How can a good rumor become solid conventional wisdom in a hot minute?

When the math looks right, for one thing. The Academy Awards suffered this year from the decision to cast an odd couple as hosts in Anne Hathway (overly excited to be there) and James Franco (appeared to think this was the dress rehearsal). So the Academy asked Brett Ratner to join Don Mischer as a producer for the 2012 telecast.

When Ratner hopped on board with the Oscars production team last month, he told The Hollywood Reporter: 

I think my love of comedy had a lot to do with it. To their credit, Tom (Sherak) and Dawn (Hudson) really understand what is needed, and comedy is a big part of it, and I want to make that part of it. I think that is going to be tremendous.”

And he told Entertainment Weekly much the same thing:

“The key to this show is making it funny. But respecting the pedigree and the old Hollywood history. Comedy is what I do. I know how to entertain people. I want to laugh when I’m watching a show like this. But I’m not looking to come in and shake it up and reinvent it. I can’t change the Academy; I can just do a great show.”

At the time, Ratner said he was wrapping production on a movie he’s been wanting to make for several years called Tower Heist, which stars Ben Stiller and…Eddie Murphy. It comes out Nov. 4, 2011. Here’s the trailer. Roll it!

OK.

So Ratner wants to return the Oscars to comedy, and at the same time make a big splash, because Ratner’s career as a filmmaker and as a celebrity is all about big splashes, on and offscreen. What better way to do that than to lure Eddie Murphy back out into the spotlight as the Oscars host?

Particularly since Murphy has said repeatedly over the past year or two that he would like to return to his roots as a stand-up comedian. And Murphy’s last big public appearance happened this spring when he received the “Comedy Icon Award” at the inaugural reboot of The Comedy Awards on Comedy Central, where he repeated his “comeback” intentions once again.

And there’s a history of stand-up comedians commanding the Oscars stage. Over the past two decades, we’ve grown used to seeing Billy Crystal (eight times), Whoopi Goldberg (four times), Steve Martin (three times, though most recently shared duties in 2010 with Alec Baldwin), Jon Stewart (twice), Ellen DeGeneres and Chris Rock.

Oh, yeah. Billy Crystal. Not only has he remained a popular Oscar host for a generation, but his mere reappearance in 2011 to honor Bob Hope overshadowed Hathaway and Franco and showed just how much the hosting gig matters. And it made Crystal “itchy” to return. Last month, he let the Academy know he was interested in getting the gig back by making these public comments at a 20th anniversary screening of City Slickers in Santa Monica:

“It got to be too much after a while and the sameness in my life. That’s why I pulled back. And then when I thought I might want to do it again, they were on to other people. It’s always fun. It’s really hard, but maybe one or two more times? I don’t know. They know where I am.”

This year: “I came out as a surprise. It was a last-minute decision. They had called and said would you do this thing and honor Bob Hope and that was a kind of cool thing to do. I said OK. I did it, and people wanted to see me, they stood up, and I couldn’t talk for about a minute [while waiting for the ovation]. And, um, I got a little itchy. So we’ll see what happens. I can’t promise anything.”

Which leads us back to the hot rumor.

Humor Mill Mag said Murphy was a sure thing, done deal. But in that same post, they missed the boat by only “hearing from sources” and not knowing that Ratner already was onboard. The rumor did get other members of the media to make calls and find out that Murphy’s name is in the mix, although the Academy won’t even meet with the producers until after Labor Day. So what do we know?

We know Ratner just worked with Murphy. We know Ratner wants to bring comedy back front-and-center for the 2012 Oscars, the 84th Academy Awards. We know Murphy wants to bring his comedy back front-and-center. And we know Crystal wants to return to his past Oscar glories.

Should make for some interesting meetings this week when Ratner and Mischer meet with the Academy.

If you could have a say in the matter, whom would you like to see hosting the Oscars come February 2012?

UPDATED: The Oscars made it official Tuesday afternoon with a press release! Eddie Murphy will host the Oscars telecast on Feb. 26, 2012. Just as the Mayans predicted.

Here are the money quotes:

From Brett Ratner: “Eddie is a comedic genius, one of the greatest and most influential live performers ever. With his love of movies, history of crafting unforgettable characters and his iconic performances – especially on stage – I know he will bring excitement, spontaneity and tremendous heart to the show Don and I want to produce in February.”

From Don Mischer: “Eddie is a truly ground-breaking performer, whose amazingly diverse array of roles has won him a devoted audience of all ages. His quick wit and charisma will serve him very well as Oscar host.”

From Eddie Murphy: “I am enormously honored to join the great list of past Academy Award hosts from Hope and Carson to Crystal, Martin and Goldberg, among others. I’m looking forward to working with Brett and Don on creating a show that is enjoyable for both the fans at home and for the audience at the Kodak Theatre as we all come together to celebrate and recognize the great film contributions and collaborations from the past year.”