Franco and Hathaway to Host 2011 Oscars

Will these two youngters make the cut?

By Charlotte Bumstead

Is it an anxious attempt to reach out to younger viewers? Is it a test for the next big hit; assessing how compatible are spaced-out stoner (Pineapple Express) and social-misfit-crowned-princess (The Princess Diaries) in front of a live audience of over 40 million people? Individually, the young stars are earning enthusiastic reviews for recent films in which they depict, respectively, a self-amputating hiker and Jake Gyllenhaal’s girlfriend. But do 32-year-old James Franco and 28-year-old Anne Hathaway really have what it takes to co-host the 83rd annual Academy Awards? Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer—producers of the Feb.27 telecast—seem to think so; but the choice has ignited a loud Hollywood buzz since Monday’s press release.

It is an interesting transition from last year’s ceremony—co-hosted by Alec Baldwin (then age 51) and Steve Martin (64). The 2010 ceremony averaged a 14 per cent jump in viewers from the previous year; including a gain of 8 per cent from the coveted audience of adults ages 18 to 49.

The 2009 Oscars were hosted by Hugh Jackman, age 41 at the time. Other previous hosts include Zoomers: Jon Stewart (at 46), Ellen DeGeneres (at 49), David Letterman (at 48), and by frequent demand Billy Crystal (through ages 42-56) and Whoopi Goldberg (at ages 44-47). So, why the extreme switch?

“What we have here are two really emerging talents who are very respected and are going to have, I think, magnificent careers,” Mischer said. “They deserve to be there, they’ve got the chops to be there, they want to be there, and I think that’s going to make the audience really relate to them.”

Kristina Dosey of The New London Day clearly disagrees. “If you had given me until, oh, the end of time to guess who’d be hosting the 2011 Oscars, I never would have come up with James Franco and Anne Hathaway,” Dosey said in her entertainment blog.

However, both Hathaway and Franco deserve credit for their performances in drama and comedy. Hathaway earned a best-actress Oscar nomination for 2008’s Rachel Getting Married, starred in such comedies as The Princess Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada, and made an appearance in Brokeback Mountain. Franco received an Emmy nomination for the lead role of 2001’s James Dean, co-starred in the Oscar-winning Milk, as well as reputable roles in the Spider-Man trilogy and Pineapple Express.

One commonality the young stars might share with previous hosts is the possibility for one or both to be named as nominees. Franco’s role in 127 Hours presents a best-actor prospect, and Hathaway gambles with potential for best-actress in Love & Other Drugs.

“We’re really hoping this year to link what James and Anne are doing thematically to the show,” Cohen said. “That they are the world’s window [as] the welcoming committee, but also the two people through the evening who are taking you through this journey of giving out 24 Oscars.”

The ceremony has been recognized for dragging on a little—up to four hours, some years. But after pretending to be stuck in a mountain crevice for 127 hours; for Franco, the Oscars will be a breeze.