Photo By Robert Erdmann/AUGUST
Anne Hathaway may be only 25, but she's smart enough not to burn her bridges in Hollywood.
The star of Ella Enchanted, The Princess Diaries movies and The Devil Wears Prada gives a breakthrough performance as drug addict Kym in Rachel Getting Married. As the family bad girl, she's totally unlikeable, sports a really awful haircut and talks in angry expletives. Buh-bye, teen princess pics, right?
"Who knows?" says Hathaway, on the phone from L.A. "It's a long life and a long career. I could wind up playing the guidance counsellor in the teen princess movies."
It's Kym who needs the counselling here. When she leaves rehab to attend her sister's wedding at the family home, she's holding onto a lot of personal baggage.
"I loved Kym so much," Hathaway says. "I loved her fearlessness, her absolute honesty. I had to love her enough to let her be disliked."
You get the feeling, even 10 months after completing filming, that she hasn't let go of the role yet. Hathaway still quotes verbatim the lyrics to the Elliott Smith song Say Yes that she used to connect to her character. Three times during our conversation, when she's talking about Kym, she gets teary and you can hear her throat clench.
The daughter of an actor who encouraged her to get into the business, Hathaway was accepted into the Barrow Group Theatre School when she was a teenager. Okay, so she showed more talent than the average high school student, but she's the first to admit that she's had a charmed career.
"I'm 25 years old and I've played a princess, a spy, a drug addict and a famous novelist."
In Rachel Getting Married, she plays a guilt-ridden recovering junkie, desperately trying to jump out of her own skin and always on the brink of a major tantrum, firing out one-liners in crackling dialogue that Hathaway delivers with sneering glee. The character's out of control, but the actor gives a completely controlled performance.
Hathaway herself isn't sure how she got to the depths required to pull off the role. She cites writer Jenny Lumet and director Jonathan Demme, but it can't have hurt that in almost every film she's been in she's played alongside or under the direction of Oscar winners and nominees - Demme and Debra Winger in this case.
I start rhyming them off, beginning with Meryl Streep in Prada, only to have Hathaway break in to complete the list.
"Ang Lee, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Julie Andrews. Who am I? I'm a young actor still trying to figure things out. I work with these people and it's like being in a master class for three months."
But it wasn't until her role as the wife of Jake Gyllenhaal's tortured gay cowboy that she felt she'd achieved some kind of success.
"I was working with Ang Lee and with amazing actors - Heath (Ledger), Jake, Michelle Williams - who were my own age. I experienced the truth and the guts in their performances and realized then that I wanted to get to that level.
"Then, when I worked with Meryl, I said to myself, ‘I don't know if I can do this, but I want to spend the rest of my life trying.'"
Demme, she says, made her feel completely safe during the shooting process.
"The film is Jonathan's baby, and Kym's mine. I trusted him the moment I met him."
Demme trusted her, too. In this film, he experiments with a soundtrack featuring the wedding musicians recorded live during the shoot. It seems like there's not a moment in the film when they can't be heard.
Turns out that was almost a problem. Between takes of a key scene, Hathaway complained that the music was preventing her from getting her rhythm. Demme responded by saying, "Do something about it."
Hathaway did just that and, in keeping with the improvisational nature of the film, ad libbed the line "Are those guys gonna play all weekend?" in one of the movie's most amusing moments.
It's ironic that Hathaway's so successful at playing a junkie, since there's nothing in her personal life to suggest she'd know much about that world. As the tabloids and entertainment TV dine out on young stars losing their grip, Hathaway has managed to keep her balance.
"I've always known the reason I'm doing this. I don't see the fame and the media attention as the end goal. I see it more as something you have to put up with in order to do your job. Because I don't crave it or seek it, a lot of nonsense gets cleared out of the way.
"I'm a private person, and my family is also very private. When I'm not being my best version of myself, they have no problem taking me down a few pegs."
She's not exactly sympathetic to the Britney Spears and the Lindsay Lohans.
"Everyone has responsibility for what they make of their lives when they're in this position."
It's not, she says, as if they're war refugees or born into poverty.
"When you're given choices like this and you don't take full advantage of them, your heart breaks but you can only pray for them."
But, no, she doesn't think giving them a good shake will help much. She feels the same way about Kym.
"As much as you want to take her baggage away for her or give her a break or take her journey for her, you can't. You just have to let Kym be Kym."
The list of the amazing people she's work with:
On Meryl Streep:
Quoting Elliot Smith: