Published on TimesSquare.com
by Christina M. Hinke
Published August 25, 2006
It is not very often in the movie business that you find a young actor who is humble, refreshingly sweet, honest, who knows who she is and strives to make her mark based on that sense of self , and is not splayed across every tabloid for drug abuse or anorexia or whatever is the hottest irresponsible act of the moment.
Anne Hathaway, at the budding age of 23, has it all figured out, even if she's still growing as an actor and a person. She is known for her role as Mia Thermopolis in "The Princess Diaries," but now that she is older she has made some strong choices in roles that will show the world that she is more than a teen queen of film.
Q: You have had a real chance to work with some more complex projects since "The Princess Diaries." Was it kind of like, "Let's do this now"?
AH: No. Considering that "The Princess Diaries" came out five years ago, I actually haven't done that many movies. I really wanted to wait and find roles that moved me. It just really had to do with me doing stuff that I believed in at that moment. I never gave any kind of credit to the whole theory of typecasting because I knew who I was before I made "The Princess Diaries" and I knew what I had to offer and I knew that I could always offer more than that film. I always wanted to go out there and kind of get back to my character actor's roots.
Q: So then the nudity in " Brokeback Mountain" and in "Havoc" isn't sort of an "I'm grown up"?
AH: No. Come on. You think I would do anything that obvious? That's pathetic. No. If "The Princess Diaries" had required me to be, I would've done it. It would've been the unrated version, but Julie and I would've popped our tops. Before I did "The Princess Diaries," when the script for "Traffic" came up, every young actress in Hollywood auditioned for that. In the original script it required nudity and I auditioned for it. It's not something that I had any issues with, but because I made these movies that were family films, they kind of appealed to a lot of people's moral sides. There's nothing wrong with that mind you. I think a lot of people assumed that those were my morals. And they're not. I'm very different than the characters that I played in those films. Now it's time for me to be me.
Q: It's sort of interesting. Once upon a time in the '70s an actress doing nudity wasn't the biggest thing in the world and it happened all the time. But today there are whole Web sites devoted to you and nudity.
AH: Are there?
Q: Go Google.
AH: Okay. I had no idea. There's a lot of horndogs in the world with a lot of time on their hands. But no, it really had nothing to do with it. The highest grossing film of all time, "Titanic," has an actress baring her breasts in it. I've never been uncomfortable with it. I saw the film, "All That Jazz," when I was eight. I didn't understand a lot of it, but nothing was shocking about it to me. I grew up studying classic painters. They certainly didn't shy away from nudes. I don't find anything morally reprehensible about it. I don't think it's degrading to kind of go to the lengths of what art demands. I think it is different to pose in a pair of hot pants on the cover of Stuff magazine. That's something I'm just not interested in doing.
Q: Do you take feminist issues in mind when you choose a role?
AH: It has a lot to do with why you choose roles, especially roles that require nudity. You don't want to do anything gratuitous that would allow yourself to be objectified. Everything has to have a reason and there has to be a very, certain story motivation for it in the text.
Q: Do you ever choose your roles based on how many people might see the movie or how it might be rated?
AH: No. No. The one time that I kind of did that, where I was just like, '"Oh, this movie will have such mass appeal. Wouldn't it be fun to do?" was "Ella Enchanted". And it had a $6 million opening weekend baby! It's a wonderful movie. I loved it. On DVD it's done incredibly well. It has replaced "The Princess Diaries" as a lot of people's favorite kind of kids' movie. But you can't do that. There's just no formula to it. At the end of the day, you need to be proud of your work, not proud of the business decisions you made.
Q: Have you been pushed into roles?
AH: No. I've been really lucky. I've never been pushed. I don't work with people who are seeking to profit off of me in an unhealthy way. I think you find that a lot in music industry, people have these images they have to adhere to. With me, what you see is what you get. The only time I felt trapped was around the time I did "Havoc," and people had such a negative reaction against the girl from "The Princess Diaries" doing "Havoc" and doing a topless scene. I just thought '"Oh my god, people are just dealing with these broad strokes. How did I let myself become the girl from "The Princess Diaries"?' It wasn't something anyone ever pushed me into. It was just something that happened. I was in an incredibly successful film. I didn't realize that I was so identifiable with it. I didn't realize people would pick up touchstone words like, topless and princess, and why they wouldn't go together. So I realized after that, that I was going to have to become an actress again, not be known as a genre actress.
Q: "The Devil Wears Prada" seems like an adult version of "The Princess Diaries". Any concerns about that at all?
AH: No, no, no, no. The characters are really so different . . . still the story of a girl learning to have confidence. And Andy is the story of a woman learning to make decisions, and I think probably if I weren't in it, there wouldn't be the comparisons so much. Actually there was one moment during the film when she goes to the benefit, where the script says the final touch in the whole outfit was the tiara, and I said I would only do it if when they put it on, Andy says, "fuck, no," and throws it against the wall (laughter). Sorry, my mom's going to kill me. She said, "forget it."
Q: Stanley Tucci said, "Anne did an incredible job in what would have been, I think, extremely difficult in terms of the transformation of the character." When you approached that were you nervous in convincing the audience that this character can make this transformation?
AH: No, I was more concerned with the fact that I was going to have to have calling cards made that said, "Anne Hathaway/makeover movies". I decided that it wasn't so much a makeover as it was a wardrobe enhancement. I wanted to make sure that the transformation was so subtle that you didn't notice it had happened until she was really in the belly of the beast. That was something I definitely wanted to make sure of. I was definitely concerned with that.
Q: After "The Princess Diaries" and "Ella Enchanted" were you worried you were going to be trapped in that mode?
AH: No. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't even aware that I was. I just kind of was giving myself the benefit of the doubt that "The Princess Diaries" was my first film and that suddenly I was being told that I could carry a film before I even knew if I could act. So I stayed in my comfort zone for a few years, it's true, but I assumed that everyone would know that's what I was doing -- and (whispers) no one did. So when I finally felt comfortable, like I knew a camera well enough to try more complex characters -- everyone thought it was this huge rejection of everything I'd ever done, when really not at all. I was just trying to become a better actor the whole time.
Q: So "Havoc" was a natural progression?
AH: It really was. I recognized a lot of truth in that character that I played. I can't tell you the number of teenage girls that have come up to me and thanked me because they thought it was a cautionary tale and they realized they were on a path they didn't want to be on.
Q: Funny you should mention cautionary tale. "The Devil Wears Prada" has that aspect of it as well, in the sense that you could become the "Devil" or not, it was really up to her. Were you ever worried it might ring false that she would reject such an opportunity?
AH: What it is saying -- you know, if you're gonna make sacrifices for your job and you're going to expose the people in your life that you love to the sacrifices as well, because no person stands alone, make sure it's worth it. Make sure you believe in it, and it's something that they understand you want. I think Andy's big mistake was that she expected everybody around her to just bend to her job, when they knew it wasn't something she really cared about. I think the cautionary tale is to just remember, "What does a man profit when he gains the world and loses his soul?"
Q: If you thought you weren't getting the right kind of roles, would you write your own films?
AH: I have some Oscar award winning scripts that I've written, but I've only written the first two pages. Yeah. I'm always hunting for new material. Right now I have a lot of things going on, so it's not my top priority. But I'm always looking for books. I actually just optioned a book. So we'll see what goes on with that. It's not something that I would be in.
Q: What's it called?
AH: "The Gospel According to Gracey".
Q: If you were to direct, what would you direct?
AH: I'm going to learn how to act first.
Q: You have a background in theatre, are you looking to do your big dance musical?
AH: Oh, gosh. Wouldn't that be nice? I want to do that so, so badly. The next time Rob Marshall makes a movie that does not involve geishas, than I would love to do that. That's definitely in the huge, lofty goals for me.
Q: And making documentaries?
AH: Well, I've been a part of one. I've never made one. Every time I think "Oh, this will be an interesting documentary." The more I think about it, I just think, "No. This is pretentious."
Q: What did you learn from your trip to Cambodia for Angelina Jolie's documentary, "A Moment in the World"?
AH: It was just one of those experiences I was so grateful for because as I was in it, I was fully experiencing it, and I was also fully aware of how my life was going to change because of it. I thought I was a pretty grounded person, and especially for an actress, I thought my head was put in the right place and it was in a lot of ways, in a lot of material ways it was screwed on in the right place. In a lot of emotional ways I would give in to fits of emotion, of depression, of insecurity, of inadequacy. I would give in to them and go to dark places. Because I thought this is just the way I am, life is so hard. Then I went there and I see people who if they're lucky they live in a shack, they make, if they're lucky, $4 a day. They have 10 siblings and eight children to support. And you know what they opened their home to me and they were happy. Their life was hard, but they actually found a way to be grateful. I realized in those moments I could never justify self indulgence again.
Q: When " Brokeback Mountain" came out were you surprised so much attention was at you at that moment?
AH: It wasn't necessarily me, it was something that I was a part of. It felt really extraordinary to be a part of something that powerful. It felt a little once in a lifetimey, so I was just really grateful to be a part of something so powerful that made people rethink their stances and their decisions in life and gave people a new touchstone, I think, for representations of gay lifestyles and culture. That is a really specific issue, and on a broader issue it just taught people about the truth of love. As an artist you strive for that kind of breakthrough. I couldn't have been happier to have been a part of it.
Q: When you read scripts do you see yourself as the character immediately?
AH: Oh, yeah. I - I can't explain how it happens. Sometimes it does and it's wonderful when people agree with you. Sometimes you just read a script and you're just like "I get her. I know her. I'm supposed to play her." A few times I felt that and Keira Knightley comes between you, but she's just - she's really good.
Q: Which movie?
AH: No. No. No. Come on. I'm not going to do that. She's wonderful. She's gorgeous. I love watching her act. But this one (" Brokeback Mountain") I just thought, "My God. I have my pulse on Lureen's heartbeat." I knew who she was. I never even thought about how I was going to play her. I just knew. Thank goodness Ang felt the same way.
Q: What experiences did you take from making that film?
AH: It really taught me the importance of trusting your environment. Obviously Ang Lee knows more than me. It's OK. I understand that and have accepted that. And I really trusted him and trusted the producers, because he had worked with them, I've seen their work. It showed me really the importance of trusting the work that people do around you. I can be a bit of a control freak, particularly with my characters and that was kind of this amazing experience where I came in and as opposed to maybe pouncing on everyone and saying no I think the character is this way and this way and this way. I listened to what everyone had to say first and found out that actually our instincts were often the same and we could actually enrich each others understanding of the character by collaborating.
Q: I think the women in the film are probably bigger victims than the men in some ways. They're still the oppressed sex and are sort of cheated out of even more things.
AH: The only thing that the guys can be guilty of is dishonesty, I think. But then when you consider the reason why they can't take that final step, it's really Ennis seeing someone, pardon the expression, with his dick cut off beaten to a pulp, lying in a ditch because he was gay. He saw that when he was very young and that probably really scared him. So you just imagine how growing up if he had ever had these inclinations, if he was aware of them, or if he just completely shut them up that day, and then Jack awakened this part of him, the hatred and fear he must've felt for himself every single day. He talks about it in the film. And so I don't blame them. I don't blame the guys for what they did. I blame the people that killed poor Earl in that scene that continue this hatred and this violence and that oppression that leads to the connection. The oppression that the women feel in the film, it's all connected. It all stems from fear and hatred and violence.
Q: Nobody seems to want to connect this movie with the crime that happened against Matthew Shepard a few years ago. Do you think that that's kind of an obvious connection that people should make when they see the movie?
AH: This film depicts violence against gays and Matthew's life was ended because of the same hate crime. I think it's important to realize that when we look at this film as a period film "Oh, we've evolved so much." Have we?
Q: What are your thoughts about "Crash" winning the Oscar?
AH: I think it's one of the only cases where an Academy Award was not going to make any difference on the success of the film. I think the success of the film was greater than the Academy Award and I think that takes an extraordinary film to do that. I actually think it made more of a statement by having it not win . . . it let us know exactly how accepting some people may be. We have a long way to go as a society.
Q: What attracted you to the role of Andy Sachs in "Prada"?
AH: I really felt connected to the story of a girl fresh out of college, really idealistic and how she was going to find a way to live in the world. I loved her story and I played so many kind of good characters, characters that make selfless decisions, good decisions. I really liked that she kind of did everything wrong. And obviously Meryl Streep is kind of the biggest draw you could give to a young actor, probably any actor, but especially me. She's been at the top of my hit list for a while.
Q: Were you astonished to be co-billed with Meryl Streep?
AH: Every day. Absolutely every day. When I'm having a down moment, I'll call my mom saying "I don't feel good about this" and she would say, "You work with Meryl Streep; look on the bright side."
Q: What is the reality of working with Meryl Streep compared with whatever expectations you might have had?
AH: Meryl is such an extraordinary performer that you can't help but be made better because of her. She is always absolutely at the centre of all of her character and when you're brought to that level of truth, you learn from it, you become aware of it, you become aware that -- okay, that's what's going to make the difference. So working with her was just absolutely enlightening as an actor. And then as a human being, she's kind of accomplished everything in her life that I could ever hope to, and she's done it so gracefully and with such great humor that -- (laughs) I wanta be her!
Q: Did you have to chase the part down? Did you read the book by Laura Weisberger?
AH: I did have to chase the part down. And I hadn't read the book until after I got it. But when I did get it I was very, very happy.
Q: Do you have any apprehension about playing Jane Austen in the upcoming film about her?
AH: Well, I have apprehension about all my characters. And I always firmly believe there's someone else better for the part out there, which I do believe for Jane Austen, but I was the girl who won the part, and I really wanted to play her.
Q: Meryl said that great beauty can sometimes get in the way of an actress. Is this something you're concerned about?
AH: Oh god, no (laughs). No, I've never been thought too pretty for anything. I'm very good at looking plain as well so I don't think I have that to worry about.
Q: "Nicholas Nickelby" was an underrated film. What are your memories of that?
AH: Kissing Charlie Hunnam. "Nicholas Nickleby" was my first experience kind of being method, because -- and it was accidental method because I worked about 11 days on the film. I was there for two months. And I was playing this character that used to live this isolated life, and I was living on my own in London, and didn't know anyone. It was my second time abroad. My first time was doing press for "The Princess Diaries" and I went to Australia. So it was really kind of this big moment where I had to grow up, so I just remember kind of, you know, being jet-lagged all the time, and trying to think of characters, and trying to think of my character. Also going to see great theatre. And also Doug McGrath is just the loveliest man and I think is a very underrated director. So, good memories working with him.
Q: You are playing Jane Austen next. Is "Becoming Jane" a drama?
AH: The first half is surprisingly a romantic comedy, and then it veers into tragedy. It's not really a conscious decision to stick to one genre or move to another, I'm just learning how to act, basically, and I think the best way to do that is to do the opposite of the last thing you did. Whether that be the genre of the film that you did, the cast you would be working with, or the character that you play, just describing something different about the experience to kind of justify giving up a good happy year of your life for it, because I do a lot of research. Yes its three months on the set, but hopefully its two months of research beforehand.
Q: Ever think about abandoning acting to pursue writing or art?
AH: Well, whenever I have a bad day on the set, I just say, that's it, I'm going to go and become a kindergarten teacher and like have a dozen children and be really happy. Ah, yeah, there are always a million reasons to quit, and god knows it's tempting when it gets tough. But I love what I do, and I won't be as happy doing anything else. It's becoming more complicated with each project, but I'm also learning more and growing in ways. I'm at a point now that I didn't even know [some things] existed when I was 15. And I can't deny that. This is the environment that I thrive in. So I think that if I want to be the best human being I can be it won't necessarily be choosing the easiest task. It'll be tough, and I accept that. I've already had a few ups and downs in my short time and I'm sure there's a lot more along the way. You learn the most from those experiences.
The Fashion Queen
Q: It seems Lureen was obviously the most fashionable one in " Brokeback Mountain," kind of spoke the fashion of the times. Did you work with the costume designer?
AH: Oh, yeah. Lureen liked to be the center of attention. She was wild. She was a predator. She liked to do things wholehoggish you would say. Yeah. It was very important. She's a tough girl, but she's definitely a girl's girl. She's a daddy's girl and she's from Texas. She wanted to look good. So she was kind of doing her small town version of the big styles of the time.
Q: Did you keep any of the outfits?
AH: No. But I did keep a pair of my cowboy boots. They let me keep a pair of those. They're so comfy. I wear them everywhere, except today.
Q: What did you want to keep from "Prada?"
AH: I really wanted to keep the Chanel boots. You know, the ones that go all the way up to my imaginary places. There was one coat that I wore in the film that, when it was being auctioned off, you could tell by the look on my face that I was really like emotionally saying goodbye to it, and then . . . he (my boyfriend) bid on it. It's a beautiful Kelly Green vintage coat that I just love.
Q: Was Patricia Fields collaborative?
AH: She kind of had to force me to be collaborative. I was ready to just sit back and let her do whatever she wanted because she was brilliant. We came up with a strategy for Andy's look together. In the beginning I was afraid to make suggestions. I would make suggestions and sometimes she would like it and I would feel really good and cool, sometimes she would say no that doesn't really work. But Rather than be dismissive or short with me she would sit down with me and explain as though we had all the time in the world, and believe me we didn't, explain why one belt worked better than the other. She wasn't interested in just having it be her way. She really wanted to bring me along with it and teach me.
Q: Did you try to learn about fashion?
AH: I kind of knew a little bit about fashion, but I was always intimidated by it. It seemed like a club that I couldn't be a part of, that I wasn't cool enough to be a part of. I don't really think of it as a club anymore. Ultimately fashion is the product of collective decisions. I do understand now much better than fashion, which I still kind of don't get spending $10,000 for a blouse, but I do understand people's style a lot more, and I understand my own. A sense of that grew from this project.
Q: How funny was it for you to be called fat in the film?
AH: I thought it was just funny. Sadly enough we we're not making fun of that mentality, it's really true. I accepted long ago that I'm a curvy girl. Rather than saying, and there is nothing wrong with that, no, I'm just a curvy girl, there is nothing to justify. Some clothes that are more designed based, actually they just look better on women that are built like wire hangers just because it's the nature of the design. I won't wear those clothes. I can't. It will make the dress look bad; it will make me look bad in them. So I just try to find the designs that work for me.
Q: Which Andy best reflects your personal style?
AH: I've never been the beginning Andy. I did always try, but I failed. My style, I'd have to say is actually really close to Andy at the end of the film. No brand name designers stick out to you in that outfit, but you know it's really nicely put together. That's kind of what I try to go for. With the exception of Chanel, I will wear the giant Cs anywhere.
Copyright 2006 Christina M. Hinke. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.