Anne Hathaway has some cautionary advice for Seth MacFarlane as he preps to host the Oscars: “Have … a … plan.”
She pauses, laughs a little mordantly and adds: “Have several.”
Hathaway’s ultra-chipper co-hosting experience opposite a low-energy James Franco two years ago provoked a lot of dislike – including from her, when she finally saw a little bit of it.
This year, the Les Miserables star will likely be back at the ceremony as a supporting actress nominee, and she’s actually offering some very good, very practical advice to the Family Guy creator for when he steps out onto that stage Feb. 24.
“This is my advice to Seth – based on my own experience,” Hathaway tells EW. “You have to try to strike a balance between keeping the people of the room entertained and keeping the people at home from thinking you’re nuts.The instinct is to play to the room, because otherwise the audience there gets really bored and restless. Me with my theater background, I played to the back row of the Kodak, which has 3,500 people. To the people at home, it could come off as a little over-the-top.”
“I’ve never seen [the whole thing],” she says of her ill-fated hosting gig. “But I felt like I made a rookie mistake.”
She says MacFarlane shouldn’t trust people who just tell him that rehearsals are going great. Instead, he should study the tapes personally.
“Everybody was just being very positive around me, so nobody was giving me any notes,” she says. “I watched a clip [afterward] and as soon as I saw it, I realized my mistake. It made me really angry with myself that I didn’t watch any tapes of rehearsal before I went on – because it was such an easy fix.”
When EW had a chance to talk with MacFarlane recently, we passed along Hathaway’s tip – which he accepted with gratitude.
“That’s interesting. That shows a lot of successful self-analysis. I wouldn’t have quantified it in exactly that way, but she’s showing a really intelligent response to that,” MacFarlane said. “That’s why Johnny Carson was truly the greatest. It was in his bones to play to a television audience. The audience in the room, you have to be aware of them, but it’s a balancing act.”
For instance, he says, you don’t want to make the people in front of you feel neglected. “If something gets no response from the room, it’s going to have an effect on how it plays at home. But at the end of the day, you do have think first and foremost about how your jokes are going to play with your viewing audience.”
But you can’t worry too much about making that nervous bunch take it easy. “A lot of them are up for awards, and their minds are not geared to laugh and relax,” MacFarlane says. “No matter what you do, that room is never going to be the kind of room you play to when you visit a college campus.”
For her part, Hathaway says that hosting wasn’t her most painful experience at the Oscars. That came in 2009 when she was a best-actress nominee for Rachel Getting Married – but it wasn’t because she lost.
“I was rolling 10-deep in Hathaways that night and while trying to get everyone from one car to another and hurry them along – it’s a long story – I actually stepped into the tailpipe of the limo I was riding in, and got a third-degree burn,” she says. “So the next morning, I woke up in pain – but not on the inside.”
She laughs: “And so when I hosted, it wasn’t my first Oscar-night scar.”