Ten years ago on this day, Anne Hathaway debuted in the first adult starring role of her career in “The Devil Wears Prada.” For the film’s anniversary, Variety conducted an oral history with the cast, including Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci. Here is a longer version of our conversation with Hathaway about playing Andy Sachs, the “second assistant” to fashion editor Miranda Priestly in the Fox comedy.
Why do you think “The Devil Wears Prada” has become such an important part of our culture?
It’s aspirational. It’s a fairy tale, but it’s also rooted in reality. Everybody has had an experience like this. It looks great, but there’s also an emotionally resonant story. It’s funny. And it’s Meryl Streep giving yet another performance at the height of her considerable powers. It launched Emily Blunt. Stanley Tucci is perfect, and I’m there too.
Were you nervous acting opposite Meryl Streep?
How can you not be? I had a small part in “Brokeback Mountain,” but I’d never had a starring role in a grown-up movie. All my movies had been geared towards kids. I didn’t really know what tone I was supposed to be hitting. I was just trying to basically not get in anyone’s way. I remember there’s a scene where Meryl comes back from Florida, and Miranda tells Andy she’s disappointed in her. Some actors save their emotions for their side, but I like to just give it. We got around to my coverage, and I tightened a little bit. My emotions weren’t flowing as freely. Meryl saw that. Without changing the integrity of her performance, she just all of a sudden occupied more space and made it just by degrees more cutting and nastier until I had no choice but to let myself get overwhelmed and emotional in the scene.
Did you have to audition?
I didn’t have to audition. I had to be patient. I wasn’t the first choice.
What was your initial meeting like at Fox?
I went in to meet Carla [Hacken, the studio’s former executive vice president] and she had one of those zen sand gardens. While I was in there, her assistant came in and had to ask her a question. While Carla was distracted, I wrote in the sand, “hire me.” I didn’t mention it. She didn’t see it until I left.
How did you find out you got the role?
I was in my apartment in New York, back when I lived in the West Village. I remember my agent called. I was putting on a shirt. I had one arm in and I’m like, “What’s up?” She goes, “You got it.” I had some buddies over. I remember running out in my living room half dressed screaming — “I got ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ I got ‘The Devil Wears Prada!’”
So you flashed your friends?
No more than a bikini would.
How was the first table read?
I think Miranda comes into the screenplay around page 10 or page 15. When I’m nervous, my goofy side comes out. I wasn’t doing anything particularly impressive. And then we get to Miranda enters. I think we all had an idea of what Miranda would sound like. In my mind, it was a strident, bossy, barking voice. So when Meryl opened her mind and basically whispered, everybody in the room drew a collective gasp. It was so unexpected and brilliant.
To get into character, Meryl stayed away from the other actors, right?
She really kept her distance. She told me she was going to do that right from the beginning. We left rehearsal and she went into her trailer and Miranda came out, and I didn’t see Meryl for a very long time.
Did it help you with your performance?
Of course. And by the way, it wasn’t that she was nasty. She was very reserved. I remember we did one scene where we had to arrive, but we were stuck in traffic. The silence was unbearable. She talked to me a little bit that day about Nick Cave and Stephen Colbert. At the time, I was a nervous talker. I asked her if she’d seen “The Daily Show,” something Jon Stewart had done that had really resonated with me. Then I said something like, “Don’t you think Jon Stewart is saving the world?” She got very quiet, and I didn’t know if what I said was okay or not. Then a full minute later, she said, “I think Stephen Colbert is.”
What do you remember the most from the shoot?
Oh my gosh. That movie happened at such a formative time in my life. I think I remember everything — everything from finding out half-clothed I got the part to the initial fittings with Pat [costume designer Patricia Fields]. We did months and months of fittings with the costumes. I think Pat approached it with some kind of military strategy. Everything was so organized. The movie was on last summer, and I just sat and watched it. And one of the last scenes, where Miranda and Andy are in the car together, if you watch that scene, we’re wearing the same neckline. I assume it was intentional on Pat’s part. I was there, and I hadn’t even noticed that.
What do you think it’s meant to signify?
I think it’s meant to show that she’s becoming like Miranda. Andy doesn’t recognize herself. She’s unconsciously gotten to the point where she and Miranda have started to resemble each other.
The movie launched Emily Blunt’s career.
I’ve never witnessed a star being born before. That’s the first time I ever watched it happen. She’s just breathtaking in every way, and so funny and quick and clever and so fun and so kind. I was just always amazed by her ability to be such a girlfriend between takes and they’d just yell “action!,” and she’d eviscerate me. And then finally, like maybe a month in, I went up to her and said, “Are you that smart? Do you practice?” She said, “Oh god. I prepare every night.”
What do you hear from fans about the movie?
The thing I noticed about “The Devil Wears Prada” as time has gone on is how much men love it. I can be anywhere in the world and people come up and tell me about their relationship with “The Devil Wears Prada.” They talk about their boss or how much they loved the clothes.
I watched the movie recently and it holds up.
I think it has, too. I feel really fortunate that it was me that got to wear the Chanel boots.