“It was like the world’s most uncomfortable blind date between the cool rocker stoner kid and the adorable theater camp cheerleader,” David Wild, who was one of the four main writers for the 2011 telecast, told The Ringer on Wednesday, April 14.
“Again, this is a memory, but [Anne] was like ‘Maybe you should try that,’ and he was like ‘Don’t tell me how to be funny,’” he recalled.
Writer-director Jordan Rubin told the outlet that the Devil Wears Prada star, 38, had a very different approach to prepping for the show than the Pineapple Express actor, 42, did.
“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,” he said, noting that he oversaw the production.
Franco, however, was balancing his acting career and taking doctoral classes at Yale University while also earning a master’s degree at New York University and teaching at Columbia College Hollywood in Los Angeles.
“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.” He noted that it seemed as though Franco “wanted to play it as a buddy-cop movie with two opposite characters,” adding that he thought the actor made a conscious effort to counter Hathaway’s personality.
Wild, 59, revealed that he thought there was a moment when the pair cemented their bond ahead of the broadcast, but he was wrong.
“There was a moment the night before the show when we were in the production office in some level of panic,” Wild said, explaining he saw Franco grinning at the person next to him on the TV in the corner. “I thought ‘Oh boy, they’ve finally broken through and he’s looking at her!’”
When the camera turned, however, Wild learned that it wasn’t the Ocean’s Eight actress standing on stage, but instead, it was another woman. “Anne had gone to her dressing room for a minute. James was smiling at her stand-in,” he added.
While Franco and Hathaway were chosen to appeal to a younger audience, Wild revealed that Justin Timberlake was one of the show’s initial choices for the gig.
“I had been writing with Justin and I remember the producers said to me, ‘Do you want to do a soft ask if he’d host the Oscars?’” Wild recalled. “He said that he’d love to do it, but he thought it was a year too early for him. He wanted to wait until after The Social Network had gone through an awards season.”
With the Freaks and Geeks alum and the Princess Diaries actress as the final hosts, the team brought in Megan Amram, who eventually went on to write for Parks and Recreation, to help navigate the younger tones of the awards show.
“I thought that it sounded at the time like someone had run pop culture through an algorithm and spit out this thing on paper that sounded like it would appeal to the youth,” Amram, 33, told the outlet of hearing who she would be working with. “But in practice, it was very random.”
Although the show missed the mark, the writers were happy that they didn’t end up doing the musical numbers as originally planned. Amram explained that the stars were supposed to do a parody of “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease, but luckily it was scrapped.
She noted that there was a lot of last-minute decisions made about what would go into the host’s speeches: “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.”
Looking back, Franco called the hosting gig “an experiment” telling New York Magazine in 2016 that he convinced Hathaway to do the show with him. “I said, ‘Let’s just do it. It’ll be an adventure,’” he recalled. “Then we got a lot of s—t for it. I probably got more than she did, but she got a lot.”
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