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Who Will Replace Eddie Murphy as Host of the 2012 Academy Awards? (Photos)

Eddie Murphy is out as Oscars host. See photos of potential subs, from Whoopi Goldberg to Justin Timberlake.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Tower Heist director Brett Ratner announced he wouldn’t be producing the 84th Academy Awards, having come under fire for making a gay slur in reference to the show’s rehearsal process. The following day, there were more sighs of disappointment than relief when Eddie Murphy, Ratner’s pick for host, declared he was out too. Despite Murphy’s up and down career, some critics (including former Oscar host Jon Stewart) were looking forward to the return of a relatively seasoned pro after last year’s rookies, James Franco and Anne Hathaway, bombed as hosts. So who should replace him? From Billy Crystal to Justin Timberlake, The Daily Beast looks at potential candidates.

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Billy Crystal

If the Academy is looking for a quick fix, Billy Crystal is arguably its best bet. He’s hosted the awards show eight times and is a master at distinguishing hilariously inappropriate jokes from off-color comments that lead to awkward silences. Crystal recently all but volunteered to pick up the gig, saying his brief appearance at last year’s show had made him “a little itchy” to host again “maybe one or two more times.”

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Whoopi Goldberg

Having emceed the Oscars four times, Whoopi Goldberg is another veteran host who could easily reprise her role. As co-host of The View, Goldberg weighed in on James Franco and Anne Hathaway’s lackluster performance last year. “The first few minutes of that show is yours,” she said, adding that the host has to be able to quickly recover from a blip in the ceremony, like when Melissa Leo dropped the F-bomb while accepting her award for Best Supporting Actress last year. “When things like that happen, you have to be able to come and lift the audience out of their shock and move the show forward,” Goldberg said. “I felt like last night there was no one in charge.” She added nonchalantly that she would like to host the show with Billy Crystal. Now there’s a dynamic duo the Academy should be scouting.  

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Neil Patrick Harris

Considering what a bang-up job he’s done as host of the Tony and Emmy awards, one would think emceeing the Oscars would be an easy transition for Neil Patrick Harris. But the How I Met Your Mother star recently implied that the idea makes him nervous, despite having tested the waters two years ago when he opened the show before hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin took the stage. “I am actively anti-campaigning,” Harris said in an interview with Hit Fix. “It’s a big deal, but to come out as a host? Unless you are doing Billy Crystal, it’s really difficult.” He added, “You’re a big target regardless of what you do. I mean, look at what happened with Anne and James. They just got slammed for it.”

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Ellen Degeneres

Ellen DeGeneres had no trouble interacting with the star-studded audience as host of the 2007 Academy Awards. After four years of interviewing celebrities on her popular talk show, she had a fairly good handle on how to work the crowd. Four years after hosting the awards, Ellen is still going strong and her name allegedly has been circulating among Academy insiders. She could be back on the Oscars stage next year in the same suit she wore in 2007.

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Jimmy Fallon

Former SNL-er Jimmy Fallon has a large following as host of NBC’s late night talkfest, and his performance at last year’s Emmy Awards got rave reviews. It’s only a matter of time before Fallon takes on the Oscars.

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Justin Timberlake

The Academy Awards is already full of musical numbers, so why not a musical host? Justin Timberlake clearly has done a good job as a Saturday Night Live host, as he’s been asked back three times since his first gig and was a big hit as the host of ESPN’s ESPY awards in 2008. But would the singer-turned-actor-turned-comedian even want the job? He told Ryan Seacrest he thinks hosting the Oscars “would be a blast.”

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Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy

The Muppets have been making people laugh since they first hit the road for Hollywood in 1979 and with a new movie coming out, who better to host the Oscars than the stars of the show, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog? They can dance, they can sing, they’re hip now, and best of all, they probably won’t offend anyone.

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Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin

It doesn’t get much better than the collective comic genius of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, who were equally classy and quippy as co-hosts of the 2010 Academy Awards. Despite their ingénue appeal, Anne Hathaway and James Franco never stood a chance of carrying the show with the same ease as these two industry vets. If the Academy learned anything from last year’s hosts, they’ll stick with the tried and true this year.  

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Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart never censors himself on The Daily Show, so it’s no surprise that the two-time Oscar host was a bit of a wild card. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Stewart recalled a favorite moment “when we showed all of their montages about all these incredibly socially powerful films, and how Hollywood was a leader in the civil rights movement.” Even in front of the Academy, Stewart had a hard time toning it down. “I came back after the montage ended and said, ‘And racism was never a problem again.’” Despite the irreverent joke, Stewart was a major crowd-pleaser and stands as good a chance as any other reliable favorite of being asked back.  

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Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman loves to be the center of attention, so naturally he went all out as host of the 2009 Oscars, had a hard time passing the Tony Awards hosting torch to colleague Neil Patrick Harris, and has basically been talking about hosting the 2012 Academy Awards since Anne Hathaway and James Franco stepped off the stage this year. The versatile performer would clearly be game for the gig, but will the Academy give someone else a chance to shine this year?  

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Charlie Sheen

Before he went from being the highest-paid actor on television to “unemployed winner”, Charlie Sheen was starring in Oscar-winning films. But while his Comedy Central Roast showed Sheen definitely can laugh at himself, we’re not sure if a family event like the Academy Awards is ready for this actor’s rabble-rousing shtick.