In her lengthy career, Anne Hathaway has tackled stage and screen, playing everything from an actual princess to a Godzilla-like monster. She won so many awards for her performance in “Les Miserables” they had to invent new ones. And on May 9, she will add one more honor — a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
It comes at a busy time for Hathaway, who has spent the past year working on several anticipated film and TV projects. “It was a good year in terms of artistic growth,” she says of working with Oscar-nominated filmmakers including Todd Haynes and Dee Rees and playing a bipolar woman in an upcoming episode of John Carney’s musical series for Amazon, “Modern Love.”
First up is “The Hustle,” a remake of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” in which Hathaway and Rebel Wilson play con artists, opening May 10. Hathaway first heard about the project from writer Jac Schaeffer, when it was called “Dirty Rotten Skanks,” and her interest was immediately piqued.
So when the script came her way (the shooting title was changed to “Nasty Women” before settling on “The Hustle”), Hathaway jumped. Though she cites “Rachel Getting Married” and “Les Miserables” as two of her most challenging roles, she says “The Hustle” was up there because of her character’s British accent and the idea of improvising with a master.
“Improv is not my strong suit, especially when trying to stay in an accent,” she says. “I went from thinking this would be a fun comedy job where I got to wear lots of outfits and say really clever things about being mistreated by men to being really hard work in two areas that don’t come easily to me.”
The feminist aspect of the role appealed to the actress. “So many of her cons were about basically rising to the level of femininity that stupid men expect,” she says. “It involved paying attention to the worst aspects of the male gaze then sending it up with hopefully hilarious results.”
She reveled in playing a character who turned to cons because she was good at it. “I talked to Jac and our director Chris Addison about the fact that she considers it to be a gender tax; anybody who plays the game the way the game is currently set up is getting ripped off; anywhere from if you’re a white woman, you’re making 70 cents for every dollar a man makes and if you’re a Latina, I think you’re making 56 cents for every dollar a man makes. It’s a rigged system, so you shouldn’t feel bad for rigging the system back.”
Gender imbalance is something Hathaway has paid attention to for some time; from early in her career she’s made a point to seek out female directors and has worked with such filmmakers as Barbara Kopple, Nancy Meyers and Lone Scherfig. And she believes things have changed significantly.
“I used to get a list of directors and I’d say there’s no women and you’d hear, ‘Oh there just aren’t any that are right for this’ or ‘They don’t have the experience.’ You felt like you were screaming into the wind back then. There were so any harmful myths that were in place,” she says. “It’s been such a satisfying thing the last year and a half to watch people collectively put those myths to rest.
You hear people really making an effort to make lists that are diverse. People are really walking the walk, at least the people I’m working with.”
One person she was excited to work with is her “Hustle” co-star; Hathaway uses a car metaphor for trying to keep up with Wilson. “She can drive a manual Porsche with the greatest of ease while I’m burning out the clutch. Rebel is so much fun, she can pull comedy out of thin air.”
Wilson, for her part, “adored” working with Hathaway. “Annie is so talented it’s crazy,” Wilson tells Variety. “She does drama, comedy, musicals; and I feel like if she wasn’t an actress she could do almost anything else just as well! She’s a deeply caring person and much cooler than what she lets on; but I guess you gotta keep some things secret when so much of your life is public.”
Hathaway has been working steadily since breaking through as a teenager in 2001’s “The Princess Diaries.” She seemed to make the transition from teen to adult roles effortlessly, working alongside the likes of Meryl Streep and Ang Lee before the age of 25. She can command the stage solo (the one-woman show “Grounded,” where she played a fighter pilot turned drone pilot) and gel naturally into ensembles both fun and frothy (“Ocean’s 8”) and acclaimed (“Les Miserables,” “Brokeback Mountain”). But ask the wildly talented performer if she has a medium she prefers, and her answer is simple. “I just like employment, man,” Hathaway says with a laugh. “I love working.”
The Walk of Fame star is proof that her hard work is being recognized; it’s an accolade that Hathaway finds exciting and flattering, along with many other emotions. “Mainly, I’m just always confused about all this,” she says, laughing. “That’s kind of my go-to emotion for things like this.”
As with many aspiring actors, she remembers when she first came to Los Angeles, she had what she calls a “Star Day” during which she went and looked at all the names on the Walk of Fame. Of course, times have changed, she notes, “Now there’s a lot of great restaurants in that area so you find yourself somewhere and you look down and go, ‘Hey, Scarlett Johansson, what’s up?’”
Asked about longevity in her career and she cites her manager since age 16, Suzan Bymel, and her “Rachel Getting Married” director. “If you’re lucky enough, finding like-minded artists who help you figure that out. For me that was Jonathan Demme, tapping me on the shoulder and saying, ‘You’ve got something and I believe in you and I’m backing you.’ There’s a before and after to my life from that moment.”
She adores filmmakers and has high praise for the directors of her upcoming films, as well. She stars in Rees’ “Mudbound” follow-up “The Last Thing He Wanted,” adapted from the Joan Didion novel, as a reporter who cares for her ailing father.
“Dee is so insanely good, she’s the real deal,” Hathaway raves, while adding the character was like nothing she’s played before. “She’s so enraged and she wants to live as much as she wants to die. She’s a fighter with a death wish.”
Then there’s “Dry Run,” which she signed on to work with director Haynes and Mark Ruffalo, based on the New York Times Magazine article about the attorney who challenged chemical company DuPont.
“I just showed up to work with Todd and Mark and something took over,” she says. “In these times it’s probably a mistake to sound too sincere about anything but it truly was one of the deeper soul experiences I’ve had on a set.”
Asked what she hopes for from a director, Hathaway doesn’t hesitate. “The thing I love most about working with directors is when you find somebody who is worthy of your trust and then just giving it over to that. Nobody owns your performance, you created it together and you wind up in this beautiful in between spot where you’ve been carried beyond your own limits and you’ve made them see things about the character they didn’t know were there.”
What: Anne Hathaway receives a star on the Walk of Fame.
When: 11:30 a.m. May 9
Where: 6927 Hollywood Blvd.