In the midst of a serious Ebola scare and so many other national disasters, it’s great to be able to trumpet a bit of good news: Neil Patrick Harris is going to host the Oscars. I doubt I have to explain who NPH is. Albuquerque’s favorite son first made headlines as a teenager in the goofy title role of Doogie Howser. M.D., a popular TV series (1989-1993) about a fourteen-year-old med school graduate.
He also made films. I was surprised to recall that one of his very first was the leading kid role in an amiable fantasy called Purple People Eater, written and directed by a Roger Corman friend of mine, Linda Shayne. Many of his later films have been lightweight too, like Starship Troopers and (playing a parody version of himself) Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. And of course there’s recently been his Emmy-nominated sitcom role as playboy Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother. Yet his appearance in Gone Girl proves he can go dramatic as well.
But he’s made perhaps his biggest impression in a series of Broadway musicals. (He can sing, dance, do magic tricks, and probably walk on water.) He’s starred in everything from Sondheim to Rent to the Tony-winning transvestite role in the rock musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It must be said, he has great legs. What’s really going to prepare him to serve as Oscar host, though, are the years he’s spent brilliantly hosting the Tonys, by far the most entertaining of the big awards shows.
One of the things that most intrigues me about Harris, aside from his versatility, is the fact that he’s the ultimate social media creature. He has 10.7 million Twitter followers, to whom he sends out almost daily tweets, like this one: “Yesterday I celebrated the birth of my twins. Tomorrow I celebrate the birth of my book. I hope the book poops less.”
Yes, he’s got a new memoir out. In a typically puckish twist, NPH pays homage to the Choose Your Own Adventure books kids used to love. Here’s part of the official blurb: “Sick of deeply personal accounts written in the first person? Seeking an exciting, interactive read that puts the ‘u’ back in ‘aUtobiography’? Then look no further than Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography! In this revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative, actor/personality/carbon-based-life-form Neil Patrick Harris lets you, the reader, live his life.”
Sounds like fun. See his official book trailer below. For those not involved with today’s publishing world, it might not be known that video book trailers are now considered de rigueur, but Harris’s is surely more entertaining than most. And of course it smartly capitalizes on the current fad for all things interactive. Even the stuffy old Academy of Arts and Sciences, the organization that stages the Oscar broadcast each year, has finally recognized that fans want to get involved on an active level. The Academy just completed a redesign of its www.oscars.org site, so that movie buffs (and not just visitors to the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library) can view priceless photographs and film clips. Now anyone with Internet access can see Audrey Hepburn’s screen tests for Roman Holiday and the theatrical trailer for William Castle’s Homicidal, which offers a “fright break” (with full refund of the ticket price) for those too scared to continue watching.
I doubt I’ll need a fright break when watching NPH strut his stuff at the Oscars. True, the Oscar hosting job has scared some of the biggest names in the business. But not NPH, surely.