And now for something completely different…youth. Yes, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences took a bold and very intriguing step today by announcing that James Franco and Anne Hathaway will host the 83rd Academy Awards this February. And after last year’s dismal turn by Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin all we can say is a big old “whew.”
In a release issued by the Academy, Franco, 32-years-old, and Hathaway, a mere 28-years-old, were touted by Oscar producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer as representing “the next generation of Hollywood icons- fresh, exciting and multi-talented.” And it’s hard to argue with them. Both actors have critically acclaimed dramatic work on their resume (Hathaway even has a best actress nomination for “Rachel Getting Married”), live theater experience, have hosted “Saturday Night Live” twice (to rare acclaim for an “SNL” host these days) and have starred in massive franchise hits. Franco is probably still best known to most moviegoers for playing Harry Osborn in the first three “Spider-Man” films and Hathaway has “The Princess Diaries,” “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Alice in Wonderland” to her credit.
Curiously, the announcement comes while Franco is considered by most a lock for a best actor nomination this year for Danny Boyle’s inspirational drama “127 Hours.” Hosting puts a strange spin on that campaign. Is Franco personally conceding the win to last year’s runner-up Colin Firth? Or does the maverick just not care how it affects his chances? We’re betting on the latter. Franco is turning into a generational icon whose artistic endeavors are putting his peers to shame. Not only has Franco filmed roles in six movies over the past two years (“Howl,” “Date Night,” “Eat Pray Love,” “127 Hours,” “Your Highness” and “Rise of the Apes”), but he appeared in 41 episodes of “General Hospital” last fall (and is planning on making a return appearance), shot a documentary on hosting “SNL,” has an already announced installation piece on the American sitcom set for January’s Sundance Film Festival and is still studying for a PhD in English at Yale University. And to think that some hosts complain of having to just get ready for the show with nothing else on their plate! And yet, with Hathaway around, he might not have to prep that much.
The genius of pairing Franco with Hathaway, as opposed to Hugh Jackman who she stole the 2009 show from, is Franco can easily and humbly play the “straight man” role and let Hathaway get all the laughs. No disrespect to a comic legend, but Hathaway should delight the audience and viewers as a more lovely Carol Burnett. Hathaway has shown no fear in mocking herself or displaying a goofy persona. Add in a few musical moments here and there (perhaps with some surprise guest stars?) and Franco might just be happily along for the ride.
And while the hosts are the youngest in quite some time, anyone thinking this means some sort of MTV style Oscars is sadly mistaken. Instead, expect co-producer and director Mischer to return a bit more to the glamor and style of the 81st show but with a completely different set.
Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about Franco and Hathway. How about you?
The 83rd Academy Awards will take place on February 27, 2011 and air live at 5 PM PT and 8 PM ET on ABC.
Follow Gregory Ellwood and Awards Campaign on Twitter @HitFixGregory