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Anne Hathaway Wears Prada, But Loves Chanel

The Former Disney Princess Tells Cole Smithey About Working On "The Devil Wears Prada"

By Cole Smithey

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Anne Hathaway is a camera-shy actress. Ask to take her photo and she’ll throw her hands up in front of her face and beg off from having her famous beauty captured. But get her on a movie set and Anne Hathaway blossoms into a much more confident creature whose acting range is expanding exponentially from the Disney leading-girl status that she built her early career on with roles in "The Princess Diaries" (1 and 2) and "Ella Enchanted."

In "The Devil Wears Prada" Hathaway plays Andy Sachs, a wanna-be journalist whose working-class fashion sense is upended along with her modest career aspirations when she lands a job as second assistant to fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). The story is loosely based on Lauren Weisberger’s novel about her experiences as personal assistant to Vogue editor Anna Wintour. With the ever-watchable Meryl Streep downplaying Miranda’s venom and Hathaway understating Andy’s latent ambition, the movie finds Hathaway balancing comedy, drama and romance with equal deliberateness.

In her next film, "Becoming Jane," Anne Hathaway will play a young Jane Austen under the guidance of "Kinky Boots" director Julian Jarrold. We can hardly wait.

CS: Is it true that you once wanted to be a nun?

AH: Yeah, I thought that I wanted to be a nun, and then I realized that I didn’t. I also wanted to be the President—I mean, we have these flights of fancy.

CS: Have you ever thought about abandoning acting to pursue writing or art?

AH: Well, whenever I have a bad day on the set, I just say, that's it, I'm going to go and become a kindergarten teacher and like have a dozen children and be really happy. Ah yeah, there's always a million reasons to quit and god knows it's tempting when it gets tough, but I love what I do, and I won't be as happy doing anything else. It's becoming more complicated with each project, but I'm also learning more and growing in ways. I'm at a point now that I didn't even know existed when I was 15, and I can't deny that. This is the environment that I thrive in. So I think that if I want to be the best human being I can be it won't necessarily be by choosing the easiest task. It'll be tough and I accept that. I've already had a few ups and downs in my short time and I'm sure there's a lot more along the way. You learn the most from those experiences.

CS: You’ve made quite a name for yourself with the Disney movies. How important is it for you to branch out with other types of movies?

AH: It’s not that it’s important to me to shake it up or branch out or do anything like that. I got incredibly lucky in that my first film was a ginormous success and I was suddenly seen as someone who could open films and could carry a movie, but I didn’t know if I could act. I mean, it was like my first movie so I stayed in my comfort zone for a little bit because I was afraid to branch out. I didn’t know how talented I was and I was just worried about failure, and then eventually I decided, ‘You know what? You’ve learned how the camera works; just try something different. Go with your instincts and go with projects that, when you read, you’re really afraid of.’ I’ve done a few of those now. Since "Ella Enchanted" every project that I’ve been a part of has had something in it that has really greatly terrified me, which always leaves me on the edge of my seat. I enjoy now being out of my comfort zone.

CS: What terrified you about "The Devil Wears Prada"?

AH: I just worked with Meryl Streep, the best actress in the world – nice to meetcha. There was always the fear that she knows how to do it; I won’t get there. But she was very generous.

Working with her, like working with Ang Lee ["Brokeback Mountain"], I realized that if I was going to be able to play on that level I was going to have to let go of all of my insecurity and all of my ego about what I could deliver and feel like I was in new uncharted territory. All of my old rules didn’t apply because I was working with someone that was better than everyone else I’d ever worked with—not to be dismissive of them, but I think Ang and Meryl are pretty special.

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CS: When was the first time you met Meryl Streep?

AH: It was right after she won the "Golden Globe Award" for "Adaptation" at the after-party and I was introduced to her. I went on for something like five minutes about how much I loved her and how much she meant to me, and that I went to Vassar, and that I just thought she was spectacular. And at the end of it she put her hand on the side of my face and said, "You’re so pretty." (laughs)

But the second time I met her was for this part [in "The Devil Wears Prada"]. She had invited us all over to her house and she had asked us to show up at 5 o’clock. I showed up at 4:45 and I didn’t want to send the wrong message to Meryl Streep so I ran around the corner to a liquor store and bought a bottle of wine because I realized I wasn’t going to get through without a little bit-a-help. So, I gave it to her and she said, "Oh that’s so sweet." And I thought, ‘Yeah, sweet for you and medicinal for me.’

CS: What is it about Meryl Streep’s approach to acting that you admire?

AH: The thing about her as a performer is she’s always in the center of her character. She doesn’t get distracted. She doesn’t allow things to push her off and she’s always in the center of her intentions. As a young actor, that’s just something you just aspire to, and she pulls you into that place and I got to know what that felt like. So now I know what the goal is; it’s just finding that myself so that I don’t have to rely on someone else to pull me into that place.

CS: Do you still do any kind of acting training?

AH: Not as much as Meryl. Even when Meryl was in school, she would do these wild characters. When she was 19, I think she played an 80-year-old woman, and no one knew that she was only 19. So I think a lot of it is divine spark, which I am very forgiving of in myself. But I have studied at the Barrow Group, and I have an acting coach and I work on it. There’s something kind of wonderful that isn’t really allowed nowadays. I think the most recent example of it was Bryce Dallas Howard who went through school and then started working and was sought out because of the work she did in school. But nowadays you don’t have time to train. It’s not something that’s supported. Meryl was 25 or 26, I think, before she started working in films and obviously all of her background in acting was incredibly helpful to her.

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CS: You’ve had some very different looks between "Brokeback Mountain" and "The Devil Wears Prada."

AH: Well, you know "Brokeback Mountain" was a period piece, and I liked what I did on that film which was Ang Lee had my hair be the timeline of the story. I liked being part of the larger story in that way. This one was easier to get make-up on everyday.

CS: Did you have to lose or gain any weight to do "The Devil Wears Prada"?

AH: They actually asked me to gain weight for the movie. I’d just recovered from surgery so I couldn’t eat anything and I’d lost all this weight. I went to meet the director and producers and they said, "We really want you to gain about ten pounds." So I really worked at it and I gained ten pounds eating pizza, beer and ice cream. So, then I got to my first costume fitting and Pat Fields goes, "Not going to work. You actually need to be 120." And at that moment I was 130. So I lost the weight again. It took about six weeks to loose eating just fruit and vegetables. So, they just padded me for the earlier scenes. So that was my weight loss/gain story.

CS: What do you think about your character’s fashion sense?

AH: I thought we represented Andy really well as a girl that basically shops from a J. Crew catalog and then when she gets into fashion at "Runway," at the beginning, is a type-A nerd—which is something I relate to—I think she would have probably gone into the fashion archives. She would have looked at books on style and the history of fashion. So her looks are a lot more classic and almost intellectual, and then right before she goes to Paris, she starts to mix it up and we see there’s a personality in there. And when she goes to Paris, it’s all couture, and then at the end she has kind of more my look. She’s someone who definitely has a style, who does think about what she puts on her body, but doesn’t necessarily go for the brand name thing.

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CS: Did you have any input with Costume Designer Patricia Field about the costumes that you wore?

AH: Yeah Pat was really open to collaboration, which I was terrified of and didn’t want to do. I just wanted to let her do whatever she wanted. Her instincts for the character were better than mine.

CS: What were some of your favorite accessories that you wore in the film?

AH: I really liked the Chanel boots. I loved them, but they were auctioned off for charity, so they served a much better purpose than they would sitting in my closet.

CS: So are you a "brand" person?

AH: Well I’m not a "brand" person for everything. I don’t just flip out because it’s a brand, but the one fashion label that is something that’s out of my control is my love of Chanel. I will look at a dress and say, "Wow, I really don’t like that." Then I’ll find out it’s a Chanel and say, "It’s kinda cute." I can’t control it. I’m so at the mercy of that brand, and I love it.

Posted by Cole Smithey on June 21, 2006 | Permalink
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