Anne Hathaway interview: Virtue in vice

DO I know any addicts, Anne Hathaway wants to know. Oh, good grief. It’s not the question that’s disconcerting; it’s the person framing it. With her tidy image and innocent smile, 26-year-old Hathaway is best known for flying the girl-next-door flag in The Devil Wears Prada or playing fairy-tale princesses in Ella Enchanted and The Princess Diaries.

Her question comes in the wake of one of her latest roles, a rehab patient on a weekend pass to her sister’s wedding in Rachel Getting Married. And she is surprised by my reaction. “I know this seems enormously short-sighted, but to be perfectly frank, I had no idea how strongly I was connected to the image of a good girl,” says Hathaway, flashing that smile. “When I took the role, I just thought, ‘This is a great opportunity for me as an actress.’ I didn’t think, ‘Wow, what a great chance to shake up people’s perception of me.'” But it did. The Golden Globe panel recently nominated her for best actress (Kate Winslet won for her role in Revolutionary Road, despite her weepy speech) and the Oscars are beckoning next month.

Hathaway’s appearance in Rachel Getting Married reflects the moment Julie Andrews went topless in Blake Edwards’ SOB: startling and not a little mesmerising. It may be Rachel who is getting married in the elaborate, multicultural ceremony, but it is Hathaway’s Kym who grabs all the attention by having sex in the basement with the best man, making a skin-crawling speech at the rehearsal dinner and earning a black eye at the hands of her own mother.

Put that way, the film sounds like a vehicle for wackiness, especially since a quirk of scheduling has Hathaway starring in another wedding movie – Bride Wars – this month. But while the latter, a rom-com where she and Kate Hudson play warring bridezillas, might make you consider scaling down the Vera Wang dress and cake, Rachel Getting Married makes elopement the more attractive option – if the alternative is having Hathaway’s chain-smoking, narcissistic drama-queen at your top table, determined to douse any wedded bliss with her own emotional baggage.

The rest of the film can’t live up to Kym’s show-stopping tantrums. The rainbow wedding feels artificial and mannered, other characters grate, and director Jonathan Demme allows the musical noodlings to go on for so long that when Kym roars at Robyn Hitchcock and his guitar pals to shaddup, I found myself nodding approvingly.

Still, this Altmanesque affair reignites whenever Hathaway finds a fresh nose to clamber up. Her normally pristine look has been roughed up with a spiky bob that the actress chopped up herself, her body is enlivened by painted-on tattoos, and she’s still trying to kick the cigarette habit she acquired on set – though she has recently tried a new vice.

She told People magazine earlier this month that she had only just tried Scotch whisky for the first time, as part of her New Year resolution to do something new every day – she followed it up by putting out the candles on a birthday cake with a fire extinguisher on prime-time TV.

But she is happy to be free of some of Kym’s ways. To look the part for the role, Hathaway took up a high-carb diet, living on pasta, pretzels and bread (“It had a nice bloating effect on my body”), and she also attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings, as research for Kym’s 12-step destructiveness. This is where her addict question comes in.

She’s surprised and a little disappointed when I say no, as she was hoping to make the point that all of us know such people. “I do,” she says, “and I asked them to help me out and they took me to meetings. One of my friends gave me some literature that they had been given when they first went to rehab, and it was this book of inspirational poetry. I remember the first few poems that I read, it drove me crazy, it was so simplistic – that very sentimental positivity, which is really necessary for a lot of people when they are in recovery, but would drive Kym absolutely ape.

“Then I came across a poem that was so beautiful, that I gave it to Jonathan and said I’d like to turn this into a tattoo, and wear it. You don’t see it in the film, but the poem says, “Lord, I ain’t what I ought to be, and I ain’t what I want to be, and I ain’t what I’m going to be, but oh Lord, I thank you that I ain’t what I used to be.”

That’s quite a big tattoo. “Kym’s got a high pain-tolerance,” she returns, dryly.

Hathaway also played against type as the wife of Jake Gyllenhaal’s closeted cowboy in Brokeback Mountain. This turned out to be a landmark for Hathaway, because Ang Lee offered her the part just as she was contemplating retiring from acting. “I had just about given up on myself as an actress when it came along,” she admits. “I just didn’t think I was any good, and felt lost. I didn’t know how to communicate with people. So to be cast as a character who had nothing to do with who I was, and do it in the company of people like Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams, and not stick out like a sore thumb, was huge.”

When she saw the finished film for the first time, at the Venice Film Festival, she rushed out of the auditorium just before her first scene. “The movie was so beautiful, so perfect, I thought I would ruin it, so I left,” she says. “I came back just in time to see a scene where my breasts were on screen, so that was special.”

One thing Hathaway doesn’t want to discuss is her ex-boyfriend, Italian entrepreneur Raffaello Follieri. The relationship ended in June after four years, and just before Follieri was jailed for money-laundering, conspiracy and wire-fraud. Hathaway moved out of his £25,000-a-month home, but her diary, along with thousands of dollars worth of gifts and jewellery he had given her, became part of the FBI’s case. Six months on, it’s still so raw that Hathaway – who now has been linked romantically with actors Josh Lucas and Adam Shulman – can only refer to its ironies in the most oblique way. “It’s kind of interesting to play a character who everybody knows the unsavoury details of her life. And here I am, promoting this character when obviously things that I prefer to remain private are just kind of out there,” she remarks with a touch of asperity. “What’s the right thing to do? Do you talk about it? I mean it’s the elephant in the room. It’s better to just kind of let everyone know I’m okay. You know, I’m trying to move on and have a sense of humour about everything.”

If the last few months have brought the “super self-conscious” Hathaway anything, it appears to have been a shift from her wholesome-girl persona to something a little more human, onscreen and off. “Jonathan was the first director who recognised that I have a freak flag – and he encouraged me to let it fly,” she says. “I heard this word the other day – adorkable. And I thought that’s what I am. I’m adorkable.”‘Source: Scotsman