Q&A: James Franco and Anne Hathaway
The two first-time emcees promise comic moments but no pointed barbs.
When producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer settled on the idea of staging the Oscars as a visual journey through movie history, they decided the hosts should be young, energetic actors who could pull it off. On Feb. 27, viewers will see James Franco, 32, and Anne Hathaway, 28, travel back in time in an ambitious opening montage and become immersed in a digitally enhanced “virtual” set. To kick off Oscar Week, The Hollywood Reporter corralled Franco and Hathaway on Feb. 21 for their first interview together.
Anne, you initially passed on hosting but reconsidered once James was in. Why?
Anne Hathaway: Much like James, I initially had a knee-jerk reaction, which was “no.” I just focused on all the ways it could go wrong. But Bruce [Cohen] was a bit craftier than I had realized because while I was hosting SNL in November, while I was loving the idea of hosting something and doing the song-and-dance thing, Bruce came back and said, “We have James Franco.” He’s so brave and so willing to make unconventional choices. All the ways I was worried about it going wrong, it wouldn’t go wrong in any of those ways. It could go wrong in entirely new ways!
James, you recently joined Twitter. Is that for the show?
James Franco: Yeah, I don’t know what that is. I’m just trying it out.
Do you plan to tweet during the show?
Franco: I’m still learning how to do all that. Yeah, it might be fun.
Hathaway: I have no plans to tweet.
Anne, can we assume you voted for James?
Hathaway: Actually, the ballot says on the front: “Important, do not tell anyone, especially TheHollywood Reporter.” I’m a big fan of James’ performance.
Very diplomatic. How involved have you been in the creation of this new plan for the show?
Hathaway: The show was pretty much laid out when we were asked. We were given a presentation. So we knew the concept behind the show and what the moving parts would be. We’re not writing the jokes or the scenarios, but we are collaborating with the writers to figure out what fits. It’s so different doing live comedy; that’s kind of the scariest thing about it. Being funny in a movie usually has to do with how committed you are to your character. But standing up and telling jokes is not something that comes easily to me.
You must have watched some old Oscar shows. Got any favorites?
Hathaway: Jack Palance, man. Jack Palance doing the push-ups (on the 1992 telecast); I can watch that forever. And the way Billy Crystal incorporated it into the show. “Jack Palance just bungee-jumped off the Hollywood sign.” “Jack Palance is now in space.”
Who’s given you the best advice about hosting?
Hathaway: Alec Baldwin, when I ran into him a couple weeks ago, said, “The thing to remember is it’s not about you.”
Franco: I talked to Jon Stewart. He’s done it twice (in 2006 and 2008). He said he felt a little weird doing it because he didn’t feel like he was exactly from that world. He talked about this with Letterman too; they are comedians, talk-show hosts, and here they were presenting to film people, and they kinda felt like outsiders. Because of that, it wasn’t necessarily antagonistic, but there was some sort of disconnect. He said we’ll be fine because we’re more insiders, though I feel like kind of an outsider.
You’re a nominee. Doesn’t get much more insider.
Franco: Oh yeah, I forgot.
Do you feel less pressure now?
Franco: Well, nobody is shy about saying Colin Firth is going to win. I’ve accepted that. By hosting, it makes it easier to go to the events and not feel like a total schmo.
And you can tell three hours’ worth of jokes about Colin Firth.
Franco: Yeah, I’m sure that would go over really well.
Ricky Gervais made some enemies at the Golden Globes. And at the 2005 Oscars, Chris Rock singled out Jude Law and did a whole bit on how he was in every movie. Any zingers planned?
Hathaway: I can guarantee that if you’re looking for someone to call people out, we’re not your hosts. I think that humor is really difficult to pull off, and I’m not particularly adept at it. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it. Also, I don’t mean to sound overly serious, but I am the youngest host in history, and I have no business being cynical or calling anyone out. I certainly haven’t earned the right to do that.
Got a favorite movie moment from this year?
Hathaway: For me, the last 10 minutes of Toy Story 3. I just cried like a baby.
Franco: Jeremy Renner in The Town. He’s so awesome. He’s so chilling and so convincing.
James, we know you’re a big Three’s Company fan, can we count on at least one reference during the show?
Franco: I would love to.
Hathaway: I’m in if you’re in!