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He's baaaack: Billy Crystal to host Oscars for 9th time, 1st since 2004

Comedian Billy Crystal speaks during the 83rd Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

LOS ANGELES -- Eight-time Oscar host Billy Crystal will step back into the toughest job in show business, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Thursday.

The appointment of Crystal, 63, came just a day after Eddie Murphy stepped down as master of ceremonies for the 84th annual Oscars, which will be presented on February 26, 2012, in Los Angeles.

Murphy had been caught up in the furore that enveloped his collaborator, director Brett Ratner, who resigned as the show's producer after making a remark using a homosexual slur.

"Am doing the Oscars so the young woman in the pharmacy will stop asking my name when I pick up my prescriptions," Crystal tweeted, to break the surprising news of his new gig. "Looking forward to the show."

With the academy making no secret of its desire to recast the glamorous annual event to appeal to a younger audience, many thought that Crystal's comment was just another joke by the veteran funnyman. But within hours the Academy officially confirmed the appointment.

"I'm thrilled to welcome Billy back to the Oscar stage," Academy President Tom Sherak said. "He's a comic legend and Oscar icon, and it feels good to have him back where he belongs."

Ratner, whose films include Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand and Family Man, was forced to resign Tuesday following a publicity tour for his latest movie, Tower Heist co-starring Murphy, in which the director said "rehearsal is for fags."

Crystal last hosted the Oscar show in 2004 and is the second most frequent Oscar host after Bob Hope, who presented the event 19 times between 1940 and 1978.

Besides his Oscar duties, Crystal, an archetypal Jewish comedian, is best known for his role in the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally. In recent years he has voiced characters in animated hits like The Muppets, Cars and Monsters Inc.

Distributed by MCT Information Services