It’s been 10 years since Anne Hathaway and James Franco took the stage at the 2011 Academy Awards. Their infamous monologue has gone on to be dissected and made fun of, but a new interview with their writers revealed exactly what went went wrong.
“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. “[It was] an incredibly dark significant comic event in my life.”
Producers said they picked Hathaway and Franco to appeal to younger viewers, although their first choice was Justin Timberlake, who turned down the opportunity.
“Anne made herself readily available,” said Jordan Rubin, another writer for the show. “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, said that Hathaway wanted 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.”
On the other hand, Franco had a jam-packed schedule as he filmed movies, taught classes and took class at various schools in the time leading up to the awards ceremony.
“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.”
The two also seemed to have very different personalities and attitudes towards the show.
“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.”
“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,'” Wild said.
Rubin said he believes Franco purposely tried to differentiate himself from Hathaway’s hosting style.
“I think he wanted to play it as buddy-cop movie with two opposite characters,” he said.
The writers said throughout the entire process, the two hosts never bonded. Looking back though, they look at it in a positive light and both hosts have talked about the experience 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.
“He didn’t give me anything,” Hathaway told People in 2019. “God, I just remember the night before we’re about to go up there, and me turning to everyone and going, ‘Am I too much? This feels really big to me.’ And the producer just went, ‘No! Don’t do less. Do more if you need to.’ And I was like, ‘Oh okay, I guess it’s going great.’ And I didn’t realize what was happening about that whole thing.”
This year’s Oscars will be on April 25 and feature a cast of presenters rather than two hosts.