James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosting the 2011 Oscars monologue

With a COVID-19 era Academy Awards show before us this weekend, it’s ample time to look back on an Oscars telecast fans of the show love to hate. I’m referring to the 2011 Oscars hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco. It’s now been ten years since the young actors took the stage and ushered in a long night full of awkward jokes and uneven chemistry. It fares even worse now that we’ve learned who could have been front and center.

One writer behind the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, David Wild, recently reflected on Anne Hathaway and James Franco’s infamous telecast with regret. Because as he remembers it, Justin Timberlake was the “first unofficial choice.” In Wild’s words to The Ringer:

I had been writing with Justin and I remember the producers said to me, ‘Do you want to do a soft ask if he’d host the Oscars?’ He said that he’d love to do it, but he thought it was a year too early for him. He wanted to wait until after The Social Network had gone through an awards season.

The former N-Sync member, actor and solo singer had been one of the most buzzed about stars of 2010’s award season. Justin Timberlake played The Social Network’s Sean Parker, which was up for eight Oscars that night, including Best Picture (it would go on to win the Best Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing and Score categories). This positioned Timberlake as a solid pick for host, and he was even interested in taking on the responsibility.

However, at the time, it felt as if he hadn’t quite earned his place as the face of the night, according to the show’s producers. Thus, we got Anne Hathaway and James Franco, who tried their darndest, but clearly were not operating with the same energy while on stage. If we’d had JT, I’d imagine there would have been more song-and-dance numbers, more comedic bits and less awkwardness on Hollywood’s Biggest Night.

It’s honestly such a great pick, but you live and you learn. In recent years, the Academy has decided against having a host at all and stuck with it. The last time there was a host was for 2018’s ceremony, to which Jimmy Kimmel hosted for his second year in a row. Prior to that, Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Patrick Harris took center stage to help move the show along.

The 93rd Academy Awards are just a few days away. Unlike other recent awards ceremonies, this year’s Oscars will happen live in Los Angeles, completely in person and socially distanced. It’s an unlikely year for the Oscars considering a big sum of movies were pushed to this year and predominantly viewed at home. Nonetheless, there are a number of great films to be recognized throughout the night. Check out the full list of 2021 nominations and check back here on CinemaBlend Sunday night for coverage of the award show.

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