Ella Enchanted: An Interview with Anne Hathaway
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By Todd Gilchrist
Ella Enchanted: An Interview with Anne Hathaway
"I'll try to speak slowly and enunciate clearly" were the first words out of Anne Hathaway's mouth when she sat down to discuss her latest film "Ella Enchanted", but sadly, she did not live up to her promise. The rising young actress, who first appeared in the surprise 2000 hit "The Princess Diaries", returns to fairy tale territory with her newest film, about a girl who is possessed at birth by a most unfortunate spell- to do whatever she's told. In person, she hardly seemed bound by any rules at all, waxing poetic about her fledgling career in Hollywood, staying current with books, music, and politics, and finding her own real-life Prince Charming.
IS THERE SOMEONE IN YOUR LIFE THAT SERVES AS A FAIRY GODMOTHER?
AH: I do have a godmother in real life and she's a bit small and petite and looks a bit like Gail Carson Levine (the author). I certainly have a lot of people that look after me in my own life but no, I've always been very independent and proactive in doing things on my own.
DID YOU EVER BELIEVE THAT YOUR PRINCE WILL COME ALONG?
AH: Yeah, like when I was 7 (laughs), and it was a fun analogy to buy into. I still do believe that in my future I will end up with one person, but I have assurances of that so I'm just having fun in the interim. Now I know that the definition of Prince Charming is more specific yet at the same time broader than I used to think. Love is a crazy thing!
WHAT'S YOUR IDEAL PRINCE CHARMING?
AH: I can't tell you because I haven't met him yet. When I meet him it will be that and I'll enjoy it.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE A ROLE MODEL OR JUST DO YOUR THING?
AH: No. I just sort of do my thing and go with the projects I feel passionate about and appeal to me. I don't feel a burden as a role model. I understand that I can be seen as one but I like to think of it more as the characters that I play. Ultimately, people don't know me that well, so if people were to look up to me as a role model, I would feel that would be empty because they're not really looking up to you, they're looking up to an ideal of their own projection, which I guess is kind of cool, but it doesn't really have anything to do with me.
WHAT WAS THE APPEAL TO DO THIS MOVIE?
AH: A couple of things. One was, I was doing a play in New York at the time called Carnival, and I was playing a wonderful character named Lily, and I got the offer to do Ella Enchanted. I thought I see a lot of similarities between these two characters so if I could recapture some of that magic I felt in Carnival on screen, wouldn't that be interesting to see if I could do. Secondly, I loved the book. I just thought it was such a wonderful project. Gail's characters are so great. I was just talking to her earlier and now I just want to write children's books for the rest of my life and have that lovely life. It was Miramax. I love Tommy O'Haver's work. I thought the script would be a lot of fun. I thought this could be a really good time making this film. And I'm pretty young, so who knows how many more of those I'll get. So it'll be cool.
HOW OLD ARE YOU?
AH: 21. I was 19 when I started the film.
ARE YOU AFRAID TO GET STUCK IN THIS GENRE?
AH: No. I've already done several roles that are going to pull me out of this. I get asked that question a lot. Considering this is my second major film undertaking, I shouldn't get stuck, because it's number two. I've already done a film called Havoc, which is about affluent teenagers from the Pacific Palisades in California who become entranced with East LA gang culture and form a gang and go around beating up other gangs and doing drugs and have all this anger and repressed bitterness and all that good stuff, so that's going to shake up the princess image a little bit. Then I'm about to go off and work on Ang Lee's next movie called Brokeback Mountain. I play Jake Gyllenhaal's wife. Are you familiar with the story? Then you know that Jake's and Heath's characters have a 20 year love affair and each have different relationships with women in the meantime, and I play Jake's wife, a Texas rodeo queen. I'm so looking forward to it.
DO YOU FEEL BAD THAT "NICHOLAS NICKELBY" DIDN'T PERFORM WELL AT THE BOX OFFICE?
AH: I know this is going to sound naive of me but I don't do projects for the box office.
I MEAN THAT NO ONE GOT TO SEE IT?
AH: I'm saddened by it because I do believe it's a good film. But I think if you're going to look at the positive in it, (there are) DVDs and VHS (that) make home viewing possible. Films that disappear from the marketplace or aren't given a chance in the mainstream marketplace out in theaters are able to have a life that goes beyond it.
WILL YOU CONTINUE WITH YOUR SINGING AFTER THIS FILM? YOU'VE GOT A GREAT VOICE.
AH: Thank you. Not really. I like to think of the fact that I can sing as a tool that I use for acting. It happened to help me in Ella. Singing is something I love but I'm not passionate about. When I do it, it's just for fun. I don't want put a price tag on it or pursue it in that way.
SO YOU WON'T BECOME A POP STAR?
AH: No. I have no aspirations of world domination through the pop charts. That's not me.
HOW DID YOU END UP DOING THE NUMBER IN THIS?
AH: There was always a musical number at that moment in the film, at the giant's wedding. And originally though the character of Slannen was supposed to do it, and we decided that that kind of goes against the whole nature of the film, in that Slannen, the whole film is about not being forced to do, not being under someone else's will. And so Slannen shouldn't have to do what he doesn't want to do. So they thought, well, another character has to sing, so do you mind doing it? I said, 'actually, yes, I don't really want to.' And so that's when the song happened.
HOW DID THEY SHOOT THE SCENE?
AH: It was shot in two pieces. One, they shot all the giant stuff, and then they shot all the stuff that I did against the blue screen. So I was basically in front of a big, blue wall, standing on top of a huge tabletop that they had constructed, an enormous 15-foot tall candelabra that I was right there that I had to avoid knocking into every time I turned. And yeah, then it comes all together afterwards, in post.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME AN ACTRESS?
AH: I always dreamed about having good roles, and I never doubted when I was watching movies that, I always put myself in the position, you know, watching Meryl Streep in 'Sophie's Choice,' I'm like, 'OK, I want to do that, I definitely want to do that. But I wasn't really interested in sort of the whole secret life of celebrities culture, growing up, so I never, in a way, kind of even knew that it existed. I was just so focused on acting. And so now that I do know that it exists, it's not really for me. I understand that I'm kind of tied to it, but I don't try to kind of fan those flames at all. I just sort of try to deal with them. But, no, obviously, I don't mean to sound completely naive about the whole box office thing. I know that it's important enough, the key to getting more work, and if a film then does well I'm thrilled. But that can't be the full reason why you do it. You have to have a passion for the craft and for the experience. I think.
WERE YOU ON THE SET WHEN JULIE ANDREWS SANG FOR 'PRINCESS DIARIES 2'?
AH: Yeah. She didn't exactly sing, she kind of speak-sings. You know the way the character does in 'My Fair Lady', that's sort of what she does. But, yes, she actually, the song was directed at my character. So it's basically three days of staring at Julie Andrews eyes while she was telling me about what a great person I was, holding my hand. It was pretty nice. There are worse ways to make a living.
I HEARD IT WAS EMOTIONAL ON THE SET.
AH: Oh, my- everybody. Everybody. Because just to watch what Julie can put into a song, and a performance, is mind blowing. Yes, no, everybody got really misty, and it was really nice. Because normally on a set- we shot it near the end of filming. Normally by that point, everybody knows everybody. They're all sort of boundaries, privacy have been completely broken down. Everybody talks on the set. Those two days you could hear a pin drop because nobody wanted to miss a moment, so it was really special.
DID YOU OBEY YOUR PARENTS GROWING UP, OR WERE YOU A REBEL?
AH: No, I was a very independent little girl. If I felt my parents made sense in what they were asking me to do, I wouldn't just challenge them to be challenging them. But if I felt, if I disagreed with something, I was always encouraged to argue my stance, and even if I lost I would usually go off and do my own thing anyway.
HOW WAS YOUR APPROACH TO ELLA?
AH: I just wanted to make Ella as honest as possible. I wanted to make her very likeable. And just imagining what would - how it would feel if you were a naturally free-spirited person, being told you couldn't do what you wanted to do. And just sort of wanting to take it from them. And with all the physical stuff, I worked with a mime for about two weeks. It's so cool, I know. I took mime lessons, I had to learn how to control my body and make it do some of the things, made it look like someone else was controlling me. It was hysterical. Because he was trying to get me to do kind of the classic pratfalls, and I was like, I'm not interested in being a mime. I don't see my future in miming, or mimery, is that a word you say? In mime. I guess just in mime. So we stuck to the script.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR FUTURE?
AH: Oh, I don't. I try not to. I am very happy right now, so I'm just trying to stay with that.
WILL YOU STAY IN THE THEATER?
AH: I like to think that, I would like to think that's the sort of person I'd like to be in a person, but I have no clue what's going to happen. So there's no point in thinking about specific events. I have goals. I mean, certainly, I would like to continue acting and I would like to travel and hopefully have a family someday. But at the moment I can't get anymore specific than that.
WHAT KIND OF PERSON DO YOU HOPE TO BE?
AH: I hope I'm always passionate and honest and treat people with respect, and open. And I hope that I always listen to people. And I hope that I develop a tremendous amount of patience, which I'm currently working on but often fail at. So, this is generally sort of the, be a good person, to never be afraid of things. To be an adventurer and to hopefully not back down from fights and stuff like that.
WAS THIS YOUR FIRST FILM KISS?
AH: No! Actually, my first film kiss was when I was 16. It wasn't a film kiss; it was my first acting, stage kiss, was when I was 16. I did a TV pilot for Fox, which turned into a series called 'Get Real.' And I was so scared I was shaking for like two weeks beforehand. But at this point I'm kind of a film kissing alum.
IT LOOKED QUITE PASSIONATE.
AH: Did it? Well I guess we did our jobs, then.
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC ARE YOU INTO?
AH: Oh, dear. Eclectic stuff, really. I think it depends what kind of mood I'm in. But I love reggae. Bob Marley is God. I love, you know, kind of, the Andy Warhol's I'm big on right now. I love the Strokes. I've always been a fan of Bjork. I love her. I love listening to National Public Radio; their eclectic mix is always great. And Sade is great. Jill Scott. The Roots. All over the place. It's good music.
WHAT'S THE HARDEST PART OF FILMING?
AH: Keeping my energy level up. Because I was in pretty much every shot of every scene, and that is a very big deal. You know, just being on the set for like three and a half months, and trying to be a pleasant person to everybody but also having that space to do your job and have a good time doing it. Trying to balance all of that. And then I guess trying to be in Ireland and not indulge in all the beer and the bread, is pretty hard too, it's so good. Oh my God, Guinness, hello?
DID YOU HAVE A FAVORITE FAIRY TALE GROWING UP?
AH: I did. Actually, I had a bunch, because my parents bought me this huge hard-cover volume of Grimm's Fairy Tales, and I used to stay up late reading them. They're fantastically violent so I used to love reading them with a flashlight to freak myself out. But my favorite, I always loved the Snow Queen, and I really loved the Fisherman and His Wife, I thought that was a cool story.
WHAT ARE YOU READING NOW?
AH: Right now I just finished this fantastic book called 'Empress Orchid,' and so I'm actually looking for a new book, so right now I'm just sort of, I'm reading 'Self Reliance' by Emerson. And I'm reading 'Letters to a Poet' by Rilke. Well, he didn't know that they would be published, but they're his letters. They're so, so beautiful, and my friend Therese has been trying to get me to read Rilke for years, and I always forget, whenever I go to the bookstore, to pick him up, and it was just a gift from someone. So it's kind of, it's kismet, literary kismet.
ARE YOU GOING TO VOTE?
AH: I'm voting for Kerry, and I'm a staunch anti-Busher. Right now I'm trying to kind of get to know Rock the Vote and Declare Yourself. Obviously my own personal belief shouldn't my influence my passion for, how I believe that young people need to get out there and vote. How everybody needs to get out there and vote, and become very engaged and aware of what the issues are that are out there. Right now there's a young actress that I've been getting to know named Amber Tamblyn, and she's starting a little organization for young celebrities, those who are interested in politics or at least being activists so I've been talking to her quite a bit, she's amazing.
HOW DID YOU DEVELOP THE CHEMISTRY WITH HUGH DANCY?
AH: Lots of late-night drinking sessions. No, I'm just kidding. We were in Ireland. No, Hugh, we had it from the first time we met, his audition. I mean, people often ask me if I fell of my chair for the 'Princess Diaries' audition. I did. For his Char audition I fell of my chair again, but just because I thought, 'Oh my God, I get to work with this guy for three months? Woo-hoo.' And then I fell over. I don't think it's something, I mean, you can work on the pacing or the dialog and the banter. We watched a lot of old films, a lot of Katherine Hepburn Spencer Tracy films. We watched 'Roman Holiday' together, we had a lot of conversations about it. But ultimately, when we got to the set we just sort of looked into each other's eyes and hoped that it would be there.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE SMALLER CHARACTERS?
AH: It's so hard to say, because I've always had a soft spot for the Ogre nish[?]. I just love it when he's like, he's trying to be all tough, and then he's like, 'I used to be an Ogre of Leisure,' and he gets very serious. I remember we were shooting it, and Jim[?] got actually very teary eyed when we were shooting it. I love that. And I love the character of Heston, just because I think he adds that little- without Heston the movie would just be kind of annoyingly sweet. So he just kind of brings in a touch of reality at certain moments, when I think certain cynical audience members would want to say those things out loud, Heston comes in an actual says them. So it's good, it allows us to keep the film kind of light and fun.
WAS HE ACTUALLY THERE?
AH: No, it was all CGI. So it was like imagining you're stepping on him. At the end, right there, it was like imagine you're kicking a snake's head. I said, 'How the hell do you imagine that? Honestly. Honestly.'
THIS MOVIE HAS MUCH IN COMMON WITH 'WIZARD OF OZ'. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
AH: To be perfectly honest, I didn't notice it until someone else pointed it out to me when I was about halfway through filming. I think just the whole notion of a young girl going off on a journey, and Dorothy is obviously trying to get back home. Ella is trying to rid herself of something unwanted. But both of them have to find, both of them are challenged in ways that they never could had imagined based on what their lives had been like before. And are made much stronger because of the journey, because of what they learn about themselves.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN A BOYFRIEND?
AH: Are you sure that's a teen question?
DID YOU WAIT TILL YOU WERE 21 TO DRINK?
AH: No. I mean, obviously, because I was in Ireland and it's legal at 18. You're not gonna get me! So, but, for the first one what I'm looking for is ultimately someone who, if we were to break up we would want to be best friends for the rest of our lives. That's what they're looking for. That means you find somebody that makes you laugh, and somebody that, you know, you have fun getting dressed up and going out dancing with, but you also understand that Sunday afternoons are meant to be spent in sweats and going out for coffee and watching movies and just being silly. Someone you can be silly with and have no problem talking to. That's like the ultimate, ultimate guy, and in the interim I'm just looking for someone to make me think. With all that, too, who likes to read. You know, kind of an artist. It's a tall order, I know, I'm sorry. I better stop myself otherwise I'm going to keep going.
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