The Academy Awards opening monologue is always iconic. It is always painfully relevant to the year’s current affairs and the jokes often directed at Hollywood’s own. So naturally, James Franco and Anne Hathaway‘s iteration in 2011 would go down as perhaps the most awkward of all time, almost entirely due to the star’s lack of chemistry.
In the lead up to the 2021 awards ceremony, David Wild, one of the 2011 Oscars’ four main writers has revealed what really happened behind-the-scenes in a conversation with The Ringer.
According to Wild, an awkward encounter occurred between the actors during rehearsal, saying, “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.'”
“A lot of stuff that made it into the show was written a few days beforehand,” another writer, Megan Amram, added. “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.”
The debacle was not lost on Franco or Hathaway either. In 2016, Franco recalled the criticism in an interview with New York Magazine.
“When Anne Hathaway decided to host the Oscars with me…She had said no before, and then they asked me to ask her, and I said, ‘Let’s just do it. It’ll be an adventure,’ and then we got a lot of s–t for it,” he told the publication. “I probably got more than she did, but she got a lot.”
Franco continued, “I’m going to do what they ask me to and do it as well as I can, but I don’t need this to be the best Oscars ever. I’m not getting anything out of that. In the best-case scenario, even if I killed it, it’s not going to help my career, because that’s not what it’s based on. It was an experiment.”
Hathaway echoed these comments in a 2019 interview with People (per Vanity Fair), admitting Franco convinced her to host. Looking back the actress wishes she trusted her instincts.
“Can I dish some tea? I turned that gig down, and James is the one that convinced me to do it.”
“When all the dust settled, I was just like, you gotta be kidding me,” she said. “Your first instinct is usually the right one… all the reasons why I turned it down came true.”
The 2021 Oscars will air on April 25 in the US. Fingers crossed there are no more awkward moments like the above.