For the 2011 Oscars, producers decided to go with two younger deals with to command the ceremony. As they would immediately find out, actors don’t constantly make for the finest hosts.




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Share every sharing choices for: The Behind-the-Scenes Story the the James Franco–Anne Hathaway Oscars Debacle


You understand the feeling—the one in which girlfriend hear a item of an excellent news and instinctively sense that something is off. And even though you can never fairly articulate the gut reaction of brewing doom, you deserve to never forget it, either. David Wild feeling this in so late 2010 while he to be driving on U.S. 101 on the way to his in-laws’ house in Orange County, California. He had just been asked to join the creating team for the 83rd annual Academy Awards and was wait to discover which comedy star would hold court because that those three-plus hours. Then he received the call from a manufacturing executive. “She said ‘We have actually our hosts!’” he recalls. “And i was like, ‘Great who is it?’” The answer: ann Hathaway and also James Franco.

Wild admits the his mind went “huh?” at the believed of 2 still-on-the-rise actors presiding end Hollywood’s biggest and also most crucial entertainment showcase. Yet he comment enthusiastically and also proceeded as directed. “The one point you find out in life,” that says, “is the you need to react and resolve something as it’s happening. You’ve obtained to listen to that voice, or else.”


To it is in fair, few could have anticipated that the unconventional pairing would lead to one the the most infamous nights in the history of the preeminent compensation show. We’re no talking rob Lowe and Snow White singing “Proud Mary” levels of epos catastrophe, yet from the minute Hathaway and Franco go onto that glossy white stage—she v a gleaming, awestruck smile; he v a smirk and a phone clutched in his appropriate hand, recording—it was evident that this would certainly be a live experiment gone fantastically awry. And also 10 year later, those Oscars continue to stand out for gift ... Well, words strange doesn’t do it justice.

Just kind in the native “2011 Oscars monologue” on YouTube and also behold the outcomes via the post four-minute monologue snippet. She giggles nervously and also exclaims, “Oh my gosh, you’re every real!” Franco barely renders eye contact and brags around landing a best Actor nomination for 127 Hours when Hathaway to be passed end (for Love & other Drugs). “It was favor the world’s most uncomfortable remote date between the cool rocker stoner kid and the adorable theatre camp cheerleader,” Wild says.

Later in the evening, he dressed up together Marilyn Monroe and made a date crack around being Six levels of Kevin Bacon separated indigenous presenters Scarlett Johansson and Matthew McConaughey; she performed a musical bit set to “On mine Own” from Les Miserables, lamenting former host Hugh Jackman’s absence from the stage and how the “stuck his fake retractable claws right into my heart.” (Jackman to be sitting in the front row.) Oh, and The king’s Speech beat The society Network for finest Picture.

Audience members clapped and also laughed politely. Movie critics attacked. The Hollywood Reporter blasted, “In what can go under as one of the worst Oscar telecasts in history, a bad and also risky idea confirmed out in spectacularly unwatchable fashion” while L.A. Weekly sniped that the night was “at finest qualified as lazy, and also at worst, entirely embarrassing.” from an insider’s perspective, “I speak to it an incredibly dark far-reaching comic event in mine life,” states Wild, an Emmy-winning live-event experienced who’s worked on approximately 175 occasions from the 9/11 Tribute come Heroes to the 2021 Grammy Awards. His other writer Bruce Vilanch is slightly much more blunt: “I think its legacy is floating somewhere near the Costa Concordia.”

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Here’s the thing about hosting an compensation spectacle: the a complex, often-thankless job that calls for a potent mix of quick comedy reflexes, good-old-fashioned showmanship, and also extreme affability. Even the best actor can not fake it. “A host’s main job is to make the audience feeling comfortable and also the audience at residence feel welcome in ~ the party,” Vilanch, one award show veteran that tapped out zingers for some 25 Oscar telecasts, write via email. You could argue every successful organize over the previous several years has fit the description. “It’s no accident that Bob Hope and Johnny Carson and also Billy decision were great at it,” Turner standard Movies host and also film commentator Ben Mankiewicz says.

The year before the Hathaway-Franco debacle, friends Alec Baldwin and also Steve Martin—also Saturday Night Live hosting vets and also costars of the Nancy Meyers–directed romantic comedy It’s Complicated—tag-teamed the gig. They maintained it smart and classy. The difficulty was the the pair also clocked in in ~ a combined age that 116 years old. And also though the as whole ratings for the ceremony to be the highest possible in 5 years, the producers want to residence in top top a various demographic. Enough with emcees old sufficient to remember once there were just three networks on the dial of a rabbit-eared black-and-white TV. It was time come appeal come viewers v iPhones in your pockets who document their thoughts on new social media platforms. The Oscars would certainly no much longer be regarded as a musty 20th-century artifact; they were the bomb!


“It was like the world’s most uncomfortable remote date between the cool rocker stoner kid and the adorable theater camp cheerleader.” —David Wild

The unofficial very first choice to be Justin Timberlake, the former boy tape star rotate solo stud who had actually both slayed it throughout his hosting appearances top top Saturday Night Live and hosted his own as tech mogul Sean Parker in the acclaimed drama The social Network. “I had actually been writing v Justin and I mental the producers claimed to me, ‘Do you want to carry out a soft questioning if he’d organize the Oscars?’” Wild recalls. Timberlake to be intrigued, he says. “He said that the love to carry out it, yet he believed it was a year too early on for him. He want to wait until after The society Network had actually gone v an awards season.”

Veteran award-winning producers Bruce Cohen (American Beauty, silver- Linings Playbook) and Don Mischer (the Kennedy facility Honors native 1992 to 2005, the Tony Awards) at some point landed top top Hathaway and also Franco. The actors had never worked together—though Hathaway claimed in later on interviews the Franco personally insisted the she sign up with him. Lock did bring a couple of key traits to the table in the they were both talented, camera-ready movie stars that had showed up in current big-screen comedy hits. And, the course, the two were simply 27 and 31 year old, respectively.

Fresh new hosts bred fresh brand-new writers. Franco corralled Judd Apatow, his friend and Freaks and also Geeks executive producer, for consulting help. He, in turn, recruited Jordan Rubin, previously a head writer on number of MTV Movie Awards shows. “I remained in Judd’s office one day and also he request me if I want to write for the Oscars,” Rubin explains. Rubin got to out come Megan Amram, then a struggling 22-year-old stand-up and also Upright citizens Brigade member (who go on to create for Parks & Recreation and also co-executive-produce The an excellent Place). “I carry out think that i was brought in as, like, a youth consultant,” she says.

But even the show’s youngest writer to be flummoxed through the master purportedly target to her. “I believed that it sound at the time favor someone had run pop culture through an algorithm and also spit out this point on file that sounded prefer it would certainly appeal to the youth,” she adds. “But in practice, the was very random.”

By all accounts, there to be no face-palming behind-the-scenes moment that caused the night come spiral. More like death by a thousand document cuts. Or a series of hints that led to a crime scene—witnessed by around 65 million world in more than 225 countries approximately the world.

Challenge no. 1 was planning a six-minute, 35-second, special-effects-heavy brief film that would open the ceremony. “I had actually this idea of former hosts wade Anne and James v the procedures of hosting a show,” states Rubin, who managed the production. He and also the staff chose that the two would spoof Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending fight Inception and enter Baldwin’s dreams. (He and Morgan Freeman did cameos.) In the process, you will do it insert themselves in scene from Best photo nominees such as Black Swan, True Grit, The king Speech, The social Network, and The Fighter.

During the monthslong prep, “Anne do herself conveniently available,” he says. “I went to her house and also worked on the script and also she to be on a bunch of conference calls and responding to emails and also was a great collaborator.” Franco, however, was smack in the center of his academia phase. Not just was the guy shooting movies, he was acquisition doctoral class in the English department at Yale college in brand-new Haven, Connecticut, earning a master’s level in movie at new York University and co-teaching a food on film editing and enhancing at Columbia university Hollywood in L.A. Called “Master Class: editing James Franco v James Franco” throughout that Winter 2011 semester. Needless to say (but let’s say that anyway), “He always seemed to it is in on a flight and also it was really hard for me to obtain a hold of him,” Rubin says. “That to be a red flag.”

By the time the two showed up and started filming, your personality differences were palpable. “She verified up prepared to play and committed 110 percent,” the says. “And he was a great guy however often looked like he had just woken up from a nap. It’s virtually like you’re arriving to a tennis court and also one person made decision that they were going to play in the U.S. Open and the other wanted come play in jeans and also just kind of fight a few balls.”

Wild (who wrote for the live telecast) says that the remembers hearing the the friction started as soon as Hathaway readily available Franco a stray acting note throughout rehearsals. “Again, this is a memory, yet was prefer ‘Maybe you should try that,’ and he was choose ‘Don’t tell me just how to be funny,’” he says. Rubin says he can’t recall anything contentious—“I’d tell friend if the happened”—but the suspects the Franco did do a mindful effort to respond to Hathaway’s high-octane theater-kid power with a chiller, edgier attitude: “I think he wanted to pat it together buddy-cop movie through two opposite characters.”




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“It’s practically like you’re showing up to a tennis court and also one person chose that they to be going to play in the U.S. Open and the various other wanted come play in jeans and just type of fight a few balls.” —Jordan Rubin

Rubin especially points to a i in the opening quick in which lock send increase a rehearsal-space scene from Black Swan. Hathaway had an idea (cut from her recent Saturday Night Live hosting stint) to dress up favor a molting brown duck through Franco clad in a white leotard and also tights. Several iterations that the script had actually been approved all the means up v the network; practically $100,000 in spending plan had been committed to the film. “So we all present up and James, in his full leotard outfit, phone call me over,” that says. “Then that leans in and also says to me, ‘Are we really act this?’ We’re around to shoot! having actually been approximately comedy my totality life, i couldn’t tell if the was just messing through me. Yet I couldn’t believe he was saying this come me now.”

If you want to talk about really gift on her toes, take into consideration the prep occupational for the live telecast. “As a writer, yes no much more of a stressful situation than writing a live display for well known actors that a ton of world are going to watch,” Amram says. “You’re expected to write a bajillion jokes and also you’re not an alleged to it is in precious about any of it and also you need to keep in mind what will be best for anne Hathaway and James Franco.” She pauses. “I mean that together a blanket statement because that all writing ever, by the way.”

For weeks, Franco had his heart set on dressing up as Cher and also duetting with the icon on a number from her campy musical, Burlesque. when the song failed to yield a nomination, the writers said a consolation prize: put on a strapless pink chiffon gown and also jewels, à la Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen like Blondes. “It’s together an above look and also hey, it operated for Madonna,” Vilanch rations. And while Franco did gain one the the heartiest laughs of the night once he announced he had actually just gotten a message from Charlie Sheen, “He obtained a many flack from people who feel drag is just one of the reduced art forms, not worthy that exposure ~ above the Oscar show unless she nominated because that it.” Vilanch adds, “I remorse encouraging that to execute it. There was no Cher because that him to play with, but he had gained the traction bug.”

The hosts likewise scrapped a duet in which castle performed “You’re the One That i Want” indigenous Grease to each other, swapping out the original lyrics with brand-new ones composed by Amram. This is a sample—with Amram acknowledging, “They’re awful, yet keep in mental this to be the 127 hours year.”

You better shape up’Cause you need to hostAnd you’re a sexy amputeeYou better shape up’Cause they need a hostWho is no AARP

Amram also shares that Hathaway was originally going to belt the end her version of “On mine Own” to Franco, who had actually left her solo on phase while that did a costume change. The musical number was ultimately pared down and also written because that Jackman. “I distinctly remember going come a recording studio top top a Saturday v Jordan, Chadd , Anne, her mom, and her manager,” Amram says. “She’s a an excellent singer and also it seemed like a natural idea.” She theorizes that the power died because “there to be too numerous cooks. The producers had a direction, the writers had a direction, and Anne and also James each had a direction. It didn’t mix well.”

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Getty photos Amram remembers that Hathaway when pulled her right into a dimly lit storage closet come ensure the her product would have a mrs perspective. “She want to make certain it to be positively showing women,” she says. “I remember thinking that that was remarkable that this was important to her and also weird that I remained in a closet v Anne Hathaway.”

The song-and-dance numbers weren’t the only casualty. Rubin is still disappointed that his idea of an actor streaking throughout the stage throughout one of the hosts’ segments—an homage come the well known incident indigenous 1974—never make it come air. “We finished up acquiring Will Arnett, who’s one of my favourite comedy civilization in the world,” Rubin says. “And the hoax was the he to be going to come out running and also then stop and have a conversation with James and also Anne. Like, ‘Hey, ns can’t shake her hand appropriate now, however we have to hang the end sometime and grab coffee.’”

The gag “went great” during the rehearsal within the Kodak Theatre, through Arnett wearing just a nude stocking. However the producers axed it due to the fact that they desired an gibbs from among that year’s hit movies. “I think they want Jim Carrey,” he says. “I additionally think it damaged too lot from the format of the Oscars and shattered the myth of this glamorous awards. That may have lost the air from the room.” (Rubin tho blanches in ~ the storage of emailing Arnett 2 days later on with the apologetic news: “I never ever heard earlier and figured, ‘Great, he’s mad at me.’ however the reality is ns was for this reason excited to perform it and also bummed it didn’t happen.”)

The chaos mounted as the show barreled towards go time. Vilanch, admitting his memory is “fuzzy,” says that Franco turned himself ago over to Apatow, who carried in 4 writers. Hathaway and also her team, in turn, got nervous and also asked writer and also comedian Liz Feldman (2 damaged Girls, Dead come Me) to display up. “I wasn’t surprised by any kind of of this,” the says. “We were dealing with stars who, while yes, really friendly and also personable and eager, were scared. And also they were surrounded by handlers who were scared.” Amram likewise has recollections the eleventh-hour scrambling: “A many stuff that made it into the present was written a couple of days beforehand. We created all these jokes, but I don’t think we ever before landed ~ above a tone or a cohesive emotion of what the display would be.”

And lest everyone forget, the hosts never ever did cement any sort the bond. “There was a minute the night prior to the present when we were in the manufacturing office in part level the panic,” Wild says. The looked at the closed-circuit TV in the corner and also saw James grinning in ~ the human next to him. “I thought ‘Oh boy, they’ve finally damaged through and also he’s looking in ~ her!’” Alas, the camera quickly turned and Wild’s heart sank. “Anne had gone to her dressing room because that a minute,” the says. “James was smiling at her stand-in.”

As usual, the night began with an main ABC pre-show. Mankiewicz to be hired to was standing on the red carpet and give expert betting odds based upon the main categories, totally aware that most of the winners, such together Colin Firth for best Actor and also Natalie Portman for best Actress, were shoo-ins. “I finished up saying the it was choose the eco-friendly Bay Packers were playing versus a really an excellent high school team,” the says, adding that it was his very first and critical night ~ above the Oscars red carpet.