Why Were The 2011 Oscars So Bad? James Franco Says Blame the Writers

It doesn’t seem like anyone thought that the 2011 Oscars were entertaining, including co-host actor James Franco.

After maintaining his silence for several months after his… well, awkward hosting job with Anne Hathaway (and that’s putting it mildly), the 127 Hours star has opened up about the experience to Playboy magazine.  USA Today has some of Franco’s comments, and he’s pointing his finger at the often-bashed writers of the Oscars.

“In the last week,” says Franco, “When we really started focusing on the script for the live show and did a run-through, I said to the producer, ‘I don’t know why you hired me, because you haven’t given me anything. I just don’t think this stuff’s going to be good.'”  Specifically, Franco says he wasn’t happy about the cross-dressing bit with Franco as Marilyn Monroe. “I was so pissed about that I was deliberately going to fall onstage and hopefully my dress would fall off or something — they couldn’t blame that on me; I was in high heels.  The plan had been that I was going to sing as Cher and then Cher was going to come out onstage; that got axed when Cher and the song from Burlesque weren’t nominated. I told them, ‘Look, this is the thing people are going to talk about, the images they will take away from the show.  I just didn’t want to fight anymore, even when they said, ‘You’ll come out as Marilyn Monroe. It’ll be funny.’ Me in drag is not funny.”
It seems like Adam Sandler could learn a thing or two from Franco — just putting a guy in a dress isn’t particularly funny.  Even though I’m a huge film fan I don’t bother to watch the Oscars for precisely the reasons Franco mentions — the show generally isn’t entertaining, which makes a long show even longer. He points that out later in the interview, saying, “I just didn’t want to argue anymore. I was going with their program; I wanted to do the material they gave me, not be one of the many cooks doing the writing.  There were a lot of cooks who shouldn’t have been cooking but were allowed to. There were some cooks my manager tried to bring in, like Judd Apatow, who wrote some very funny stuff that wasn’t used.”

Franco doesn’t lay any direct blame on his co-host Anne Hathaway, but he does claim her performance did alter his delivery style.  “As far as having low energy or seeming as though I wasn’t into it or was too cool for it, I thought, ‘Okay Anne is going the enthusiastic route. I’ve been trained as an actor to respond to circumstances, to the people I’m working with, and not force anything.’ So I thought I would be the straight man and she could be the other, and that’s how I was trying to do those lines. I felt kind of trapped in that material. I felt, This is not my boat. I’m just a passenger, but I’m going down and there’s no way out.”  I guess Franco’s disinterested delivery that many commentators attributed to possible pre-Oscars pot smoking was his attempts at being the “straight man.”

Nonetheless, this oddly sounds like Franco and Hathaway didn’t spend much time rehearsing the material together beforehand, which any performer will tell you is a bad idea.  There just seems to be universal agreement that having actors without any hosting (or even just stand-up comedy) experience was a bad Oscars experiment, and while it’s great that Franco realizes the mistakes with his delivery it’s unfortunate that the pair weren’t quick enough on their feet to save the show.

However, Franco doesn’t chalk the night up to a total loss, claiming “After the show everybody was so happy, and Bruce Cohen, the show’s producer, hugged me and said, ‘Steve Spielberg just told me it was the best Oscars ever!'”  I’m not sure why Cohen holds up Steven Spielberg — who of course is a supremely talented director — as the key voice of reason of what constitutes a good or bad Oscars show, but hey, whatever makes Franco feel better about it!

James Franco next appears in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which hits theaters on August 5.  Check out the rest of Franco’s interview at Playboy.com

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