Neil Patrick Harris has no shortage of things to do: He stars in the box office hit Gone Girl, recently finished a 20-week run as the title character in Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, just released his first book, and will be hosting this year’s Oscars. But one opportunity he missed? Starring on American Horror Story.
Long before Twisty the Clown made his debut on this season of the FX show, American Horror Story showrunner Ryan Murphy asked Harris and his husband, David Burtka, to play a couple in the show’s first season, Murder House. But the two had just played a dysfunctional “couple” in A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas, and Harris didn’t want a repeat—so the roles went to Zachary Quinto and Teddy Sears instead. The show’s now in its fourth season.
Harris, who was apple-picking with his twins’ pre-school class before news that he’d be hosting the Oscars broke Wednesday, stopped by EW Radio Thursday to talk with EW editor Matt Bean about what he doesn’t want the Oscars to look like, who his celebrity crush is, and why exactly he skipped out on that Horror Story role. Here’s the rest of what Harris revealed.
He wants to keep the Oscars “classy.” “I don’t want them to be super derivative of other shows that I’ve done. I don’t want it to seem like I’m doing the same award hosting gig that I did on the Tonys, just now on a different stage. And I think they don’t want that, either … It’s the biggest sandbox in the world. If you say, “I think that I should do a thing with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.” Because it’s the Oscars, do they say yes? Because they would say no for the Tonys … I want to also just make sure that it’s a classy event. I’ve always loved the Oscars and have great respect for its history, and the gowns, and the classiness of it. And I loved Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal and honoring the gravity of it without getting heavy and boring. And I have no idea how to balance that, but that’s going to be the task ahead.”
His dream duet partners are varied. “Snow White. [Laughs] Too soon? GaGa. But again, then you have to think, is that movies? Adele. That would be cool. Pink. We could do circus things.”
He turned down American Horror Story. “Relatively recently, David and I had both been in the third Harold and Kumar movie. Harold and Kumar Go to Christmas Town—that’s not the title—and in it, he plays sort of my drug dealer and I really am straight and we’re pretending like we’re gay, it’s a very sort of meta. We have a terrible relationship, and we’re shouting at each other and it’s awful. Right after that, we were asked to be in season one of this great new show called American Horror Story. And the idea was that we would be a gay couple, that, as it turns out, were murdered in this house and then their ghosts are around. It seemed cool. Loved Ryan [Murphy], loved the idea of a horror anthology show. Knew nothing about it, but we had just played ourselves as a couple, not getting along, and I thought, it just seems weird to do that twice, like as individual actors, to play a couple that hates each other twice. It just felt weird. So I said no, that we shouldn’t do it. And David wanted to. I said, ‘I just don’t want people to know us as the couple that don’t like each other. That seems weird.’ And then wouldn’t you know, American Horror Story is a big success and super awesome.”
On what was hardest to keep in his new book. “Probably like the sex stuff. Like the first time I had sex with a guy. I just didn’t want to feel like I was being salacious in telling that. I didn’t want it to seem porn-y. But I wanted it to be enticing, and I wanted to sort of be able to explain what was going on in my head while it was happening, but only speaking for myself and not trying to speak in a larger way.”
He didn’t find out How I Met Your Mother’s ending until the final holiday party. “I knew that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas [HIMYM creators] get really drunk at the holiday party, and so I had some drinks myself, and I said, ‘I need to talk to you! You two, over here!’ I took them into a hallway, and I said, ‘All right, tell me everything. I need to know everything. This is our final holiday party, tell me everything, tell me how it ends.’ And they looked around, and said, ‘All right, we’ll tell you’. And I loved it. I thought it was sweet.”
Don’t ask him to give advice to child actors. “I feel like it’s just so individual. Everyone has their own family dynamic, and that can be complicated, and so the reason that they’re acting is to escape a childhood they don’t like. Or they can be on set, and the set dynamic is awful, and their mind’s being twisted and they’re working with stars who are awful and then they act on something else, and they’re behaving awful because that’s all they know. You have to have a lot more infromation before you dole out any wisdom about it. But Mr. Bochco (Doogie Howser, M.D. co-creator) was very forthcoming that the Doogie Howser chapter was going to be very intense and hopefully successful, but that it would end. It was finite.”
Out of all the characters he’s played, the one he most identifies with is… “I’d probably say Barry Stinson, which is a weird answer because he was like, so overtly kind of alpha-male guy. I’m not necessarily that. But I really loved his striving for adventure and his willingness to have stories that don’t necessarily have good endings have morals. To live a life where lots of excitement happens and to buy the next round of drinks. That’s kind of a fun way to be.”
Nick Jonas is his celebrity crush. “I can’t say anything without David Burtka feeling slighted. But I did love those Nick Jonas pics. Channeling everyone’s inner Marky Mark. [Sighs].”
Harris’ book, Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, is out now.