James Franco and Anne Hathaway will be at the Oscars ceremony on Feb. 27 … as co-hosts. Announced earlier today, the Academy's latest tweak (following last year's expansion of the Best Picture category from five to 10) seems a clear effort to lure younger viewers (Franco is 32, Hathaway is 28) to a show that has been had trouble generating interest in recent years. The duo probably can't be any worse than Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, a pair who had a surprising lack of chemistry as last year's co-hosts.—-
Besides being the least recognizable co-host choice in recent memory (if not ever), the most curious aspect of having Franco front and center is that he is likely to earn a Best Actor nomination for his performance in Danny Boyle's 127 Hours, in which he plays Aron Ralston, the true-life mountain climber/adventurist who lost is arm when it became lodged between a boulder and a canyon wall for five days. If Franco is nominated (and it seems very likely and well deserved), the Oscar telecast's producers say it won't be the first time a host will have been up for an award: Michael Caine, Walter Matthau and David Niven (who actually won Best Actor for Separate Tables in 1958) were nominated in years they served as co-hosts. That said, the move will no doubt be a little too insidery, self-reflexive or crassly opportunistic for some to take.
Then there's the fact that Franco can be oddly aloof. The first (and only) time I met the guy his shy, blunted demeanor suggested the stoner character he played in Pineapple Express wasn't much of a stretch. Boyle confirmed as much in a recent interview I did with the director about 127 Hours: “He (Franco) looked like he was stoned when we first met him. He does it deliberately, I think, to sort of put people off, to keep people at a bit of a distance.”
At the very least, it should be interesting to see how Franco's often laconic, unpredictable personality and Hathaway's more conventionally genial nature will play out amid an awards show known for its staid predictability and overarching self-seriousness.
As for Hathaway, it's far less likely, though apparently not out of the question, that she will be nominated for her performance in the just-released Love & Other Drugs, in which she is getting more attention for her physical assets than her acting chops. I've yet to see the film, but Slate critic Dana Stevens admitted in her review that, “Hathaway's body is a perfectly acceptable reason to plunk down a ten-spot for this movie."
Could Hathaway's (and Franco's, for that matter) sex appeal be part of the Academy's thinking in naming her as co-host? No doubt.