The Oscars are kicking off with a prank, as a statue of fired host Kevin Hart holding a rainbow flag appeared outside of the venue on Sunday.
Hart was fired from hosting the Oscars back in December, and on Sunday the show will go on without one central host. Now, Hart will at least be there symbolically after a golden statue of the comedian appeared outside of the Dolby Theater. It stands on a platform with the words "Hollow Apology" written beneath his feet.
The statue is modeled to look similar to an Oscar trophy. It is colored a pale, gleaming gold and features Hart wearing a broad smile. The statue is waving is a Gay Pride flag, in direct opposition to Hart's original dismissal from the award show. Los Angeles street artist Plastic Jesus took credit for the statue, posting photos and videos of it on their Instagram.
Hart was fired from hosting the 2019 Oscars after outrage over past homophobic tweets overshadowed his appointment. It led to one of the strangest searches for a host in the award show's history, and ultimately left the Oscars without one.
Plastic Jesus has been a fixture in Los Angeles for several years now. The anonymous provocateur reportedly hails from London, England, and was once described by The Daily Beast as the "Banksy of L.A." Plastic Jesus' work has targeted the Hollywood elite, consumer culture and President Donald Trump.
In 2014, Plastic Jesus had their first installation at the Academy Awards. The artist put up a life-sized replica of the show's iconic golden statue, but it was injecting heroin into its own arm. The following year, they put up an Oscar snorting cocaine, and after that, a golden stripper meant to comment on Hollywood's objectification of women.
In 2017, Plastic Jesus surprised the Oscars with a golden statue of Kanye West on a golden crucifix, perhaps belatedly referencing the rapper's album Yeezus. Last year, Plastic Jesus' most recent installation was a golden statue of Harvey Weinstein in a bathrobe on a couch — a reference to the #MeToo movement.
Hart has not yet responded to being depicted as one of Plastic Jesus' statues. The actor refused to apologize for his tweets after the backlash first began, saying that they were a decade old and no longer reflected his beliefs. After a while, he did apologize to the LGBTQ community, but did not return to host.
The Oscars air live on Sunday night starting at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.