Now Anne Hathaway gets to play the boss
Hollywood’s a tough place to survive, even when you’re an A-lister. Susan Griffin meets Anne Hathaway and finds out why the actress is making sure she has a back-up plan.
Anne Hathaway’s one of the most successful female actors working today, but even she isn’t immune to the harsh realities of Hollywood.
“I work with a very brilliant woman called Suzan Bymel, who’s worked with a lot actresses over the years, and she told me to prepare for the slow-down that would inevitably happen in my mid-thirties,” reveals the 32-year-old, who was Oscar nominated for her role in Rachel Getting Married in 2009 and walked away with the gold statuette for Les Miserables in 2013.
It’s why Hathaway’s drawn to producing “my own stuff — it’s practical”.
“I started optioning material, so I would be able to work through the awkward period where people aren’t telling stories about women in your age group,” continues the straight-talking actress, looking chic in a cream pleated silk blouse and black trousers.
“If there’s a role of a 35-year-old woman, they’re going to cast a 24-year-old and, by the way, I have been that 24-year-old woman.”
Another reason for wanting to produce is to see the material that interests her, like last year’s musical Song One, through to fruition.
It’s why Hathaway recently optioned a sci-fi comedy about a baby shower that gets invaded by aliens.
“I so want to see that movie,” she laughs. “And if I have some clout at this stage in my career, I’d love to use it to make the things I want to see exist.”
But the actress, who was born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey, concedes this new chapter is “a little bit hard”.
“We haven’t seen a lot of stories about women in their thirties, and I don’t know precisely why that is, but I feel really lucky and can’t complain about it, because whatever roles there are, I’m getting access to them.”
This includes her latest movie The Intern, which she describes as “one of the best parts I’ve ever got to play”.
Hathaway stars as Jules Ostin, whose husband raises their daughter while she oversees her hugely successful online fashion site.
It also boasts Robert De Niro as 70-year-old Ben Whittaker who, underwhelmed with retirement, replies to an advert for senior interns at Ostin’s company.
The film was written and directed by Nancy Meyers who “wrote this unbelievable character in this beautifully conceived world,” notes Hathaway, who found fame in The Princess Diaries alongside Julie Andrews.
“Jules doesn’t have some deep, dark secret. Her unhappiness and stress gets explained in the film. She’s really just a very good person. She’s tough and tenacious and she’s uncompromising and a go-getter.”
Hathaway, who jokes she would’ve been a burlesque dancer had acting not worked out, was excited to see a forthright female boss who for once is “not a nightmare”.
“So often in stories, the powerful woman is the ice queen and the working mum is a terrible mother. Jules is neither of these things and I think that’s going to resonate a lot more with people. I mean, of course there are horror stories and there are Miranda Priestlys of the world,” she says, referring to the fearsome magazine editor played by Meryl Streep in their 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada.
The movie also explores the rise of a relatively new family dynamic.
“We’re in new territory now, when it comes to breadwinners and caregivers,” she remarks.
“I did hear a talk where it was said that family units work best when there’s one of each. Traditionally, the woman’s been the caregiver and the man the breadwinner, and now it’s up to the couple to decide for themselves." She admits that some people seem averse to a move against the traditional set-up.
"If you have a job and you're a mum, you're going to be perceived that you're not as committed a mother, and if you're a stay-at-home dad, you're considered emasculated in some way.
"I think we need to evolve and realise that parenting is hard, period.
"None of us have any right to judge each other. If the kid's happy and healthy, that's all that matters, and how that happens is no-one else's business."
Hathaway, who married actor Adam Shulman in September 2012, also highlights the blatant double standards that continue to exist.
"It strikes me as odd that I get asked, 'When are you going to have a family?' and 'How do you handle being in a marriage and being a successful actor?' and I don't hear those questions being asked of my contemporaries who are male."
Born to an actress mother and lawyer father, Hathaway's first key role was in the TV series Get Real.
An acclaimed soprano, she was reportedly favourite for the role of Christine in The Phantom Of The Opera, but scheduling conflicts meant the role went to Emmy Rossum.
Following the 2004 sequel to The Princess Diaries, she started tackling more adult projects, and has since starred in the likes of Brokeback Mountain, Love And Other Drugs, The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar.
For all its faults, Hathaway, ever the optimist, believes Hollywood's "really good at calling itself on its own problems".
So while there have been "pretty damning statistics" relating to the pay disparity between men and women, "I'd be shocked if we didn't see a tremendous amount of change in the next 10 to 15 years," she states.
Whenever Hathaway gets "really depressed", she looks at the success of the HeForShe campaign.
She says: "It's an initiative that Emma Watson is spearheading with UN women and the idea about it is that in order to achieve equality, it can't be a woman's issue or a man's issue, we have to find a way to work together on this.
"I think it's revolutionary and is changing the world."
Cinema-goers also have a role to play in spearheading change, she explains.
"It's the audiences who are going to dictate what happens and, this isn't a pitch for people to see the movie," she says with a laugh, "but if you want to see more about age diversity or women in strong roles, then you have to take an active interest in supporting those movies. Yes, Hollywood is a place that espouses liberal ideals, but it's a business too and will follow where the business is strongest."
- The Intern is released on Friday, October 2