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Perhaps not, because you may have voluntarily or involuntarily blocked that disastrous onstage pairing out of your mind. Producers hoped having the actors co-host Hollywood’s most prestigious award show would entice a younger audience. But their performance was heavily criticized by viewers, notably due to the stars’ lack of chemistry.
“It was like the world’s most uncomfortable blind date between the cool rocker stoner kid and the adorable theater camp cheerleader,” David Wild, one of the 2011 Oscars’ four main writers, told The Ringer in comments posted on Wednesday, April 14, a week and a half before the 2021 Oscars—which still has no host.
Wild recalled an awkward moment between the actors during rehearsal, saying, “Again, this is a memory, but [she] was like ‘Maybe you should try that,’ and he was like, ‘Don’t tell me how to be funny.'” Franco and Hathaway have not commented on his remarks.
Wild said there was one moment where he thought Franco and Hathaway had finally broken the ice, while watching surveillance footage of The Disaster Artist actor grinning at a person next to him.
“I thought, ‘Oh boy, they’ve finally broken through and he’s looking at her!'” he said, adding, “Anne had gone to her dressing room for a minute…James was smiling at her stand-in.”
Truth be told, the 2011 Oscars could have been even more awkward. Another show writer, Megan Amram, revealed that musical numbers were scrapped. She said both hosts were supposed to perform a parody of “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease. Franco also wanted to dress up as Cher and perform a duet with the showbiz legend from her musical film Burlesque. But after the movie received no Oscar nominations, he ended up dressing up like the late Marilyn Monroe from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes while bantering onstage with Hathaway.
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Amram also recalled some last-minute scrambling. “A lot of stuff that made it into the show was written a few days beforehand,” she told The Ringer. “We wrote all these jokes, but I don’t think we ever landed on a tone or a cohesive feeling of what the show would be.”
In 2016, Franco recalled the criticism over his and Hathaway’s Oscars co-hosting gig in an interview with New York Magazine. “When Anne Hathaway decided to host the Oscars with me…She had said no before, and then they asked me to ask her, and I said, ‘Let’s just do it. It’ll be an adventure,’ and then we got a lot of s–t for it,” he told the outlet. “I probably got more than she did, but she got a lot.”
Franco continued, “I’m going to do what they ask me to and do it as well as I can, but I don’t need this to be the best Oscars ever. I’m not getting anything out of that. In the best-case scenario, even if I killed it, it’s not going to help my career, because that’s not what it’s based on. It was an experiment.”
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Hathaway, who went on to win the best supporting actress Oscar in 2013 for her performance in Les Misérables, discussed hosting the star-studded event, in a 2012 Hollywood Reporter roundtable chat. “I went into it with a lot of trust and a lot of hope, and I had a blast doing it,” she said. “And I realized afterwards, I played to the house; it’s a 3,500-seat theater, so I was just shooting energy to the back of it and it was like a party! It was great! And I think it looked slightly manic and ‘hyper-cheerleadery’ onscreen. But I have no regrets about doing it.”
Days after the 2011 Oscars, Franco appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman, where host David Letterman asked him why some people assumed he was “under the influence” while co-hosting the ceremony.
“I’ve thought about it,” Franco responded. “I think I know why, because—I love her—but Anne Hathaway is so energetic, I think the Tasmanian devil would look stoned standing next to Anne Hathaway…I haven’t watched it back. Maybe I had low energy. I honestly played those lines as well as I could.”
Another 2011 Oscars head writer, Jordan Rubin, told The Ringer that Franco “was not stoned,” adding, “I don’t even think he drinks.”
After Franco’s Late Show interview, Hathaway told Harper’s Bazaar that she “let James know that a whirling dervish is a more flattering comparison than a Tasmanian devil.” She also told the magazine, regarding her hosting gig, “In the grand scheme of things, I got to have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I met great people, wore beautiful clothes. And I got to put on a show. I don’t see a downside. Anyone who disliked my personality probably disliked my personality before the Oscars.”
Watch E!’s 2021 Oscars red carpet coverage Sunday, Apr. 25 starting at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT followed by the Academy Awards telecast at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC.