Which James Franco Will Host the Oscars?

PHOTO: James Franco hosts the 2011 Oscars.PlayColumbia Pictures/TNT/ABC
WATCH The Many Styles of James Franco

This Sunday James Franco joins actress Anne Hathaway on the Oscar stage as one of the more eclectic hosts of the Academy Awards. What's not clear is which James Franco will show up.

Will it be the Oscar-nominated actor, the academic, the painter, the soap star or the funnyman?

"One thing Franco hasn't decided is what his personality is as a star," Stephen Galloway, executive editor of The Hollywood Reporter, told ABCNews.com. "He's proven his chops as an actor but not quite as a star. Anne Hathaway has shown she's charming, funny, modern. We kind of know what we're getting with her. We don't know with Franco."

Don't expect another Ricky Gervais, however.

"If you're looking for someone to call people out, we're not your hosts," Hathaway told The Hollywood Reporter, which did an interview with her and co-host Franco for its upcoming issue.

The Academy, desperate to appeal to younger viewers, is already taking a risk with Hathaway, 28, and Franco, 32, the two youngest emcees in awards' history.

Hathaway initially turned down the offer to host the Oscars, until she heard Franco was in.

"He's so brave and so willing to make unconventional choices. All the ways I was worried about it going wrong, it wouldn't go wrong in any of those ways. It could go wrong in entirely new ways," she said with a laugh.

Hathaway got some reassurance from Alec Baldwin, last year's host with Steve Martin. "When I ran into him a couple weeks ago, (he) said, 'The thing to remember is, it's not about you.'"

Franco heard from Jon Stewart, who hosted in 2006 and 2008. "He said we'll be fine because we're more insiders, though I feel like kind of an outsider."

In some ways, Franco, with his multiple interests, is something of a Hollywood outsider.

At this year's Sundance Film Festival, Franco did an art installation dramatizing the first three episodes of "Three's Company," by recreating the characters' living room and dubbing over their lines.

This week he'll make another appearance on "General Hospital" and exhibit his art in Los Angeles before heading to the Oscars.

Galloway wonders if his multi-tasking personality will prove too much for the Academy. "The last thing the Academy wants is someone too avant-garde," he said.

"We do know he's multi-talented -- he's getting his Ph.D. [at Yale], he's written short stories, he acts, he does his own art. He has a host of talents," said Galloway. "But there's no known proof yet that hosting is one of them."

One good thing about hosting, Franco doesn't have to worry about losing for best actor -- he's nominated for "127 Hours."

"Well, nobody is shy about saying Colin Firth is going to win. I've accepted that. By hosting, it makes it easier to go to the events and not feel like a total schmo," he told The Hollywood Reporter.

James Franco Will Likely Bring the Funny to Oscar Host

Franco has been preparing for this new challenge, and if the videos he has posted on the web are any indication, he'll most likely bring his sense of humor on Sunday.

In one video posted on "Funny or Die," Franco has a conversation with producer Judd Apatow, who gave the actor his big break on the short-lived but critically acclaimed NBC series "Freaks and Geeks" in 1999. Franco asks Apatow, who recently hosted the Producers Guild Awards, for tips on hosting the Oscars.

After Apatow offers him X-rated advice, Franco decides to recycle the jokes that worked for Apatow at the Producers Guild.

Not everything will fly with the Academy, however. Franco's performance of Cher's "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," which failed to earn a nomination for "Burlesque," was scrubbed by producers.

Venting on Twitter, Franco wrote late Monday, "They pulled this from the Oscar show. Damn it." He included a link to a recording of him warbling the tune -- proving that there are actually some things James Franco does not do well.

"A little growly," he is heard acknowledging on tape.

Ultimately, Franco and Hathaway have much to lose and little to gain by hosting the Oscars, Galloway said.

"If the show fails, they're known forever as people who failed at the Oscars," Galloway said. "If they succeed it's a nice feather, but it's not going to further their stardom."

Regardless, Franco can add Oscar host to his list of accomplishments. Here, seven facts about Hollywood's much-ballyhooed Renaissance man:

He's a born "Freak." In 1999, Franco got his big break on the short-lived but critically acclaimed NBC series "Freaks and Geeks." The show was produced by another guy who'd become a major player in Hollywood: Judd Apatow.

He might be gay. Well, that was the tongue-in-cheek explanation he gave earlier this month when pressed about why he's played so many homosexual characters -- Allen Ginsberg in"Howl," activist Scott Smith in "Milk" and poet Hart Crane in the upcoming "The Broken Tower."

"There are lots of other reasons to be interested in gay characters than wanting myself to go out and have sex with guys," he told Entertainment Weekly. "And there are also lots of other aspects about these characters that I'm interested in, in addition to their sexuality. ... I mean, I've played a gay man who's living in the '60s and '70s, a gay man who we depicted in the '50s, and one being in the '20s. And those were all periods when to be gay, at least being gay in public, was much more difficult.

"Part of what I'm interested in is how these people who were living anti-normative lifestyles contended with opposition. Or, you know what, maybe I'm just gay."

Many Faces of James Franco

He's a man of the world. Franco's mother, who's a poet, is a Jewish descendant of Russian immigrants. His father, the head of a nonprofit agency and a shipping company called Secure Box, has Portuguese and Swedish roots.

He's not afraid to make fun of himself. On NBC's "30 Rock" last year, Franco played himself with one key distinction: While his character had a fetish for Japanese body pillows, the actor prefers lovers of the flesh-and-blood kind (he's been dating the actress Ahna O'Reilly since 2006).

He collects degrees. Franco's academic passions run deep. He received a bachelor of arts from UCLA, where he studied English and creative writing, in 2008. After that, he moved to New York and enrolled in masters programs at both Columbia University (writing) and NYU (filmmaking). In addition, he started fiction writing classes at Brooklyn College and a poetry program at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. He's not done yet: This fall, Franco began pursuing a doctorate in English at Yale University and dropped by the Rhode Island School of Design to study art.

He takes soaps seriously. In 2009, Franco took a turn on "General Hospital" playing a thinly veiled version of his real personality: A mysterious multimedia artist named "Franco." He wasn't trying to slum it, he wasn't in need of work, he didn't do it on a dare. In December of that year, Franco wrote a Wall Street Journal article about how he saw his "General Hospital" stint as performance art: "My hope was for people to ask themselves if soap operas are really that far from entertainment that is considered critically legitimate."

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