Oscars host Jackman wows audience with Aussie humour
Posted 5 hours 41 minutes ago
Updated 5 hours 40 minutes ago
Jackman kicked off the night with a musical tribute spoofing this year's crop of film nominees. (Reuters: Gary Hershorn)
Australian star Hugh Jackman, the first non-comedian to host the Oscars in more than two decades, opened the Academy Awards broadcast with a joke at his own expense, and that of his home country.
The Broadway and big-screen star observed that he was an Australian playing an Australian character in his latest film, Australia.
"Because of the recession, everything is being downsized," he said, deadpanning that, "Next year, I'll be starring in a movie called 'New Zealand.'"
Jackman then kicked off the night with a musical tribute spoofing this year's crop of film nominees.
The original song-and-dance number put Jackson's talents as a musical performer to the test as he lampooned all five of the films vying for best picture in short succession - Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon and The Reader.
"I haven't seen The Reader. I was going to see it later, but I fell behind," he sang, referring to that Holocaust-themed film's status as a must-see movie largely ignored by mainstream audiences.
"I know I need to see The Reader. I went down to the theatre, but there was a line."
Midway through the number, Jackman strode to the front-row of the Kodak Theatre, picked up best actress nominee Anne Hathaway in his arms, and carried her to the stage to join him in a duet paying homage to Frost/Nixon.
The song-and-dance number went down well with the crowd of Oscar attendees, drawing a standing ovation from the stars.
While Oscar producers promised a departure from the usual format in this year's show, Jackman's turn as emcee was not without the kind of banter and jokes that might have been delivered by his long line of comic predecessors.
Approaching best actor nominee Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler star known for rambling media interviews laced with four-letter words, Jackman told him: "You say whatever's on your mind. We have a seven-second (broadcast) delay. But if you win, we switch to a 20-minute delay."
To Hollywood glamour Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, nominated for their respective roles in Benjamin Button and Changeling, Jackman said: "I actually don't have a joke for them. I'm just contractually obligated to mention them at least five times during the show."
It was a not-so-sly allusion to Jolie's reputation for shrewd manipulation of the celebrity-starved media, but got a chuckle from the pair nevertheless.
He even poked a bit of fun at Meryl Streep, who earned a record 15th career nomination for her work in "Doubt," a film about unproven accusations.
"I hate to say it but when someone puts up numbers like that, it's just hard not to think: steroids," he said.
But Jackman returned to his Broadway roots mid-show, taking the stage in top hat and tails for a song-and-dance number saluting Hollywood musicals, along with singer-actress Beyonce.
Oscar organisers turned to Jackman, 40, as part of their bid to give a new look and feel to a live telecast that, like many awards shows, has slumped in the ratings in recent years.
The Tony Award-winning musical stage actor and film star best known on the big screen for his mutant superhero role as Wolverine in the X-Men movies is the first non-comedian to serve as solo Oscar host since the late Jack Lemmon in 1985.