There seems to be something consistent in the films of star-on-the-rise Anne Hathaway. The beautiful young actress initially shone in The Princess Diaries, and now, in the fractured fairy tale romance Ella Enchanted, Ms Hathaway finds herself falling for a Prince Charming of sorts. But this highly confident 21-year old plays down the thematic similarities.
“Well considering that it runs through all 2 of my films, I’m not that concerned about it,” she says, as we chat in a Beverly Hills hotel suite. “I knew that people would kind of raise their eyebrows if I took on yet another fairy tale, but I thought this one was so different from Princess Diaries in that while Princess Diaries kind of embraces the fact that it is a fairy tale, Ella makes fun of itself because of it. But in terms of the princess role, there is only so long that you can play those as a young lady before you start feeling really ridiculous and they are so much fun to do I figure I might as well get the most out of them while I can and then go off and play all the drug addicts, prostitutes and all the good ones you win Oscars for a little bit later on,” she says laughingly. “But now I am yes ready to hang up the tiara, and put the ball-gown in storage,” she firmly announces.
Based on the popular children’s novel by Gail Carson Levine, the film tells of Ella (Hathaway), who lives in a fanciful and magical world where all children are given a “gift” from a fairy Godmother at the moment of their birth. Little Ella’s birthright is the gift – and curse – of obedience. As a result of this unfortunate circumstance, Ella cannot refuse any command, and is often left at the mercy of unscrupulous personalities. In a bid to regain control of her life, Ella goes on a quest to free herself from this mysterious curse. Ella must outwit a kingdom filled with ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, talking books and evil plots, and, if she’s lucky, she may find love along the way.
A fairytale it might be, but as in Princess Diaries, Hathaway reveled in playing independent young women. “It’s funny because it occurred to me recently that most of the films that I’ve made thus far, were films that I would have enjoyed seeing when I was 10 years old, so I guess a part of me is just trying to reconcile my inner child and apologize to her”, she adds with a sly grin. “But I certainly believe I’ve always been a big advocate for equality and no-one has ever been able to tell me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl, so I guess in that I do have that in common with Mia and Ella.”
In Ella, Hathaway does more than act, she manages to belt out a tune or two, strictly in character of course. Yet she laughingly shrugs off the notion that she be the next Hilary Duff. “I have no aspirations of world domination through pop charts,” she insists, more than emphatically and adds that it was definitely not her idea to sing in this movie. “I love singing and it’s something that I really enjoy doing but I didn’t want it to appear obnoxious in the film. There have been times when I’ve seen actors do it, where all of a sudden the character has nothing to do with having a good voice and they bust out these Aretha Franklin style vocals against full orchestration and I’m like ‘Come on, that’s completely cheesy and unbelievable’. “
Of course, now having immersed herself in cinematic fairy tales, it begs the question: What fairy tales of old had an influence on this young woman’s life? “Growing up it was the Snow Queen and it was The Fisherman And His Wife. My parents brought me this huge book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales when I was growing up, so I used to stay up late reading them to myself – because they are really violent, they’re kind of fabulous.”
Hathaway’s career has well and truly taken off, and continues to grow in popularity by a core adolescent following. Inevitably, that old role model question comes up during our interview, with Hathaway adamant that she feels no major responsibility in becoming a role model for today’s teens. “I’m just a person living my life,” Hathaway insists. “People don’t know me that well so I think if they were to look at me as a role model it wouldn’t be complete or honest for them, because so much about me people don’t know and I’m fine with that. However I do understand the characters that I play are very good role models for young ladies. They are smart, in possession of their lives, and I do have a lot in common with them so I don’t mind being seen as a role model but it’s not something that I have ever aspired to be or courted. I think the second that you say ‘Oh, I am a role model and that’s why I make the decisions that I make’ you’ve kind of shot yourself in the foot because a role model is somebody that does things because of what they believe in regardless of what other people think.”
Nor does Hathaway take fame too seriously. Asked what keeps her grounded, she jokingly quips “I beat up animals or take out my aggression on small furry little things. I just don’t take it too seriously to be perfectly honest. I mean it just seems so silly to me, because if I thought about it too much all I could ever come back to you is why me. I thought I just made a little movie that I believed was cute about princesses who just happened to turn into this beloved film and experience for so many people. So because of that I have been give a completely new pathway in life but I can’t believe that it has anything to do with me.” The actress feels that for her, the idea of fame doesn’t serve any purpose. “I mean I don’t want to appear ungrateful for the extraordinary experiences that it’s allowed me to have but I don’t take it too seriously because I mean as we all know, and seen, it disappears like that for some people.”
That ‘little movie’ of which she speaks was so successful that an inevitable sequel was spawned and she recently completed Princess Diaries II. Though announced and written fairly quickly, Hathaway does admit that she was reluctant to step into those Princess’ shoes again. “I was very hesitant and nervous about doing the sequel, not because it was the sequel to the Princess Diaries but just because I think sequels in general are such difficult waters to navigate. So it took a lot to convince me that it was going to be ok and I credit most of that to Garry Marshall who held my hand through it and said “It’s ok, this won’t end anything. You’re not repeating anything you’re giving a fresh performance. It’s all right, it’s all right. People care about me’. Eventually, it was Garry sitting me down saying ‘do you understand how happy this will make people, like little girls across the world?’ He goes ‘It’s an extraordinary possibility that you have here to make people happy and you should really embrace that’. When it was put to me in that way I was like, ok, it’s just ego getting in the way.” Asked how the new film will see her develop, Hathaway says “Well, I didn’t wear a wig in it or fake eyebrows so that is pretty nice. If Princess Diaries was about Mia making the transition from young girl to young woman, Princess Diaries II is about her going from young woman to a full on, actualized realized woman.”
But to prove that she can do non-Princess roles, Hathaway’s next film is quite distinctive. “I made a film called Havoc, which is very different. It was written by Steve Gaghan and directed by Barbara Kopple and that’s kind of my very anti-princess role. I play a girl from Pacific Pallisades who forms a gang with her friends, goes around beating up other gangs, doing drugs and then becomes a hooker.” Sounds like her Oscar winning role. “No hardly.”
Hathaway is also trying to finish college, where she is majoring in English and Political Science, “with an emphasis on international politics so I would like to pursue a career also as a philanthropist.” She adds that it is in the area of women’s rights through which she would be philanthropic. “That is something that I am feeling quite passionate about, the importance of equalizing people’s views on women throughout the world. I’d also like to work with children a lot and try to raise money for AIDS research.” And somewhere in between saving children, and acting, there is time to occasionally do normal things, like dating. “But not right now when my every waking moment is talking about fairy tales but my whole attitude about it is that you always need to have time to do normal things and normal is obviously just a really relative concept. However the thing about dating is that when you find the right person you make time for them.”
If you’re interested in becoming Anne’s prince, Hathaway has clear ideas in what her ideal man is. “Eventually it is someone who – and I’ve managed to do this with pretty much everyone that I’ve ever had a relationship with – somebody that I wanted to remain friends with after we break up. The goal is to find someone that you can be yourself around that makes you laugh, that you’re challenged by in a good way.” Currently Hathaway is single, but not for want of trying. She says the opposite sex is scared of her and rarely approaches her. “I never ever, ever, ever, ever get hit on, wherever I go. I’m always with my friends who have relationships and guys really don’t come up to me, or they come up and get autographs for their little sisters and then they go away. So I usually do most of the approaching. After all, how else am I going to get a date?”.