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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 January 2006, 12:05 GMT
Crystal 'turned down Oscar role'
Billy Crystal
Crystal is performing his stage show in Los Angeles until 18 February
Comedian Billy Crystal turned down the job of Oscar host this year despite repeated requests from Oscar producer Gil Cates, according to reports.

Crystal, 58, told the Los Angeles Daily News that Cates called just before Christmas to ask him to take the role.

But the actor said he was concentrating on his live one-man stage show.

"I didn't want to go from that into a meeting where I'm saying 'give me Brokeback Mountain jokes'. It seemed so not what I wanted to do," he said.

Crystal has been a popular host of the Academy Awards, hosting the annual ceremony eight times, most recently in 2004.

I didn't want to go from that into a meeting where I'm saying 'give me Brokeback Mountain jokes'
Billy Crystal

Last year the ceremony was hosted by comedian Chris Rock in an effort to draw more younger viewers, but his sometimes barbed performance was thought to have upset some academy members.

This year will see the debut of US comedian Jon Stewart, the 43-year-old host of the satirical Daily Show, who is well known for his political humour.

"Jon knows the difference of being irreverent without being impolite," said Cates, when Stewart's appointment was announced last week.

"This is not a political show. I think he understands that."

Stewart said he was "honoured" to be hosting the Oscar ceremony, but added "I can't help but be a little disappointed with the choice. It appears to be another sad attempt to smoke out Billy Crystal."

The 78th Academy Awards takes place in Los Angeles on 5 March 2006 and the nominations are on 31 January.

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