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Love & Other Drugs - Anne Hathaway interview

Anne Hathaway in Love & Other Drugs

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ANNE Hathaway talks about some of the challenges – both emotional and physical – of playing a character with early onset Parkinson’s Disease in Love & Other Drugs and why she feels the nudity in the film helps with its emotional sincerity.

She also talks about why she’s still learning how to handle things as an actress and when to ask for help, as well as why she would like to be more like Maggie [her character].

Q. What was the main attraction of Love & Other Drugs for you?
Anne Hathaway: I really believed Jamie and Maggie’s love on the page and I’d had such a wonderful time working with Jake on Brokeback Mountain I believed that we could get there again, hopefully with greater results because we didn’t really love each other that much the last time. The more conversations I had with Ed [Zwick] and Marshall [Herskovitz, screenwriter] the more it became apparent to me that it was an odd adventure worth taking.

Q. One of the key scenes in the movie is where Maggie asks Jamie to list four things he likes about himself. Could you do that about yourself in real life if I asked you to?
Anne Hathaway: Now? I can think of few things more painful than naming four good things about yourself in front of a room of journalists! [Laughs] I think, though, that the reason you can trust that we like each other is that we would also tell you four bad things about each other too.

Q. The scene at the Parkinson’s convention… did that involve real people with Parkinson’s? And if so, how did they help you?
Anne Hathaway: Yes, a few people were actors and a few people weren’t. They all had Parkinson’s. The woman who is most heavily featured in that scene, the sort of the MC of the support group, she is an actress and she works with a disabled person’s theatre group in Denver actually. I spoke with her before she was cast in the movie and she gave me a lot of different insights about it. I spoke with a few different people with early onset Parkinson’s Disease… not just about the physical symptoms, or what the side effects were from the medication, or what it was like to be on that kind of a schedule, but also the anxiety of being sick and what it was like to have Stage 1.

I think we make it very clear in the film that Stage 1 is very much about good days and bad days, and so then from talking to people everyone asked me: “Has she accepted her diagnosis yet?” It was that which led me to believe that there’s a whole world of anxiety before you come to that moment. Michael J Fox very eloquently and gracefully describes his relationship with Parkinson’s as having evolved to a place where he thinks of it as a gift, but it’s quite a journey to get there and I think one of the strengths of the film – and one of the things that drew me to my character – is the articulation of that journey and getting to play that.

Q. How did you feel about doing so much nudity and would you have done it if you weren’t in such incredible shape?
Anne Hathaway: I’ll take the second question first, when it came to decide how the character would look I did a lot of research into the side effects that Parkinson’s medication has on the human body and I actually found that in the majority of cases it causes people to lose weight, so that was my jumping off point for how I was going to look in the film.

So, the nudity wasn’t resting on that sort of cheeky observation [smiles]. Had the medication caused people to gain weight and I would have gained weight and still done the nudity because I think the nudity is a really essential part of the story and shows the intimacy that Jamie and Maggie feel together and how their relationship shifts from sex into love. I think the film is a really wonderful and truthful exploration of intimacy in a relationship.

Q. You are required to be very intimate during those scenes and to act a lot of scenes involving a lot of different emotions. How challenging was that?
Anne Hathaway: I think because the nude scenes are somewhat out of the norm, even though doing nudity really is sort of a part of being an actress… you’re aware that at some point it might happen. I think that everyone wants to be respectful of each other and wants to make each other feel as comfortable as possible, so I think those days sort of have a focus. We really approached it from a very prepared place. We discussed what we wanted to do beforehand, we discussed what we were comfortable with, we traded references from other films in order to establish a sort of an index of communication and references that we could all share.

So, by the time it came time to do those scenes we were very well prepared. Some of the intimate scenes required even more trust and were even more difficult to get to and to get yourself into that place and sustain it for a long period of time, to be able to return back to those emotions again and again and again. Physical challenges are one thing, but to actually leave yourself open and to mean it like that I found it to be quite difficult some days and that’s why I was so grateful that I had Jake as a partner, who was so sensitive in the love scenes, and even more so during the emotional scenes.

Q. Can you see yourself in Maggie?
Anne Hathaway: I wish I had some of Maggie’s toughness and temper. I wish that I was a more confrontational person like her. I had a lot of fun playing that but I’m pretty diplomatic… although I’m a Scorpio, so don’t cross me [laughs]!

Q. One of the most powerful scenes is when your character runs out of medication and turns to vodka. What sort of emotional and physical toll does doing stuff like that leave on you personally?
Anne Hathaway: I’m still learning a lot about how to do my job on camera and off, and this job really confused me in a lot of ways. I didn’t know how not to take her home with me. I think in some ways because she’s such a different character than me, I was afraid to let her go at the end of the day because I thought: “Oh my gosh, what if she’s not there in the morning?” We were shooting at a bit of a breakneck pace… not as quickly as Jake had to shoot, but still pretty quickly for such intense emotions. I think that I was afraid of a lot, which normally I can talk through, I can work with people I trust, I can move through it.

But I was also playing a character who was trying to avoid feeling fear and so my comfort with my fear at her discomfort with hers and her attempt to avoid it, and by inability to let it go at the end of the day made for some very confused and tearful nights. Those scenes were difficult to film. Oddly enough, I would have these little panics before we’d shoot the close-ups and become terrified that I wasn’t being truthful enough and Ed really had to sit there with me, hold my hand and be very patient and talk me through it. And I hate being that kind of needy actor… I love just showing up and doing my job and that didn’t happen this time.

So, I learned an awful lot, just like my character, about what it’s like to need people around you, and what it’s like on the days when you can’t get there yourself. Those are difficult lessons to learn but I’m just so lucky that Ed and Jake were the boys that I got to learn them with.

Q. You mention other movies, so was there any stage when reading the script that you worried you might turn into Ali MacGraw in Love Story?
Anne Hathaway: I was more concerned that people were going to be reminded of Total Recall [laughs]. I actually am embarrassed to say that I’ve never seen Love Story and so I can honestly say it was not on my mind. But from what I understand in that film, Ali MacGraw has a terminal case of cancer and Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease, which inherently changes the discussion and the story. It’s no longer: “I’m going to stick by you until the end, which is soon…” To: “Am I going to stick by you to the end, which is not guaranteed to be any time soon and is going to get increasingly difficult as time goes on.” So, I guess the arcs of the characters might be somewhat similar, I wasn’t worried that the stories were similar because they’re not.

Read our review of Love & Other Drugs

Read our interview with Edward Zwick