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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Eddie Murphy bowed out of his gig as host of the Academy Awards, following pal Brett Ratner's decision to leave the show as producer because of an uproar over a gay slur.


The news of Murphy's departure came a day after Ratner quit as producer of the Feb. 26 show.

Ratner left amid criticism  of his reportedly saying “rehearsing is for fags” during a question-and-answer session at a screening of his recently opened action comedy Tower Heist, which stars Murphy and Ben Stiller.

The two sides departed with cordial words, though.

“I completely understand and support each party's decision with regard to a change of producers for this year's Academy Awards ceremony,” Murphy said in a news release from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “I was truly looking forward to being a part of the show that our production team and writers were just starting to develop, but I'm sure that the new production team and host will do an equally great job.”

Academy President Tom Sherak bid Murphy farewell graciously.

“I appreciate how Eddie feels about losing his creative partner, Brett Ratner, and we all wish him well,” Sherak said.

Losing Murphy is a blow to a ceremony that has struggled to pep up its image amid a general decline in its TV ratings over the last couple of decades and a rush of hipper awards shows that appeal to younger crowds, such as the MTV Movie Awards.

Oscar planners have sought to shorten the sometimes interminably long show and have tried new ways to present awards in hopes of livening things up.

They also have experimented with unexpected choices as hosts, which worked nicely with the song-and-dance talents of Hugh Jackman three years ago but backfired at last season's show, when perky Anne Hathaway was paired with lackluster co-host James Franco.

When the academy picked Murphy in September, it marked a return to the traditional funnyman as host, a formula that delivered some of the best-remembered Oscar pageants when Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal ran the show.

In fact, to replace Murphy, Crystal has been tapped for his ninth stint in the often thankless job that's tough to fill, since some past hosts have found little to gain from the gig and plenty to lose if they do a poor job as emcee of Hollywood's biggest party.

Photo: Courtesy of Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

ON SECOND THOUGHT:  Comedian Eddie Murphy had been chosen to host the Feb. 26 Academy Awards.