Vieira back in her hosting seat at 4 p.m. Sept. 5 on WGN-Channel 9.
SEEN ON THE SCENE: Rich Daley was enjoying breakfast on the patio at Chicago Cut when a BZ spy spied Mike Ditka running into the former mayor and happily getting caught up with the city’s ex-CEO. ... Traffic’s Dave Mason was seen dining at Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush. ... Fans of Maroon 5 were thrilled to see Adam Levine and his bandmates partying at Studio Paris and Hub 51 after their recent Ravinia gigs. ... The new Rustic House was checked out by both Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenly and (separately) actor Christopher Lloyd, who also recently got his barbecue fix at Chicago Q. ... The band Poison, including Bret Michaels, dined at Francescas on Chestnut, while U2 drummer Larry Mullen supped quietly with his family at LuxBar. ... Sienna Miller had heads turning while she had a relaxing dinner at Le Colonial.
Bill Zwecker reports regularly on “Good Day Chicago” and “Fox Chicago News at 9” on WFLD-Channel 32.