Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Hawk Koch recently sat down with Patt Morrison to discuss the major happenings for the Academy at the Oscars and beyond.
With regards to Sunday’s awards, Koch promises exciting surprises and entertainment during the ceremony, and a great, if not irreverent, performance from host Seth MacFarlane. Koch also reflects on some of his favorite Oscar memories, from attending his first Oscars in 1971 and watching Charlie Chaplin receive his lifetime achievement award from backstage, to Halle Berry’s emotional speech after winning best actress in 2002.
The Academy is involved in many other projects beyond the Oscars, as Koch is quick to point out.
Aside from the continual outreach and education projects undertaken by the Academy, Koch has been involved in creating the new Hollywood film museum that will be located next to LACMA. Koch played a major role in raising the necessary $100 million to officially begin the project, and has continued to oversee its development.
Koch’s excitement for the museum rivals his passion for the Oscars themselves, and it is clear he is very proud to have been president of the Academy when the project got off the ground. Listen to the conversation here for these incites, and more, from one of the most influential men in film, Hawk Koch.
What is this job about? Is it just about the Oscars or is it just the biggest event in a very big calendar?
"No, 364 days a year we have so many other things. We give grants, we educate, we inspire, we have outreach all over the world. And we are going to open an Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Nobody anywhere in the world is going to have a museum like we’re going to put up right here in Los Angeles at the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire, right next to LACMA."
What is the audience for Oscars night? Is it the television world? Is it movie goers? Or is it the business itself?
"I think it’s all of that. It’s movie goers, it’s people who love celebrity. It’s people who love our business. It increases business for everybody who makes films. And what it’s about for us is giving awards for excellence in each branch of our academy. All nominees in every category have achieved excellence beyond anything in that particular year. And this year I’m trying very hard, along with these great producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, to make it a very entertaining show for the people in the theater and for the people around the world. We have a lot of stuff that’s going to be exciting to watch this year, regardless of who wins the awards. But there’s also a lot of competition for the awards."
There has been a lot of talk about getting younger people to the movies and getting younger people to watch the Oscars.
"Well anybody who loves movies should want to watch the Oscars. So it’s not about young or old, it’s about, hey, bring them in. We have 6 or 7 movies that by the time the awards happen that have made over $100 million dollars, that means that there’s populist films out that that everyone is loving. From Silver Linings to Sky Fall to Lincoln to Django, all of them, they’ve all done incredibly well."
Now as many as ten films can be nominated for best picture. Is that a good idea?
"Well, we’re trying it. We started with 10 three years ago and last year we said somewhere between 5 and 10 and we got 9. And this year we got 9 again. We’re going to consider whether we like it or not, it’s still up in the air. It’s a test."
What are you looking for in a host?
"I’m looking for Seth MacFarlane as a host. I like Seth because I think he’s a jack of all trades. He’s a great producer, a great director, a great writer. He’s a wonderful comedian, he’s irreverent. And he sings and he dances."
You’ve been to so many of these Oscar events. Is there one that sticks out in your memory?
"Yes, the first one, produced by my father. It was the first one that I attended and I was fortunate enough to be backstage and see Charlie Chaplin walk out on the stage to receive his honorary Oscar. It was the year of that great musical number Shaft. And a great movie, French Connection won best picture. It was a great, great year and being the first one that I’d ever been to, and fortunate enough to go backstage. I guess that was the most exciting … until this one."
You and your father are the first father and son presidents of the academy. What does that mean to you?
"I’m very proud of that, very proud of that. What does it mean? It feels very good. And I love the academy and I love this business. And to be elected by my peers to do this job is very rewarding."