Tallahassee, Fla. March 26, 2022 – (TaMaryn Waters | Tallahassee Democrat) – The golden hour is near as Oscars producer Will Packer prepares to put his spin on the 94th Annual Academy Awards on March 27.
It will be different. For starters, the Florida A&M University graduate is shaking things up by injecting three funny women — Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes — to host.
He’s also assembled an all Black production team to put on the industry’s biggest night.
For the first time, non-industry movie lovers were invited to announce Oscar nominations, a “sign of things to come,” Packer said on his Instagram page about this historic moment.
Now add three scores of music throughout the night and some of the industry’s biggest musical stars set to perform: Beyonce, Billie Eilish, Reba McEntire and Sebastian Yatra.
The “Girls Trip” producer is putting on a show of a lifetime, despite controversy about the Academy’s decision to cut eight categories in crafts from the live telecast. The move sparked backlash as several A-list actors urged the Academy to reconsider.
In Tallahassee, many residents and Rattlers will be watching the Oscars to remotely cheer on the St. Petersburg native, who earned an electrical engineering degree from in 1996 at FAMU.
Last year, the university’s new amphitheater was named in Packer’s honor.
Valencia Matthews, dean of FAMU’s College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, said she’s rejoicing over the idea of an Oscars production in Packer’s capable hands.
“For our FAMU family, our FAMUly, the fact that children are looking at him, students are looking at him and they’re hearing his name,” Matthews said. “They know the work that he’s done … As a theatre person, I think about all the time and the people behind the scenes that you never see.”
Yet, Packer is no stranger to the limelight.
Film by film, Packer spent years building his career with blockbuster hits like “Ride Along” (2014) and “Straight Outta Compton” (2015). He’s worked on more than two dozen movies that have grossed more than $1 billion worldwide.
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Matthews said Packer’s ability to assemble an all Black production for the Oscars is a monumental move toward bringing inclusion in an industry and awards show dinged in years past for lacking diversity, even earning the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
“You always have to look at what happens before the stage, what happens on and what happens afterwards,” she said. “Somebody, bodies put that together. And that’s where we have to be; in all of those spaces.”
In a speech delivered when FAMU dedicated the amphitheater in his name, Packer talked about representation and how the university prepared him for the road ahead.
“I choose to look at it as not just an honor for me as an individual but what I represent – an (Historically Black College and University) grad who came into FAMU without having any Hollywood connections or knowledge of the industry, who was able to go and find my voice, find my vision, find my passion and shape my dream and have been able to be successful doing that,” Packer said. “To me, that’s the bigger statement.”