Anne Hathaway talks career mistakes, relationships and her new film

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Forthright, authentic and utterly vulnerable, Stylist discovers a brand new Anne Hathaway

Words: Elaine Lipworth
Photography: Guy Aroch

Anne Hathaway and I are deep in discussion about the meaning of life. “People talk about life as though it’s this ‘thing’ that can be achieved and put on a shelf,” the actress says passionately. “But we’re never going to arrive at that moment where we can hit a pause button.”

This is not the Anne Hathaway you might think you know; the invariably private star who has never really revealed her vulnerable side. It’s not the Anne Hathaway that I know. I’ve interviewed the Brooklyn-born actress on several occasions since the role in 2001’s The Princess Diaries that kick-started her broad ranging acting career, and while she’s always been great company, the Hathaway I meet this time seems more relaxed, more reflective, more vulnerable and certainly more opinionated. She holds forth on issues including politics, women’s rights (she is a United Nations Women Global Goodwill Ambassador), literature (she’s a voracious reader, referencing Margaret Atwood, Susan Sontag and Jorge Luis Borges) and relationships, as well as a segue into her current passion for baking.

Over lunch of leek and potato soup, hummus and grilled vegetables at New York’s stylish new Whitby Hotel, the 34-year-old is candidly open about her flaws and failings – a mood also evidenced by her recent confession to having an “internalised misogyny” while filming One Day with Danish female filmmaker Lone Scherfig in 2010. “I really regret not trusting her more easily,” Hathaway said in an interview in the US last month. “And I am to this day scared that the reason I didn’t trust her the way I trust some of the other directors I work with is because she’s a woman.”

Most of all I detect a visceral sense of excitement and curiosity in the actress. Having become a mother to Jonathan, her son with husband Adam Shulman, in March last year (she candidly reveals that “it wasn’t all that easy for me to get pregnant, it took longer than I thought it was going to”), she tells me she wants to expand her horizons. Her next project, the low budget indie flick Colossal from Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo, fits this ambition. She takes the lead as Gloria, a New York blogger on a downward spiral trying to regain control of her alcohol problem. Returning to her hometown after her boyfriend breaks up with her, events turn bizarre when a gigantic reptilian creature attacks South Korea. Watching the devastation on social media, Gloria realises she is somehow connected to the phenomenon. Part stylish sci-fi monster flick, part psychological thriller, part dark comedy, it’s an affecting performance from the actress, reminiscent of her Oscar-nominated turn as a recovering addict in 2008’s Rachel’s Getting Married. Turns out Anne Hathaway isn’t done surprising us just yet...

Colossal is an interesting choice of film – why were you attracted to it?
Gloria felt real to me. She’s in a particularly florid moment of self-destruction and she’s not brave enough to face the consequences of her actions. I see that around me all the time with people, especially with drinking. There are a lot of functioning alcoholics around us.

Did you find it easy to relate to her struggles?
I’m not Gloria every day, but I’ve had periods of my life where I couldn’t get it together, and I was drinking more than I should have. I was still a good person but I was letting people down. I don’t think I was the most reliable friend. I’m pleased that I managed to leave a lot of that behind in my 20s, but I’m still not perfect. I have mornings when I wake up, and I’m like, ‘Good God. You did it again last night!’

There’s often an assumption that by the time people reach their 30s, they should have everything figured out...
I think people do expect that, and it’s incredibly unhelpful. It’s the assumption that we only come of age once in our lives, but that’s not true. We go through periods again and again when everything falls apart, everything has to be destroyed in order for it to be refreshed. We don’t always have life figured out by a certain point. You can be caring and self-absorbed at the same time. I’ve been heartened by how many people have admitted that there’s some Gloria inside them, that you can be a good person... and be a f**k-up.

Do you think we all have a ‘monster’, a dark, destructive side?
I think we all have that inside us because we are not fixed creatures. If someone seems to be the picture of perfection, they’ve still got something dark going on, and if somebody’s at their lowest low, they’ve also got something good inside them.

The film looks at technology and social media which both connect us with the world but can also be addictive. What’s your view?
I think we’re incredibly distractible. Terrible things happen in the world; we register them as terrible and somehow move on and we’ve not solved anything. I check my emails, texts and [private] Instagram too much. But a few weeks ago, we went away and I forgot my phone. So I decided to experience a weekend without it and I was more present, I was a better mom. I had a greater connection to Johnny. Not because I’m a different human, but because of the level of distractibility I have when this thing is out [picks up her phone].

It sounds like you have learnt to have a philosophical approach to life?
I can be good and bad and I can be beyond good and bad. There’s a quote by [13th century Persian poet] Rumi that I love because it ‘gets it’: “Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” In other words, it’s not for me to judge anyone as right or wrong, which also frees me up from taking on anyone else’s judgment of me. So I do my best not to.

Does that mean you don’t get upset when something negative happens?
I trip sometimes, but not as much as I used to. I remember when I was 15, I got 90 rejections in a row and sat down on the floor of my parents’ kitchen and cried. And I’m thinking back to a part I didn’t get when I was pregnant that put me in a funk for six weeks because I wanted it so badly. I’ve been working very hard on not letting things like that mess with my core stability.

You’ve talked before about ‘needing’ your husband. What did you mean by that?
I do need him. We’ve built a life together, so if one of us were to disappear, the life would be missing one half of itself. I know I can do this without him, I possess everything inside myself to be a successful human being, but I don’t want to, I’m so much better with him.

How did you know this relationship was different to your previous ones?
First of all, I was very lucky that I found someone kind. I had been through an experience [with corrupt Italian businessman Raffaello Follieri who pleaded guilty to fraud and went to prison] that meant I understood kindness was not to be taken for granted. I don’t mind talking about my past. Because of my experience, when I met Adam I didn’t assume there were going to be plenty more fish like him out there in the sea [laughs].

What has being with Adam taught you?
I had been very badly afflicted by self-loathing throughout most of my life but there was a moment in my relationship with my husband when I knew that I could either continue to put my own self-loathing first or allow myself to be loved. That was hard, but I knew he was worth it. In order to get to know Adam better, I had to love myself more, because my not being able to love myself started to get in the way of our relationship, and I really wanted our relationship to succeed. The comfortable thing would have been to continue this little negative, narcissistic dance with myself. It was scary to take the leap into that trust but I did because I knew it was the right thing to do. We’re really well matched. And mind you, I don’t particularly believe in marriage and monogamy. I don’t think that that’s the answer for everybody. I just happened to find the guy I could do that with. We are a really good team.

Your husband is Jewish, have you embraced his religion?
I’m very into it and very supportive of it. It’s lovely to have the Jewish holidays with Adam’s family. I asked him if he wanted me to convert and he said, “Not unless it comes from you.” I don’t feel any particular allegiance to one religion. Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, there’s so much good in each one. Now, they’ve been corrupted, but I don’t blame religion for the ills of the world. I blame [individuals] for taking advantage of the people wanting to be closer to God, for their own ends.

Do you believe in God?
I do. I’m very relieved that I do – I don’t know how you can do this life without that belief.

You’ve got some interesting new films in the pipeline. Can you talk about Ocean’s Eight?
I can’t tell you a thing about it. We’ll talk about it in a year [laughs].

You’re also starring in Nasty Women, a remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) with Rebel Wilson. Do you think we need more original films for women, not remakes?
Well, Ocean’s Eight’s a spin off, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was itself a remake [of 1964’s Bedtime Story]. So I felt like it was a story begging to be remade. I’ve been doing this since I was 16 and I know it’s really hard to write an original screenplay and have an original idea. There’s no guarantee that even if you have one, it’s going to get made. But the business has to keep going and you’ve got to keep working. I encourage everyone to write original, ground-breaking screenplays so we can make them.

You have never struggled, or so it seems, to get great roles though…
Yes, I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I also acknowledge that I am given way more great roles just by the reality of the colour of my skin. I don’t see equality between the opportunities that are given to me as a white actress and roles given to a black or Chinese actress. Can you imagine being a Muslim actress nowadays? Where are those opportunities?

You supported Hillary Clinton in last year’s election. How are you dealing with the Trump administration?
It’s very difficult when someone whose values do not mirror your own holds the greatest seat of power. I’m trying to stand up for the rights that I believe in.

What issues are most important to you?
Women’s economic issues are crucial, in my opinion, to prevent discrimination based on gender. In America, women make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. I’m interested not just in making sure that we achieve equality but in the questions that will reveal why we make 78 cents for every dollar, because if we don’t change the habits and we just raise pay, it’s all going to fall apart again. One of the things that consistently keeps women from engaging in the workplace is motherhood. In America we have unpaid parental leave, so women either can’t afford to take it or are loathe to take it. The only way forward is to get paid parental leave, which has to be genderless so it’s no longer detrimental for women to have children and a career outside of the home.

With everything that’s happening in the world, do you remain optimistic?
I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster [politically] so I try to keep my focus on the things I care about. I will not let the freedoms that we have worked so hard to achieve be rolled back. And I am thrilled by this youth movement around the world, which is examining the construct behind things like gender and sexuality. We just have to keep it all together for our kids and not destroy things. I think that this [the Trump administration] is going to pass. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I am an optimist! There are certain things that have to heal – and we are all learning together.

Colossal is in cinemas nationwide on 19 May

Photography: Guy Aroch/