OSCARS Q&A: Anne Hathaway

Cari Lynn is an AwardsLine contributor.

It’s not often that an actor guns for a character who promptly dies in a film, but Anne Hathaway fought for the heart-wrenching role of Fantine in this winter’s Les Misérables—and rightly so. Hathaway’s impassioned performance well makes up for the truncated role, and it’s her voice, singing “I Dreamed a Dream”—and shot live—that sets the scene for the trailer of this Christmas release. Hathaway is no stranger to the Oscar race, having been nominated for best actress in 2008 for Rachel Getting Married, but it’s this role that might well be her lock.

AWARDSLINE: Did you have to audition? And was it the role of Fantine that you always had your eye on?
ANNE HATHAWAY: I did have to audition. There was some resistance to the idea of me because of my age—I was in between the ideal ages of the main female characters and was told I was too old for Éponine and Cosette, but probably too young for Fantine. I agreed I was too old for Éponine and Cosette, but I got fiery and determined and pushed my way into an audition for Fantine. I had a three-hour audition but then had to wait a month until I heard anything.

Related: OSCARS: The Supporting Actress Race

AWARDSLINE: Did you work with a vocal coach to approach this role?
HATHAWAY: My vocal coach is Joan Lader, and she’s Hugh’s (Jackman) vocal coach as well. Immediately after I was cast, Joan and I began twice a week working to improve my vocal stamina so that I could sing for 12 hours a day. When I got to England to begin rehearsals, I worked with additional coaches there. I had prepared for singing while crying, and I’d been practicing that because I didn’t want to get there and cry and sing for the first time on camera. We also worked on subtle things, such as voice placement since you can get congested when crying, and you have to still be able to stay on pitch.

AWARDSLINE: Was it challenging to sing live with such close-up, tight shots?
HATHAWAY: I found it liberating to sing on camera. On stage, you have to indicate having a thought, and the word you are singing must indicate it as well, but on camera, you can have ideas, you can take in all the stimuli that the character would be taking in, there’s a freedom you get, and you don’t have the obligation to transmit each idea to the back of the house. It felt so much closer to reality for me.

Related: OSCARS Q&A: Eddie Redmayne

AWARDSLINE: For each take, did you shoot the entire song straight through?
HATHAWAY: Oh, yes. (Laughs.) I’m thinking back to the arrest scene or the factory scene. These are long scenes, and they were exhausting. Fantine is in such an emotionally tragic place, and it involved singing and crying for 12 hours a day.

Related: OSCARS: Handicapping Lead Actor Race

AWARDSLINE: Do you know which take was used for your quintessential song, “I Dreamed a Dream”?
HATHAWAY: We used earpieces to sing to a live piano track, and I sang it through once, but then I was having trouble hearing the piano, so I put in both earpieces so that I couldn’t hear myself. The second and third take didn’t go straight through, but then it was the fourth take, which was only the second time I’d sung straight thorough, that Tom (Hooper) ended up using. I remember feeling this schism in me that maybe this was the one. But of course, I still had to make them shoot it another 13 times; I had to make it way more complicated.

AWARDSLINE: I’m assuming there was only one take for the hair-cutting—well, more like chopping—scene?
HATHAWAY: The take had to be divided into two sections. Fantine is led into the grotto by a wig maker, and she cut the first part of my hair, a 3- by 4-inch rectangle, and then they had to yell cut (for a costume change), and I had to sit there half-bald for about 20 minutes, which wasn’t easy. I try to be as stoic an actor as possible, and I’m blessed to have been given this role, but this (scene) completely undid me. I’ve never been so scared, and I was slightly manic about it. But when it was done I was fine, and I had a pixie cut. Although I did have a huge bald spot in front, which wasn’t planned—they were cutting my hair with a knife. But I think this might be a new phase in life for me. I now like having short hair for the manageability of it. But by the end of this shoot, I had no vanity left. I was horribly scrawny and bald.

Related: OSCARS: The Supporting Actor Race

AWARDSLINE: Were you asked to lose weight for the role or was that your own decision?
HATHAWAY: I was trying to merge the Fantine from the stage with Fantine from the novel, and I took my physical cues straight from Victor Hugo. You have to suspend disbelief on stage when Fantine dies, and she doesn’t look any different, but on film we had the opportunity to really get inside Fantine. Being the slightly masochistic actor that I am, I thought, when she says, “I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living…” what if we were actually able to show her in hell? I wasn’t asked to lose weight, but I talked to Tom about it, and he moved the schedule around so I could lose the weight. In the end, I thought it lent her an authentic vulnerability. You want to wrap a blanket around her and feed her soup. You want to save her. After all, it is called The Miserable, and Fantine is the most Les Misérables of them all, and I felt I couldn’t shirk that. I did a cleanse at first to prime me for the bare bones, no pun intended, that were to come. I lost 10 pounds initially, then lost 15 pounds in 14 days. I don’t recommend it.

AWARDSLINE: You have the amazing distinction of being a second-
generation Fantine.
HATHAWAY: Yes, my mom was in the first national tour of Les Mis. She played a factory girl, but was an understudy for Fantine and did play Fantine many times. I was 7 years old, and this was the show that had focused my desire for acting, plus there were children in the production so it made it all seem obtainable. It’s amazing that this film came around when I was the right age to play the character my mom had played, the character that made me want to be an actress. To have it come full circle like this is truly amazing. To say it was the soundtrack of my life is no exaggeration.

Related: Universal Unveils ‘Les Miserables’ in NY And LA To Huge Reaction

      1. You know that not everyone read it or saw musical? They are also making movies on the books Hobbit, Robocalypse, Mortal Instruments, Hunger Games trilogy, Divergent and others. Did you read all of them? Do you think all the other people read it? So let’s spoil every big reveals and endings of book now?

        1. I’m sorry, but Les Mis is one of the most popular musicals of the 21st century; I fully understand that many of the people who haven’t seen the musical will go see the movie, but the expectation that there be no spoilers in the press material leading up to the film’s release is absurd. This is an interview with the actress about what is was like to play the role and how she prepared, if you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read it.

  1. Anne Hathaway is phenomenal in Les Miserables, and the rawness she brings to the role is out of this world. Yes, Anne is winning the Oscar. Hathaway is that rare movie star that is truly a triple-threat talent.

    P.S., it is so nice to see a young performer that is highly intelligent and articulate. Sadly, most of the young celebrities today, talk like they only have a fourth grade education. Have you heard Beyonce and Brittany Spears talk? They are dreadful.

    1. I actually don’t fawn over Beyonce the way the rest of even educated, white America does, but you do realize Hathaway’s dad is a corporate lawyer who hangs out in the comments section of New York Magazine, while Beyonce has descended from slavery, right? Do you honestly expect her to have an Ivy League education?

      1. oe, what racist crap are you conveying? Their are plenty of Black people ( and other people of color) that have earned educations from Ivy League Schools ( for example: Barrack Obama & Michelle Obama) . Regardless of the fact that Beyonce ( or Brittany Spears) didn’t attend a college, it is still relevant to have some intelligent, be decently well-read, and be passably well-spoken- regardless of the racial or economical background. Also, just because a person earned an Ivy League education, doesn’t mean jack, look at George Bush Jr.

  2. Great interview. Nice to see a Hollywood actress take her craft so seriously, and be so willing to discuss her process. Hathaway is a genuine pro.

  3. I just saw an advanced screening of Les Mis. I absolutely loved the film and thought the acting and singing was stunning. I loved the entire cast except for Anne Hathaway – she was indeed the weakest link… Russell Crowe held his own and I thought that his expression and delivery via song was more impressive and nuanced than Ms. Hathaway’s (although she has a beautiful voice)… I’ve liked her in other films and think that she is a talented actress. However with all honesty, I (as well as a few other friends who also attended advanced screenings) felt that her performance was passionate but very “forced.” Meaning, it was very animated to the point of manic “over acting” – the kind of over acting that is seen in a way off Broadway theater production with inexperienced actors who are trying too hard. I know that she was very committed, worked diligently in the role and had the best intentions. However we were deeply disappointed by her interpretation of Fantine, and it’s been very hard to understand why she’s getting so much good press, and why she would get nominated for an Oscar for this role. I think it has more to do with the sentimentality associated with the iconic role she played rather than the quality of her performance. On the other hand, bravo to Hugh Jackman and Eddie Redmayne, who gave the most stunning performances and carried the film. Oscar needs to show some love and award these two men for a job extraordinarily well done. Their acting and singing hit the right note (pardon the pun). But seriously more press and acknowledgement of Mr. Jackman and Mr. Redmayne should be given – they were truly the stand out stars among an extremely talented cast.

    1. EHB, you must be blind , or you saw a completely different movie, because Anne Hathaway easily gives the standout performance ( the reviews agree with me) . Trust me, their was nothing fake about her performance. Now, Russell Crowe was the weak link ( the reviews verify this) . He seemed stiff and uncomfortable. This is not his best acting performance , and his singing left a lot to be desired. His singing took me out of the movie.

  4. Great interview, I am so excited for this movie! Could you interview more of the cast next? Like Eddie and Samantha in particular?

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