Beyond the fact that Anne Hathaway spends more time nude onscreen in Love and Other Drugs than most of her peers would dare, the maturity in her performance is a reminder of how Hathaway has grown from a child into an adult before the eyes of moviegoers. Her track began with The Princess Diaries, then through the rebellious teen of Havoc, and into adulthood with Brokeback Mountain, The Devil Wears Prada and an Oscar-nominated turn in Rachel Getting Married. She started the year with a turn in the hit Valentine’s Day, then played the White Queen in the billion-dollar grossing Alice in Wonderland. Love And Other Drugs hasn’t burned up the box office, but Hathaway’s performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination for the most sophisticated and grown-up work she has done. Shortly after this interview, Hathaway and James Franco were named Academy Award hosts. She’s no stranger to the pressure of that broadcast, after taking part in Hugh Jackman’s opening song and dance number when he hosted the Oscars.
DEADLINE: The film Rachel Getting Married brought you your first Oscar nomination…
HATHAWAY: Thank you for saying my first Oscar nomination, because the day of, I was thinking, this is the first and maybe only, so I’d better enjoy it.
DEADLINE: That is charmingly self deprecating, but that day you also took part in Hugh Jackman’s opening musical number. Can you sum up what that night meant to you and the highlight of a surreal evening?
HATHAWAY: It was wonderful to have a secret that day. I had been so nervous about the nomination and when Hugh asked me to perform with him, the thought of it made me nervous. But the fact I was so nervous about two things, they cancelled each other out and left me with this great joy. Being nominated for an Oscar is surreal, but then to have a secret performance at the Oscars, even more surreal. I felt like I was in a dream. I think my favorite moment when the lights went down was that I had something to do and I didn’t just have to sit there for four hours, waiting for my name to not be called. I actually had something to prepare for, and could focus on something hugely positive. Hugh is this amazing guy and I knew I was going to be part of something really special. The lights went down and I knew that what was likely to be my only portion of the evening was about to happen. It was kind of cool to hear everybody gasp when he pulled me up onstage. They didn’t know if it was intended or not. The skit was so much fun and witty. I just thought he was the greatest host. He’s such a charm bomb, and I was honored he asked me.
DEADLINE: The reaction for you was, put this girl in a movie musical. Is there one you’re dying to do?
HATHAWAY: Are you kidding? There are at least 8. I’ve got big plans, though none of them have worked out yet.
DEADLINE: In Love and Other Drugs, what made Maggie different from the female roles in other scripts you see?
HATHAWAY: Her ease of language was a huge draw for me. When I was sent the script, I was in the late rehearsal period for Shakespeare in the Park. I was really focused on wordplay, and the way emotions flow through poetry. Maybe my ear was just tuned to it, but Maggie had such a delicious rhythm. What she was talking about was just smarter than the average script that I get sent. I loved her personality, I loved that she was angry, that she was sexually aggressive, and comfortable with her sexuality. She was just this unsual package that I don’t come across very often.
DEADLINE: Ed Zwick usually makes films on hot button issues, and health care is one. I expected a more cynical take on the prescription drug business, but that seemed like an aside to what is squarely a relationship story. How did you see the role of the depression drugs and Viagra as a backdrop to the film?
Hathaway: Shooting from the hip on this issue, I wasn’t as concerned with it as I was my Parkinson’s research and making sure that I got that aspect of the story right. To be honest, although Maggie is an opinionated person, the state of the pharmaceutical industry is not her focus. Of course, I have my own opinions on it, but they don’t seem relevant to the story or even the press for it. I focused on the love story more than the health care issue. One of the things I love about this movie is that it engenders discussion, and I haven’t seen a lot of movies recently that do that. It’s one of the things that make me most proud of the movie, that at the end there’s so much to talk about. The take on the pharmaceuticals industry and the health care professionals that are represented in the story, I think it strikes a less cynical and more factual tone. That’s better for the film, because it’s so easy to paint a movie with, oh, these are the villains, when actually he makes it a point to say they do pump money back into medical research, though they do that for self serving reasons, of course. I like the fact that Ed, rather than make definitive statements about the state of health care in America, what he does is paint a realistic portrait of the industrialization of medicine. As it is primarily a love story, it would probably not have worked as well by making it a statement film. He makes a statement by not making a statement.
DEADLINE: A polemic could have undermined the relationship story.
HATHAWAY: The film is about two people falling in love. She comes from an art world and the world of dealing with an illness. He comes from the pharmaceutical world. Even though we do delve into those issues, and in the case of Parkinson’s it’s done with great respect, those worlds are not what the film is about, it’s about two characters who come from those worlds. To delve into it anymore than we did would somehow have been distracting to a film that is a love story between two people.
DEADLINE: When you are the age of Maggie, in your mid-twenties, you are supposed to feel invincible, like anything’s possible. The reality of this disease gets in the way of that mindset. What were some of the challenges in playing a young person with a disease that will only get worse?
HATHAWAY: When I’d heard the phrase ‘good days and bad days,’ that really got my imagination going. I started to think about the anxieties of illness, and how when you’re 26, you do feel invincible. What if you’re having a good day and you forget for a second that you’re sick. What the remembering would feel like when you have to crash back to earth or you’re having a good day and out of nowhere you have a tremor. How difficult that would be to accept. All of your instincts would say, I’m young, I’m alive, I can do anything I want. But your body is telling you otherwise. And how difficult it is and how much courage it would take to accept that as your reality. In my research, when I spoke to a lot of Parkinson’s patients, almost all of them asked the exact same question: has she accepted her diagnosis? That journey hadn’t been clearly delineated in the script. I went to Ed and said, we have to make sure we show this. When she goes to this convention in Chicago, that is the moment she accepts her diagnosis, and that is when she and Jamie began to grow apart, because he can’t.
DEADLINE: You were matched with Jake in Brokeback Mountain. When you are taking on a role like that that is filled with physical and emotional intimacy, how helpful was it to do it with someone you’d worked closely with before?
HATHAWAY: If it helps anything, a previous working relationship allowed us to jump into the deep end with each other on the first day, not the first day of shooting but rehearsal. We could just be very open and comfortable with each other. I think it gave us a head start in terms of our comfort in revealing ourselves to each other. We had a two week rehearsal period where we just talked a lot and got to tell intimate stories about or lives and build a bond of trust. It maybe helped in that we were willing to trust because we knew each other. But other than that, you’d think it would make more of a difference, but our job is to trust each other, and portray these characters that fall in love. I’d like to think that even if we hadn’t known each other we would have been able to get there.
DEADLINE: Brokeback Mountain was such a memorable film. The two of you seem to have grown so much since you made that film…
HATHAWAY: In what way do you think we’ve changed?
DEADLINE: You just seemed so young. Kids. This is the first movie where I thought of both of you as adults.
HATHAWAY: I don’t think you’re mistaken about that, or that there’s any coincidence that you are seeing that here because it is about two people becoming adults, together. It just so happened that Jake and I were both at a place in our careers where we’d never played grown up role. Jake has always been a sensational actor, if you look at his filmography, he’s always done serious minded work. For the most part, with Bubble Boy the notable exception.
DEADLINE: Who doesn’t have a Bubble Boy in their past?
HATHAWAY: I have about seven. When you look at Jake’s filmography, it’s serious minded. Look at his wonderful performance in this one, and I think he has been able to take all the natural acting chops he has, all the acting muscles he’s built over 15 years in the business and allowed his natural charisma to shine through. It’s the perfect storm of a role requiring him to do things he’s never had to do before, and show who he is. Looking at his films, he can seem very emotional and vulnerable. He’s actually a really goofy dude. All that is a part of him. There’s still a ton of acting involved, but he’s letting a part of himself shine through. We’re seeing a lot more of his heart.
DEADLINE: I still can’t believe Heath Ledger didn’t win the Oscar for Brokeback Mountain. Obviously there was sadness in his passing. How does that movie play back in your head or make you feel when you watch it now? The whole movie seemed like such a risk.
HATHAWAY: I never thought of it as risky, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I don’t think of things as risky when it comes to acting or filmmaking. Maybe because in my mind, I’m supposed to be a chorus girl hoofing it on Broadway. And waitressing on the side. So for me, I never stop to think, oh, is this risky? Is this going to alienate people? For me, it’s always, can you believe we get to do this and is the work good? For me, I just remember that when that Brokeback script arrived, it had a shimmer to it. It just shimmered. You could just feel the energy coming off of it, though I know that sounds very actory to say. But it’s true. When I found out who was cast, it made so much sense and from the first minute I got on set, I just felt it was going to be really special. I was talking to someone the other day who was part of putting that film together, and they said, I really didn’t expect anything from that film. I wanted to say, where is your head at? I never had any doubt in my mind that it was going to be incredibly important. I didn’t do it because it was important. Can I be totally honest? I knew anybody who saw it would be changed by it, but I couldn’t have imagined how many people would want to see it. When you look at the wild success it was and what it did for the world and how it’s still part of the zeitgeist, I just feel so lucky to have been a part of it.
DEADLINE: This has been quite a year for you. You were in Alice in Wonderland, now this. You are coming off Valentine’s Day, which was a sleeper hit. How much of success, a good run like this, can you choreograph? Is it at all predictable?
HATHAWAY: No. If we could predict things, the movie industry would never have a flop. It’s so hard to tell, a year or two out, what people are going to be in the mood to see. It’s so hard to pick the weekend that they’re going to be in the mood to see it. It’s impossible to predict what’s going to find success in the business end of things. And no, I don’t think you can predict what’s going to be a creative success, either. But what I find helps me is, I’m very choosy with the directors I work with. That is something I learned from Garry Marshall. It was one of the first lessons I learned in the business. He said, you never know what’s going to happen with a film, so you might as well have a great time making it. I believe that, and that all you control is to make sure that you have made creative decisions you are comfortable with and can be excited about. Then, whatever happens, happens. It’s out of your control. But as much as you can, because at certain stages of your career you have no control, but you should be mindful of that.
DEADLINE: You’ve worked with top directors like Zwick, Tim Burton, Jonathan Demme, Ang Lee, David Frankel. When you consider the things you can control, how much does the director factor into your decision to sign on?
HATHAWAY: I don’t know if I know enough about it to know whether that is the most important thing. If a director has made three films and none of them are good, there’s little reason to believe yours is going to be the one. It’s a combination of screenplay/character/director. I’ve only been doing this for a dozen years and only at a level where you choose the directors you work with for a very short time, so I’m not really the person to have authority on this issue.
DEADLINE: When you consider original films and not sequels, only Avatar and Titanic grossed over $1 billion worldwide before Alice in Wonderland did it. Why do you think the movie was such a global smash?
HATHAWAY: Tim. Tim. Tim. He’s such a visionary, and his films are exciting and original. And I love that he keeps working with Helena and Johnny, it’s like three of them are in this rock band and everytime they come out with a film it’s like coming out with a new album. I felt like I got the chance to sing backup vocals on their latest album, called Alice in Wonderland. It’s peoples’ fascination with Tim and his view of the world.
DEADLINE: When you play complicated characters like Maggie in Love and Other Drugs or Kym in Rachel Getting Married, how helpful are those directors in helping you strike a balance between playing characters with baggage but not losing audience sympathy?
HATHAWAY: One thing they both did was never putting pressure on me to worry about the viewer. In each case, they understood what I was doing, and let me know that was more than enough. They really shielded me from the pressure of expectation. Jonathan and Ed were such great guys, and were such a pleasure to spend time with and our relationships go far beyond the movies we worked on together. I think it was just that each of those men gave me unbridled love and reason to trust them. They were as supportive on the easy days as they were on the challenging days. They love actors and they love the actors’ process, and never made me feel like I was indulgent in any way. I just felt very accepted as a performer and a person. And they know what they’re doing.
DEADLINE: Maggie is the most adult role you’ve played. When you start out playing a well know character in a family franchise like you did with The Princess Bride, what movie made you not feel the weight of not being locked into an early identity?
HATHAWAY: On this point, I have to mention my manager, Suzan Bymel, because she really shielded me from any kind of awareness that I was perceived as the princess and she always made me feel like I was a young actor finding my way and respected my right to do that. I actually was never aware of having to break peoples’ perception of me and I just went with the best opportunities that were available. I think Brokeback was the first time that people realized I could do something different. And then Devil Wears Prada was another very important moment, where I was playing with actors way out of my league. And I was given that opportunity. And then when Rachel Getting Married happened, maybe people took me a bit more seriously, if that’s the right way to describe it. But I never felt any pressure from my representatives or put pressure on myself to break out of a box. Because I never believed I was in one. I just knew if I continued acting and sought a diversity of roles, that eventually it would be impossible to exist in a box.
DEADLINE: You mention actors who were out of your league. Was there a moment on Prada where you felt like you belonged? That must be very intimidating acting in scenes with Meryl Streep, one of your heroes.
HATHAWAY: No, I never felt like I belonged on Devil. I remember that the best I felt on that movie came where I got out of Meryl’s way with a little bit of grace. But I never felt in any way like I went toe to toe or held my own. It was about trying to just be there , and know when to get out of Meryl’s way.
DEADLINE: Nobody likes to get older, but if you consider what Meryl, or Cate Blanchett or Kate Winslet are doing, how much does maturing make you eligible for more interesting parts?
HATHAWAY: Just from a practical standpoint, yes. If you’re invited to work as you mature, then you get to explore a wider array of roles, for longer. I could be wrong about this, because I’m not so up on the business part, but I think woman are a huge driving force at the box office. Wasn’t there a moment where Devil Wears Prada really showed that women have power at the box office, in terms of seeing and supporting films?
DEADLINE: Some movies do that. But guys have it easier. There are more male oriented films, they get paid better and seem to be forgiven easier for failures. Actresses seem more perishable. You’re in an age group where there are a lot of terrific young actresses chasing interesting roles. Do you get the impression that the parts and opportunities are getting better for actresses?
HATHAWAY: You have to understand, all I have to compare this to are parts that I saw when I was 18, and now I’m 28. Parts get more complex when you get older. But I don’t think I’m the person to ask about that, I ‘d like to think that as we become more sophisticated, accepting and compassionate, modern as a country and a business, that rules for women can’t help but improve because people realize there should have been parity all along. I think there is a definite move toward that. You look at the Best Actress race this year. There are 42 Best Actress candidates, strong candidates. As far as I can tell, it’s the only category that seems to have that kind of competition. Clearly, somebody is enjoying writing for women, and there are actresses out there who are filling these roles.
DEADLINE: There is a strong group of actresses in your age range who are mentioned for all the plum parts that come along. It’s going on right now as Chris Nolan gets started on a new Batman, and you’ve been mentioned as a candidate for that. Do you find yourself competing against certain actresses or any you measure yourself against?
HATHAWAY: Of course, but that has always been the case. There is always competition…I don’t know how to answer that question, it feels too revealing, somehow.
DEADLINE: Are you very competitive by nature, and do you relish the opportunity to win a role?
HATHAWAY: I’m competitive in a healthy way. I like auditioning. You have a chance to show whether or not you merit playing the role. And if you don’t, you don’t. You don’t have anybody to blame but yourself. I like that. But in terms of being competitive with people based on who has the most heat at the moment or who’s getting that role, no. You’d drive yourself crazy. I’m just happy that we all get to work and there so many roles to choose from. Everybody somehow ends up getting the role that was meant for them, I think.
DEADLINE: It does seem to come out in the wash.
Hathaway: I think it’s good to have many perspectives on what it is to be a young woman. These are the roles that we’re all playing in different worlds. And we all get to go off and do our research. I’m so excited to see Black Swan and I’m so fascinated by Natalie Portman’s exhaustive process in her research for that role and I’m thrilled to see what she’s going to do with it. So while I am competitive, I have so much respect what she put herself through for that role. I find it so inspiring. I am competitive but I have a healthy respect for my peers.