Writers spill on what went wrong with James Franco and Anne Hathaway's doomed 2011 Oscars gig
"It was like the world's most uncomfortable blind date," writer David Wild told the Ringer.
This year marks a decade since James Franco and Anne Hathaway's infamous monologue at the 83rd annual Academy Awards. While much has been said (and mocked) about their critically panned performance, an interview with the writers for the 2011 Oscars provided new insight into how the pair was doomed from the start.
"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 writers that year, told the Ringer about Franco and Hathaway's monologue.
Wild also called that night "an incredibly dark significant comic event in my life."
Franco and Hathaway had never hosted the Oscars or worked together before, but producers picked them to appeal to younger viewers. The previous year's emcees, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, had 116 years between them. The producers' unofficial first choice, Justin Timberlake, turned down the opportunity.
During the monthslong prep, "Anne made herself readily available," Jordan Rubin, another writer for the show, told the outlet. "I went to her house and worked on the script and she was on a bunch of conference calls and responding to emails and was a great collaborator."
Megan Amram, who consulted on the ceremony and went on to co-executive produce The Good Place, said that further in the Oscars process, Hathaway pulled her into a storage closet to make sure her material would feature a female perspective.
"She wanted to make sure it was positively reflecting women," Amram said. "I remember thinking that it was amazing that this was important to her and weird that I was in a closet with Anne Hathaway."
Franco, an acting nominee for 127 Hours that year, was shooting movies while also knee-deep in academia (he was either teaching or taking classes at three different schools, including Yale).
"He always seemed to be on a flight and it was very hard for me to get a hold of him," Rubin said. "That was a red flag."
And once the duo got started working together, it was apparent they had completely different personalities.
"She showed up ready to play and committed 110 percent," Rubin recalled. "And he was a great guy but often looked like he had just woken up from a nap. It's almost like you're showing up to a tennis court and one person decided that they were going to play in the U.S. Open and the other wanted to play in jeans and just kind of hit a few balls."
Franco seemed to revel in their wildly mismatched energies and "wanted to play it as a buddy-cop movie with two opposite characters," Wild said. There was some friction when the actress offered Franco an acting suggestion during rehearsals, according to the writer.
"[She] was like 'Maybe you should try that,' and he was like 'Don't tell me how to be funny,'" Wild said, though he noted the moment wasn't overly contentious.
Yet throughout the process, the writers said Franco and Hathaway never bonded. In one fleeting moment, when Wild thought the two had "finally broken though," it turned out to be a false alarm.
"Anne had gone to her dressing room for a minute," he said. "James was smiling at her stand-in."
Now, 10 years later, the writers are able to reflect positively on the experience ("This one went down in history," Amram said). And over the years, Franco and Hathaway have spoken about it separately.
"We got a lot of s--- for it. I probably got more than she did, but she got a lot," James told New York Magazine in 2016, adding that he convinced Hathaway to host with him.
In 2012, Hathaway said she "had a blast doing it."
"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!" she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012. "It was great! And I think it looked slightly manic and 'hyper-cheerleadery' onscreen. But I have no regrets about doing it."
This year's Oscars, taking place April 25, will go hostless for the third year in a row and instead feature a cast of presenters.