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.
Asked about using rehearsals ahead of a film shoot, he replied “rehearsing is for fags”. He subsequently apologised, but gay rights groups and some members of the academy took issue with his use of the word.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation strongly objected to the derisive comment, and a flood of objections by Academy members and news-media commentators made clear that if Mr. Ratner remained in charge of the Feb. 26 Oscar show on ABC, the broadcast was going to be as much about Mr. Ratner as the movies.
In his resignation letter, Ratner said he had “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. To them, and to everyone I’ve hurt and offended, I’d like to apologise publicly and unreservedly.
“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. And they pale in comparison to what any gay, lesbian or transgender individual must deal with as they confront the many inequalities that continue to plague our world.”
The 42-year-old film-maker also gave an interview on Monday on shock jock Howard Stern’s radio show in which he spoke about his past sexual conquests, masturbation, his skill at performing oral sex, pubic hair and the size of his testicles, the erotic habits of Hollywood moguls, his dislike of using condoms and his supposed habit of sending potential partners to his doctor to be checked for sexually transmitted diseases before he sleeps with them.
On Wednesday Mr. Murphy followed Mr. Ratner — his friend and the director of his latest film, “Tower Heist” — out the door. Producers and hosts work closely as a team on the telecast, and with Mr. Ratner gone it was not surprising that Mr. Murphy would step aside as well.
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.”
Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which stages the Oscars, said: “I appreciate how Eddie feels about losing his creative partner, Brett Ratner, and we all wish him well.”
Sherak said Ratner had done “the right thing for the academy and for himself”. He added: “Words have meaning, and they have consequences. Brett is a good person, but his comments were unacceptable.”
“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.
Oscar planners have sought to shorten the sometimes interminably long show and have tried new ways to present awards in the hope of livening things up.
When the academy picked Murphy in September, it marked a return to the traditional funnyman as host, a formula that delivered some of the best-remembered Oscar pageants when Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal ran the show. [via Guardian, The Telegraph and The New York Times]