When Hugh Jackman was charged with hosting the 2009 Oscars — which took place during the Great Recession — his opening number made a number of jokes about the economy (Jackman introduced “the Craigslist dancers”) as he highlighted all the year’s best picture nominees. For “Frost/Nixon,” he pulled Anne Hathaway onstage to act out the back-and-forth from the film in front of a cardboard set, a bit that ended with Hathaway affecting Richard Nixon’s iconic arms-over-his-head-“victory”-sign pose, The performance was met with great applause.
During their video chat for Variety‘s Actors on Actors issue, Jackman recalled that after that Oscars ceremony, “We just immediately became friends.” The two actors, who both excel at musical theater, then went on to star in 2012’s “Les Misérables” — which brought him an Oscar nomination for best actor and her a win for supporting actress. This year, Jackman starred in HBO’s “Bad Education,” and Hathaway was in an episode of Amazon’s anthology series “Modern Love,” which they delved into during their discussion.
As the conversation wound down, Hathaway brought up her own turn as the host of the Academy Awards, which she did in 2011 with James Franco. The ceremony is widely considered to have been a debacle, and both Hathaway and Franco have made fun of it over the years. To Jackman, Hathaway said she’d had so much fun performing with him in 2009 that she said yes when she was asked to do it.
“I was like, ‘I want to be like Hugh. Yeah, I’ll give it a go,’” she said. “How could you? How could you set me up like that?”
As they talked, Jackman assured her she had been fine, causing Hathaway to scoff in disbelief. He told a story about his last-minute nerves in 2009, which were dissipated when stage manager Valdez Flagg said to him, “‘Good luck out there. Mr. Jackman, don’t forget, there’s about a billion people watching.’ It just made me giggle and laugh.”
“He just could see this guy is going into a dark place and I need to snap him out of it,” Jackman said. “It’s frightening, and sometimes it works out.”
“Finish that sentence, Hugh!” Hathaway exclaimed. “Finish that sentence, sometimes it works out and sometimes —?”
“Oh, stop it. Stop!” Jackman replied.
The two then reminisced about how the 2009 performance came about. Hathaway said, “I remember it was an email about would you be open to it? Would you talk to Hugh?” She remembered giggling with him on the phone about the “Frost/Nixon” bit. “I was just like, ‘I know I’m going to say yes to this.’ Because I love silly, and it was just that really fun combination. Who wouldn’t want to sing and dance with you?”
Jackman then reminded her about seeming excited backstage during her hosting gig. “You were having just so much fun,” he said. “I was not this calm and relaxed. But you’re showing me, ‘Look at all these costumes I get to wear.’ You remember?”
Hathaway ended the debate definitively: “I was focusing on the parts of the show that I knew worked. You know how sometimes your optimism tips into delusion and you’re just like, ‘If I’m just really, really nice to everybody, everything’s going to work out?’ It did not work in that case, but I’m so happy that 50% of the people on this conversation did a really good job hosting the Oscars.”