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Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin to host Oscars
By Bob Tourtellotte
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar organizers on Tuesday named an unlikely pair of hosts for March's Academy Awards, comedian Steve Martin and "30 Rock" star Alec Baldwin, a past loser at the world's top film awards.
The choice of Martin and Baldwin comes as a mild surprise on the heels of last February's Oscar telecast hosted by song-and-dance man Hugh Jackman. It earned some favorable reviews and higher viewership than the previous year.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives out the Oscars, had previously hired "Hairspray" director Adam Shankman to co-produce and, based on Jackman's success and Shankman's history making musicals, the betting had been that organizers might aim for another music-oriented telecast.
But Martin is known as a stand-up comedian and comic actor, while Baldwin's reputation was built in theater and film dramas like 2003's "The Cooler," which earned him a best supporting actor nomination. He lost to Tim Robbins for "Mystic River."
Baldwin also has a history of political activism, and Hollywood tends to shun politics. Still, he has shown a flare for comedy by playing the straight man in shows like "30 Rock," and has hosted "Saturday Night Live," a comedy show that has featured Martin on many occasions.
"I am happy to co-host the Oscars with my enemy Alec Baldwin," Martin said in a statement.
"I don't play the banjo but I'm thrilled to be hosting the Oscars -- it's the opportunity of a lifetime," said Baldwin.
The Oscars, where best film, acting, directing, writing and other movie awards are given out annually, is among the most-watched U.S. television shows. But viewership has declined in recent years as Oscar voters favored low-budget dramas over major blockbusters.
The February 2008 Oscar telecast, which saw the dark drama "No Country for Old Men" win best film, was a recent low with about 32 million U.S. viewers. The 2004 ceremony in which smash hit "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" won best movie lured just over 43 million viewers. Tens of millions more watch Oscar telecasts in some 200 countries worldwide.
As a result, organizers try new ideas to spice up the show each year. That was one reason Broadway star Jackman was hired to host the 2009 ceremony over a comedian, which had been the practice for nearly two decades.
The 2010 ceremony will not be the first with co-hosts or even multiple emcees. In 1987, Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Paul Hogan hosted. For several years in the 1970s, the show featured several emcees.
Martin has hosted the Oscar telecast twice before, in 2001 and 2003, but 2010 will be a first Baldwin.
The Oscars will be held on March 7, 2010, in Los Angeles and air on ABC in the United States.
(Editing by Chris Wilson)