Oscars in crisis as Eddie Murphy and producer pull out after anti-gay comment
THE 2012 Oscars have been left in crisis after Eddie Murphy dropped out as host.
Murphy's decision came less than 24 hours after the resignation of Brett Ratner, who departed following controversy over an anti-gay remark he made.
The highly anticipated ceremony takes place on February 26, with time now running out for the Academy Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to find a new creative team to stage the show.
The annual event is one of the most elaborately staged on US television and attracts around 40 million viewers.
Mr Ratner had been working on the show since being named producer on August 4 and a key element of his plan had been to sign Murphy as the host.
Murphy said: "First and foremost I want to say that I completely understand and support each party's decision with regard to a change of producers for this year's Academy Awards ceremony.
"I was truly looking forward to being a part of the show that our production team and writers were just starting to develop, but I'm sure that the new production team and host will do an equally great job."
Academy president Tom Sherak said: "I appreciate how Eddie feels about losing his creative partner, Brett Ratner, and we all wish him well."
Ratner, 42, a who is best known for directing the "Rush Hour" films and "X-Men- The Last Stand," caused controversy last week during a question-and-answer session at a screening of his new comedy "Tower Heist," which stars Murphy.
He was asked about rehearsals for actors and replied: "Rehearsing is for fags."
He later apologised publicly, but the damage was done as gay rights groups and some of the 6,000 members of the Academy took issue with his use of the word.
Ratner also gave a radio interview on Monday in which he spoke in detail about his sex life.
In an open letter Ratner later said he would "like to apologise publicly and unreservedly".
He said: "I've gotten a well-deserved earful from many of the people I admire most in this industry expressing their outrage and disappointment over the hurtful and stupid things I said in a number of recent media appearances.
"As difficult as the last few days have been for me, they cannot compare to the experience of any young man or woman who has been the target of offensive slurs or derogatory comments.
"I am taking real action over the coming weeks and months in an effort to do everything I can both professionally and personally to help stamp out the kind of thoughtless bigotry I've so foolishly perpetrated."
The director said that being asked to produce the Oscar show "was the proudest moment of my career," but he didn't want to distract from the academy "and the high ideals it represents."
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said: "Hollywood has the power and responsibility to grow acceptance of all communities. Slurs used to belittle gay and lesbian youth and adults every day have no place in mainstream popular culture or the industry that creates it."
Mr Sherak said: "Words have meaning, and they have consequences. Brett is a good person, but his comments were unacceptable. He did the right thing for the Academy and for himself.
"We all hope this will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the harm that is caused by reckless and insensitive remarks, regardless of the intent," Sherak said.
Hiring Ratner, 42, had been a distinct departure from recent years for Oscar organisers who in the past focused the show on variety and elaborate song-and-dance numbers by hosts or co-hosts including Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman.
For last February's show, the producers were Don Mischer and Bruce Cohen, who helped bring dramas such as "American Beauty" and gay-themed "Milk" to cinemas. Mischer had been hired to co-produce with Ratner for the 2012 show.
Ratner, by contrast, is known for high-octane action movies and comedies.