The trouble with the 2011 Oscars, infamously hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco, started well before showtime.
The messy showcase has gone down in history as one of the worst Academy Awards ceremonies of all time. According to some of the writers involved, this came down to its polar-opposite hosts. “It was like the world’s most uncomfortable blind date between the cool rocker-stoner kid and the adorable theater-camp cheerleader,” writer David Wild told The Ringer in a new oral history of the event.
While Hathaway originally turned down the position and was brought on board at Franco’s insistence, the writers agree that she gave the gig her all. “Anne made herself readily available. 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,” Jordan Rubin, co-executive producer of The Good Place, recalled. “[Franco] always seemed to be on a flight and it was very hard for me to get a hold of him.”
The writers started noticing trouble when they began filming the ceremony’s opener. “She showed up ready to play and committed 110 percent,” Rubin continued. “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.”
Although Rubin doesn’t recall any personal tension between the stars, Wild recalled a particular instance where Franco allegedly shut down an acting suggestion from Hathaway. “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,’” Wild told the interviewer.
Rubin suggests Franco was hoping for a dynamic similar to “a buddy-cop movie with two opposite characters,” but both actors ended up being lambasted by critics and viewers. Hathaway was knocked for going way too big, while Franco got the opposite critique.
“We got a lot of shit for it. I probably got more than she did, but she got a lot,” Franco told New York Magazine in 2016.
“He didn’t give me anything,” Anne Hathaway told People in 2019 about her cohosting gig with James Franco. “When all the dust settled, I was just like, You gotta be kidding me; your first instinct is usually the right one. And all the reasons why I turned it down came true. All of them. It’s just a no-win situation.”
Perhaps it’s best the Oscars haven’t hired an official host in three years.