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Alice in Wonderland - Anne Hathaway interview

Anne Hathaway in Alice in Wonderland

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ANNE Hathaway talks about playing The White Queen in Alice in Wonderland, taking some inspiration from Nigella Lawson and working with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

She also talks about her career to date, why she feels luck has played a big part and why Jonathan Demme also became a hero.

Q. You’ve played a princess and now you’re a queen. How do you view your career?
Anne Hathaway: I attribute so much of my career to luck. My mother always told me that luck is preparation meets opportunity. And I’ve been given extraordinary opportunities to work with filmmakers long before I was talented enough to deserve to work with them. But I’ve learned a lot from them and I just kind of keep getting hired. So, I just feel extremely lucky.

Q. Who is The White Queen?
Anne Hathaway: The thing I find interesting about The White Queen and what I played around with is that she is someone who is trying to fulfil her own and other people’s expectations of what it is to be a queen and a leader. But as a person, she’s very different. I think she understands that she has to be queen in order for her sister not to be queen. But I think she would have been just as happy being an alchemist, or the alchemist to the queen. I think she would have liked to share the crown with her sister. She may even have been happy if her sister had been the queen, so long as she didn’t cut people’s heads off! For her, her ‘queenliness’ was a duty – one that she was happy to embrace.

But I think there’s a lot more to her than just being the queen. I think it’s really interesting that her explanation for The Red Queen’s behaviour is that she had something pressing on her brain. What she doesn’t say is that the part of her brain that’s being pressed on is this dark part of her that has no compassion, and that is extremely angry and selfish. The White Queen has witnessed this grow in her sister and knows she has that part of brain in her too. So, I think her attitude to her sister is: “There but for the grace of God go I.” But that’s why I love her.

Q. You also bring a lot of humour to her?
Anne Hathaway: Thank you. I’ve got to say, I was really inspired by Tim’s movies in terms of humour for the character. He’s so funny. But that’s the thing about Tim as a filmmaker; he’s great at everything. A lot of times filmmakers will be amazing at visuals but have no sense of humour; or they’ll know how to be funny but won’t know how to get performances out of the actor; or the performances are amazing but visually the film’s kind of flat. He does everything and he’s created a new aesthetic that has left such a lasting mark on the world. I just think he’s amazing.

Q. What was the experience of working with Tim like?
Anne Hathaway: I just think the world of Tim as a person, and as a filmmaker. I just find working to be a joy, period. But to work with someone that I’ve respected since I was eight is pretty amazing. As a director, he’s pretty similar. He’s funny and brilliant and generous and open and playful. He also shoots fast. It was a dream job in so many ways.

Q. Do you get nervous when you work with someone like that?
Anne Hathaway: Oh yeah, I was completely intimidated but I only had two weeks on this movie, but because it was a dream come true I didn’t want to waste any time with my own issues. So, I just decided that every day I was going to show up and take everything in and be positive, and to really just pretend like I belonged there! So, I did!

Q. Do you have a favourite of his movies?
Anne Hathaway: That’s a tough one. I have a special spot in my heart for Beetlejuice, because that’s the first of his movies I’d ever seen. The two Batman movies he made… I thought what he did with Catwoman was just so interesting. Really, honestly, I can’t choose one. I love them all for different reasons. But I think the thing about Tim is that he can only really be measured against himself. He’s not afraid of anything, either. He does so many different types of stories. I love when he gets to be in places that allow him to have an open playground, like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Alice. But I love how with other movies that maybe other people would make a little more conventionally, he actually brings his playground to the table – like with Big Fish.

Q. Is it also true to used Nigella Lawson for some inspiration?
Anne Hathaway: I found the Nigella reference very helpful… the way she’s so passionate about food and especially her descriptions of it. That was a help to me in the cooking scene – more so when she’s in the kitchen than any of the other scenes. I’m misquoting her but Nigella is always talking about ‘a cacophony of flavours that jump out’. I wanted to give The White Queen a kind of sensuality in the kitchen. Of course, she’s talking about buttered fingers and things like that… and then makes herself wretch!

Q. How did you react when you saw yourself as The White Queen for the first time?
Anne Hathaway: You know what? It’s too hard to watch yourself on-screen and be objective. I was taking in so much of the film that I didn’t really notice myself. But I loved the film and I think it’s such a tremendous achievement for Tim as a filmmaker, I think the cast is extraordinary. I think the special effects people should all be so proud of themselves. I’m super-positive and happy about it.

Q. How was working with Johnny Depp?
Anne Hathaway: He’s everything you want him to be and quite a bit more. He’s just a guy… a real person and I say that with the utmost respect, because he’s one of the most famous and beloved people on the planet. I think the reason that people love him so much is because he is so real and because he’s marching to his own beat. As an actor, he’s mind-blowing. I mean, has there ever been anyone as imaginative and as skilled as him? Who has such emotional depth, and who you can watch endlessly on-screen? He’s just the most extraordinary combination of elements and I have so much respect for him. A huge thrill of just getting to do this film was being able to watch him work, and go in between the angry, dark side of The Mad Hatter and then come back and be genuinely mad. When he says: “Am I going mad?” It’s like: “Yes sweetie!”

Q. How do you find your own Wonderland? What do you do to get away from movies?
Anne Hathaway: I’m lucky I’m friends with a lot of artists and filmmakers and creators. My life is pretty wonderful. I’m one of those rare, lucky people – and there’s a small percentage of them on the planet – who gets to do what they love; and really, really, really love. It’s a job that, even when people love it, they don’t often get to do. So, my life kind of feels like a Wonderland.

Q. Is there a down side? The paparazzi?
Anne Hathaway: Yeah, but there’s down sides to every job, isn’t there? I think if I didn’t love my job so much all that stuff would probably be the end of me. But it’s what I have to put up with to act, and to get to have experiences like the one I’m having right now… working with Tim, etc. So, I can’t really complain.

Q. What was a turning point for you in your career in helping you to find your own identity?
Anne Hathaway: Working with Jonathan Demme and being cast in Rachel Getting Married. Getting to have whole experience and being able to make that movie in the way we did, in a communal way where… it’s kind of like this one where everybody showed up wanting the film to be special, and wanting to throw themselves into it. I’ve had so many unbelievable experiences on movie sets but that one was the way I kind of imaged it would be when I got started.

He [Jonathan] is just this fearlessly positive person… I thought that sometimes being that open might leave you vulnerable, but he proved to me that it doesn’t. He respects the world around him, he loves movies and in an incredibly respectful but unpretentious way. And he just came into my life at a moment when I needed all of that really badly, because I was feeling a little lost. All of a sudden I had a hero. It’s like the people of Wonderland with Alice… they needed a hero and I needed one too. But acting has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. When I was a kid, it was the way I related to the world – by playing make believe. Alice in Wonderland is actually a story that’s very dear to my heart because I routinely believe in impossible things.

Q. What makes it [Alice] so timeless?
Anne Hathaway: I think because it encourages people to believe in the impossible and because it presents the impossible in such a true way. I think because it represents childhood as not this idyllic time, but as a confusing and often times overwhelming and real and emotional and fantastical and imaginative. I think there’s a lot to relate to.

*Q. Would you have liked to play Alice?8
Anne Hathaway: I would have played a mushroom if Tim had asked me to! I was so thrilled to play The White Queen.

Q. Weren’t you supposed to have been in Sweeney Todd?
Anne Hathaway: I don’t know where that rumour came from. When I heard he was doing Sweeney Todd, I did a full court press to lobby to be in it, but I was told immediately that he wanted to cast age appropriate, really young actors for the parts of Joanne and Anthony. I was too old! I think I was 23.

Q. What kind of tips would you give girls who want to act?
Anne Hathaway: Well, first and foremost is make sure it’s what you really, really, really want to do because it’s very hard and it’s heartbreaking at times. If you have any other interests, you should pursue them. That being said, it’s the greatest job in the world. You have to be doing it for the right reasons, though, and fame can’t be one of those reasons – or at least I think that personally, because it all becomes very confusing and it demands a lot of you. So, if that’s your motivation it’s not going to get you through.

Also, read as much as you can, study as much as you can, watch as many films and go to as many plays as you can… when you go to school, work 10 times as hard on the thing that interests you the least because the things that I slacked off on I’m still struggling with now. It sounds like I know something… Jesus, I’m such an asshole! These are just some of the things I’ve learned.

Q. Johnny Depp has said he finds it hard to leave his characters behind. Is that the case for you? And which ones have been the hardest?
Anne Hathaway: I find it very hard too because you fall in love with them, and oftentimes you’re the only person that really, really loves them and gets them and accepts them. The hardest one for me to leave behind was Kim from Rachel Getting Married… I miss her so much. I miss her for experience. She has a ferocity to her that I just loved getting to have inside of me.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s a girl who is dealing with illness, but she’s actually the most loving of any character I’d ever played. When I realised that she has nothing but love for everyone… of course, she has tonnes of opinions, tonnes of emotions, she’s a very reactive, caustic and selfish character… BUT that she genuinely would lay down on a train track for anyone. It just doesn’t always come out right. I love that about her… that instinct and having that around. She was a tough one.

Read our interview with Helena Bonham Carter