Chris Rock had to audition for his role as this season's Oscar host.
"His audition was actually at the 77th Academy Awards, where he was, to my mind, absolutely brilliant," says David Hill, who is co-producing the Oscar telecast with Reginald Hudlin. "He was the first name we had on our list, and we went after him. He very graciously agreed to do it, so we're thrilled."
Hill and Hudlin announced Wednesday that Rock will helm the 88th Oscar ceremony on Feb. 28 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The 50-year-old Rock posted a photo of himself with an Oscar statuette on Twitter with the caption, "Look who's back."
More than 42 million viewers tuned in when Rock hosted the show in 2005, compared to 37 million for this year's telecast
Rock is the only non-white Oscar host since that appearance 11 years ago. The film academy has visibly increased its diversity outreach efforts since it was derided earlier this year for its all-white slate of acting nominees.
Hollywood is "a white industry. Just as the NBA is a black industry," Rock wrote in a much-discussed essay late last year. He said that even though some things are changing — "not only are black movies making money, they're expected to make money" — there are still too few people of color on both sides of the camera.
In an interview, Hudlin and Hill said the essay didn't factor into their decision.
"Chris does tend to speak the truth," Hill said. "That didn't bother us one little bit. Why should it?"
"The intelligence that fuels Chris Rock's humor is the thing that attracts us," Hudlin said. "The fact that he is, at this point in his career, a complete industry veteran — as a performer, as a writer, as a producer as a director — in feature films and documentary. He's our idea of the perfect host."
Last year, Rock wrote, directed and starred in the feature "Top Five." In 2009, he produced, wrote and starred in the documentary "Good Hair."
Rock has won four Emmy Awards for his comedy series and specials. He recently directed the comedy special "Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo" for HBO. He created and produced the TV series "Everybody Hates Chris," which aired from 2005 to 2009. Hudlin directed the pilot episode.
Rock's other acting credits include the "The Longest Yard," ''Lethal Weapon 4" and the "Madagascar" animated movies. He also appeared on Broadway in 2011 and was a "Saturday Night Live" cast member from 1990 to '93.
So with the host in place, what's next on the Oscar to-do list?
Joked Hill: "Drinks on Friday night!"