Anne Hathaway: A Princess Gets Edgy

Anne Hathaway sits in the corner of a Toronto restaurant, poring over a New York Times crossword puzzle. ”Feel free to contribute!” she says, sliding over to make room for her interviewer. Tonight, Hathaway’s new movie, Rachel Getting Married, will have its splashy North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, and the actress will don a fancy frock to do the red-carpet walk-and-wave. But at the moment, she’s enjoying sitting here in jeans and a plaid shirt, sharpening her puzzle-solving skills and chatting about the wild times she had last night. ”I ordered a simple meal, downloaded some episodes of The Tudors, and went to bed nice and early,” she says. Her smile, warm and ear-to-ear, is the same one that made her the idol of the elementary school set when it first flashed across the screen in The Princess Diaries seven years ago. ”You know those girls that, like, go out?” she says, sipping a soy latte. ”I’m just not confident enough to do that. I’m not the sort of girl that will throw on a short skirt and tease her hair up. I feel uncomfortable with attention. Truly, I am a wallflower by nature.” Hathaway’s preference for a low-key life has made her the rare young star not regularly pummeled by the Perez Hiltons of the world — until recently. ”Obviously,” she says, ”this summer was a little different.”For months, Hathaway’s private life has played out in the tabloids like a serialized melodrama — The Princess Diaries gone horribly wrong. In June, she broke up with her boyfriend of nearly four years, Raffaello Follieri, an aspiring real estate mogul from Italy. Days later, he was arrested, thrown in a New York City jail, and charged with swindling investors of millions while posing as an agent of the Vatican. In the weeks that followed, the press giddily churned out details from the case — from rumors that Hathaway herself lured her ex into the FBI’s clutches, to reports of the Bureau seizing her journals along with thousands of dollars in jewelry that Follieri had given her.

In a cruel case of bad timing, all this has unfolded at a moment when Hathaway can’t hide at home, burrowed under the covers. The actress spent much of the summer traveling the world on a publicity tour for Get Smart. Now she’s promoting Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married, an edgy, intimate indie that needs Hathaway’s support to get the attention it deserves when it hits theaters Oct. 3. Sporting harsh black eyeliner and a jagged bob, Hathaway stars as a recovering drug addict released from rehab to attend — and possibly destroy — her sister’s wedding. Since playing at the Venice and Toronto festivals, the movie has earned the 25-year-old actress the kind of reviews that precede Oscar nominations. Owen Gleiberman, for one, wrote from Toronto: ”Hathaway is a revelation: She shoots far beyond giving a damn about her ‘likability’ in a performance as scalding as it is controlled. She makes toxic narcissism magnetic.” (See his complete post about the film on PopWatch.) For Hathaway, the film is a realization of…just about everything. ”I feel like there’s a clear point in my life before this movie and after this movie,” she says. ”I’m a fairly guarded person and I can be pretty insecure when I first meet people. But Jonathan got me. He became my friend and mentor.” When Hathaway talks about Demme, she becomes intensely earnest: ”I’ve had the most honest artistic experience of my life. And I will spend, minimum, 20 years searching for another one of these.”

Of course, enjoying this potentially career-changing moment would be a lot easier if the Follieri scandal didn’t cast such a long shadow. (Shortly after Hathaway’s interview with EW, he pleaded guilty to 14 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. He faces up to five years in prison.) ”I was shown such enormous kindness from my friends that, as difficult as it was, I can’t complain,” Hathaway says. ”It’s funny that this has become a part of my story because it’s not something that I’d like to talk about all the time.” She shifts in her seat. ”I have to be very careful because I don’t want it to define me. And I don’t want to subconsciously exploit it.” The actress’ mood turns noticeably darker when the subject of Follieri arises, but she never becomes curt or defensive. She actually makes an effort to keep a sense of humor about it all. ”I was talking to a director the other day about this project I’m desperate to do,” she says. ”And he said, ‘Wow, you’re having a killer moment!’ I just said, ‘That is the perfect word!”’

A few days after Rachel Getting Married’s Toronto premiere, Hathaway strides across the lobby of the swish downtown Manhattan hotel where she’s been staying. (She’d been living with Follieri and has been more or less homeless — in a Hollywood kind of way — since his arrest.) She offers a friendly hug, then leads the way to the hotel’s quiet outdoor patio, where she takes a seat under a parasol and slides on a pair of sunglasses. They’re oversize and glamorous, the kind you see celebrities wearing as they scowl at paparazzi in the pages of glossy tabloids. ”I’m really sensitive to light,” she says, tilting her head toward the overcast sky. Then, realizing how she must look donning designer eyewear on a somewhat cloudy day, she throws back her head and jokes, ”I’m such a star!”

On the red carpet and in her new Lancôme ads, at least, she certainly is. But in conversation, Hathaway seems much more like the English major you’d imagine debating the feminist leitmotifs of Jane Austen in a college dorm room. (Hathaway did briefly attend Vassar and NYU, where she planned on majoring in, yes, English.) As Kate Hudson, Hathaway’s costar in next year’s romantic comedy Bride Wars, puts it: ”You’ll be talking about something and all of a sudden she’ll just start quoting some novel. She is a smart girl.”

Today, Hathaway makes casual references to Shakespeare, Chekhov, and Ibsen — her heroes when, as a teenager growing up in New Jersey, she studied at New York’s prestigious Barrow Group Theatre Company. She began acting professionally at 16, after landing a starring role on the short-lived Fox drama Get Real. By the time she was 18, The Princess Diaries had made her name synonymous with G-rated fare, but she insists she never considered that a burden. ”That was people’s first impression of me. It was lasting — and I have no complaints about it,” she says. ”But in my acting classes I’d gotten to do Shakespeare, I’d gotten to do Agnes of God, I’d gotten to, you know, rip my guts out, so I always knew that I wanted to [do weightier] roles.”

Hathaway soon explored a darker side, first in 2003, when she shot Havoc, a frankly sexual drama about wealthy high school girls flirting with gang culture. The movie went straight to DVD in 2005 — but the same year brought Brokeback Mountain. Hathaway’s supporting role as Jake Gyllenhaal’s embittered rodeo-queen wife proved she could play a grown woman. Many people took notice. ”I thought, Huh, here’s an actress who, at the age of 22, plays a character that goes from 17 to 40,” says Rachel screenwriter Jenny Lumet, the daughter of legendary filmmaker Sidney Lumet. ”That is really freakin’ hard to do.”

Hathaway’s range eventually helped her land the lead in 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, a big, glittery piece of Hollywood entertainment that just happened to costar thespian heavyweights Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci. Prior to working with them, Hathaway says, she’d never felt artistically free on a movie set. ”I was motivated more by stress than I was by creativity. I didn’t want to fail. But the whole Devil Wears Prada gang raised my understanding of what it is to be a great actor. They were just operating on another level than I ever had. I was inspired to throw caution to the wind because that’s what I saw them doing.”

Demme, meanwhile, had been hoping to work with Hathaway since 2001, when he had taken his kids to see The Princess Diaries at a drive-in theater in Maine. ”There she was,” he says. ”Radiant!” He remembers thinking, ”Who is this extraordinary, gorgeous teenage girl? She arrived as a full-blown, flawless talent in that movie.” When the director sent Hathaway the Rachel screenplay in June 2006, she immediately connected with it. ”The conflict in the story is so rich,” she says. ”I loved the idea of a girl fighting for her place in her family.” She was particularly drawn to the character of Kym, a complex young woman whose needy, manipulative behavior masks a bottomless guilt about a certain dark day in her past. Hathaway knew the character would be polarizing. ”Kym is honest to a fault,” she explains. ”It was exhilarating not to try to justify any emotions. That’s the major breakthrough I had: I couldn’t tell anyone to like her. I had to let them risk hating her.” Which, it seems, at least one person does. ”I did a roundtable with Annie in Toronto and this journalist says, ‘Anne, I can only liken your performance as this maddening, self-centered, whiny martyr to a two-hour colonoscopy,”’ Demme recalls, hooting with laughter. ”And Annie, without missing a beat, goes, ‘With or without anesthetic?’ She is just so nimble. The mind on her!”

As the late morning sky continues to cloud over, Hathaway’s older brother, Michael, drops by the patio to remind his sister that it’s time to head to a photo shoot. The actress excuses herself momentarily to enjoy ”a nice, mushy moment” with her dog, a chocolate Labrador named Esmeralda. In a few days, she and Esmeralda will check out of the hotel and move into an apartment. Needless to say, Hathaway is looking forward to settling into her new life, eager to close the book on last summer’s drama. ”I feel like I’ve come out on the other side of a lot of things, not just the obvious — what’s in the press,” she says. ”A lot of baggage that I carried around for a long time, even before I was in the situation that I was in, has been cleared away.” She breaks into a half smile. ”I don’t know, maybe that’s what people call growing up.”

In the living room of the West Village brownstone being used for today’s shoot, Hathaway considers her trajectory. ”I hope this doesn’t sound conceited, but when I turned 25, I realized I was never going to be precocious again,” she says. ”And I was really happy about that. I was a highly motivated, driven young actress — precociousness just kind of goes with the territory. Now I feel like I can just be an actress.” Various beauticians are fussing over her at the moment. One paints her toenails. Another coifs her hair. Hathaway closes her eyes. She seems perfectly relaxed. ”I’m a firm believer in, You’re always where you’re supposed to be in the good moments and the bad.” Then, as if willing happier times to come, she says, ”This is a good moment. And I like that.”

Source: Entertainment Weekly