Though our interview has been planned for weeks and confirmed repeatedly by her publicist, it’s still something of a surprise when Anne Hathaway walks through the doors of the rustic New York cafe she’s chosen as our meeting place. It is less than a month since her highly publicized breakup with her boyfriend of four years—the man with whom she’d been house hunting, whom she seemed to think she’d marry—30-year-old Italian businessman Raffaello Follieri. And it’s less than three weeks since Follieri was arrested for allegedly scamming his investors by falsely claiming ties to the Vatican and placed in prison with a $21 million bail on charges that could result in a life sentence.
Meanwhile, the press is having a field day. Headlines like THE PRINCESS AND THE CON MAN, blinded by love and burned by a loser coat the newsstands. The New York Post publishes regular reports from “friends” of Follieri about how Hathaway sold him out to the Feds. Even the ever sensitive Donald Trump has issued a statement to ABC News criticizing the actress for failing to stand by her man; he then appeared on Access Hollywood, sneering: “So when he had plenty of money, she liked him, but after that, not as good, right?” Perhaps the worst zinger came from Newsweek, of all places, which titled its report WHAT SHOULD HAVE TIPPED ANNE HATHAWAY THAT HER EX-BOYFRIEND WAS BIG TROUBLE? A—CROOKED DAD. B—BAD CHECKS. C—ALLEGED POPE SCAM. D—ALL OF THE ABOVE.
Ditching an interview in favor of hiding under her covers would not have been the most unreasonable of actions. Nevertheless, when Hathaway appears, precisely on time, she immediately launches into peppy and charming small talk about the New York Times crossword puzzle under her arm and the bulky, antiquated tape recorder I’ve placed on the table. “Oh, hello, 1992!” she chuckles delightedly.
But all the cheerful banter in the world could not obscure Hathaway’s tired eyes and drawn face, which she has not attempted to mask with makeup. Her hair is pulled back, and her figure, which for several weeks has appeared on the big screen in Get Smart in all its solid, curvaceous glory, is now more slender than ever, resembling something closer to a ballerina’s form than that of an ass-kicking secret agent. She is dressed in jeans and a short-sleeve plaid blouse, and around her neck she wears a pendant containing an antique lottery ticket. “I figure if it was a winning ticket, it would not have been discarded,” she says, “so essentially I walk around with an unlucky lottery ticket around my neck.” The overall effect is, well, heartbreaking. But there is also something very beautiful about Hathaway in this state, a delicateness not normally associated with the 25-year-old actress. On film, her face, with its prominent features—dark eyebrows, bulbous lips—can veer between the gorgeous and the awkward. Today, her features look almost tiny, mousy. Even her mouth, often compared to Julia Roberts’s when it breaks into a broad smile, looks dainty, perhaps because the broad smiles are in short supply.
Because the elephant in this room is threatening to crush us from the get-go, I mention that I’m a bit surprised she showed up. “Right now I don’t have the wherewithal to be anything except professional,” she admits wanly. “As soon as I found out about the arrest, I had to get on a plane to Mexico to do a press tour for Get Smart. And then I spent a week in shock at a friend’s house. And then I had to go back and do more press, and I haven’t stopped since.
“At different stages of my life, I’ve felt I’ve been two ages simultaneously,” she continues in a slow, measured cadence. “I’d be a professional working adult and also a typical 13-year-old. Right now I have the distinct feeling that I’m two ages again, and the older part of me that I relied on many times in the past in difficult moments, that’s the part that got me here today. That’s the part that says, ‘You do your job, you keep your head up.’”
Hathaway declines to discuss specifics about Follieri, the scandal, what she knew or when she knew it—there have been reports that investigators have approached her for information, and she could be called as a trial witness—but she is candid about what it feels like to have your personal life abruptly implode. She’s been staying at a friend’s downtown since moving out of the midtown apartment she shared with Follieri, which was searched by the authorities. “I have to find a place to live,” she says numbly. But then her voice catches with emotion and pools form at the corners of her eyes as she struggles to articulate her messy mix of feelings. “It’s a situation where the rug was pulled out from under me all of a sudden,” she says. “But just as suddenly, my friends threw another rug back under me. One said, ‘Go stay at my house.’ And Steve Carell [her Get Smart costar] stepped up for me during an interview when someone asked a question [about it]. He said, ‘At some point you’re going to have to talk about this time in your life. You don’t have to do it this week. I’ll take care of anything that comes your way.’
“I’ve been shown such kindness,” she continues, wiping at an errant tear. “Not everyone gets that. A lot of people go through tough times alone.”
Hathaway has less to say about the beating she’s taking in the press. “What’s going on is so much bigger than all that,” she says. “Though it’s crazy that things like that Newsweek article have become small stuff.” One eyebrow arches with ironic resignation. She declares that she has no desire to correct any of the misinformation that’s padded much of the scandal coverage, though a week later she sends an e-mail addressing a recent Page Six item: “I did not abandon my dog, Esmeralda, and no one had to ask me to go and get her. In fact, the day before that particular news item broke I had arranged to have her picked up and taken to my parents’ apartment.” (Hathaway’s mother, a former stage actress, and her father, a lawyer, also live in Manhattan.) “My dad likes telling the story,” the e-mail continues, “in a funny/sad sort of way, that Esmeralda was at [their] house watching herself on Access Hollywood as Nancy O’Dell or someone asked, ‘Where in the world is Esmeralda?’”
Indeed, even as she struggles to force down a third of the omelet she’s ordered, Hathaway’s sadness is laced with a rather endearing wryness at the melodrama of it all. On the table, underneath her newspaper, sits a copy of Gandhi’s autobiography. “I’m reading that and When Things Fall Apart. Go figure,” she says. Though she recognizes the inanity of the media reports that attempt to villainize her, it’s clearly difficult for Hathaway to cut herself some slack. She’s prone to being hard on herself, to holding herself to high standards, to fretting. “On the scale of someone who’s really laid-back about stuff and someone who worries a lot,” she notes, “I fall more towards the latter.”
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the whole affair is that it came in the midst of an emotional growth spurt for the Brooklyn-born, New Jersey–bred actress. No one is more cognizant of this shift than Hathaway, who speaks frankly about how she didn’t always carry off her ambition with grace. “I was not the most fun girl to be around,” she says about her time filming The Princess Diaries 2 at age 21. “It was a very young moment for me. God love the patient, wonderful Garry Marshall.” Marshall, who directed the original and the sequel, jovially says, “She was great in the first picture, when she didn’t know much of anything, but in the second picture, she was an expert. That often happens. She wanted to play something different by then; she didn’t want to keep the tiara on. I remember at a junket,” he adds, laughing, “she was talking Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, and Disney was getting nervous, and I said, ‘Annie, why don’t you talk about your hair a little; we’ll talk Nietzsche later.’ But that’s why I love Annie! When you look in her eyes, somebody’s always home, which is rare.”
Hathaway has done a lot of growing up since then, but nowhere more so than on the set of Rachel Getting Married, Jonathan Demme’s vérité-style film, out in October. It’s about a recovering drug addict named Kym, played by Hathaway, who leaves rehab for the weekend to attend her sister’s wedding. Demme became a close friend and mentor to Hathaway. “I was 17 when I made The Princess Diaries,” she says. “I was at the nucleus of such a large organism, and Garry [Marshall] made me feel that I was the most important person on set every day. And from there…sometimes when I would talk to adults, they would be taken aback by how forward I was. And I was very oblivious to it.” She recalls the moment when that changed. “One day on Rachel Getting Married, Jonathan altered something in the script, and I said, ‘Jonathan! Why did you change this?! It was better the other way and here’s A, B, C, D, E, F, G why!’ And he smiled at me and said, ‘Hey, Annie? Maybe instead of telling me why I’m wrong, you could ask me why I made the choice I made.’” With that response, she says, memories of herself being dismissive or abrasive on sets past came rushing back. “I instantly felt so ashamed,” she says. “I didn’t mean to be disrespectful to people, but that’s exactly what I had done for years.”
But even as she was sometimes overly assertive—though one does get the sense that Hathaway tends to exaggerate her own flaws—she was also racked with insecurity. “Robyn Hitchcock, a musician who worked on Rachel, has this great line in one of his songs: ‘I’m not an integrated person.’ That’s the way I feel most of the time,” she says with a grin that manages to be both bashful and sardonic. “I feel like I have to apologize for myself in front of most people.”
Early on in her film career she even contemplated quitting acting. “I wasn’t sure if I was any good at it,” she says. Her pride in her performance in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain as Jake Gyllenhaal’s bitter wife convinced her not to leave Hollywood, but insecurity still lurked below the surface. That, along with her natural diligence, prompt her to, perhaps, over-research her roles. (She developed a handwriting style for Rachel Getting Married, even though her character does no writing onscreen.) During the filming of her breakout movie, 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, director David Frankel says he was astounded by Hathaway’s seriousness and sensitivity, but he noticed that those traits were also limitations. “Annie throws herself so deeply into things that sometimes you have to pull her back out,” he says. “I remember a big scene we almost couldn’t shoot because Annie had such commitment to identifying with the anxiety of the character that she made herself ill.”
Hathaway is the first to admit that her intensity can be paralyzing. “Emily Blunt kind of changed my approach to acting,” she says of her Prada costar, who has become a close friend. “She just f---ing got on with it. She’d just jump off the diving board. I’d stop, look at the water and then jump. And suddenly I just thought, Why, her way looks so much more fun.”
She was able to shed her inhibitions on Rachel, which features an unwieldy cast of musicians, poets and performance artists portraying Rachel’s wedding guests. “Filming was kind of like going to artistic master-class summer camp,” says Hathaway. “It was not the usual movie set with big trailers and having to ask to go to the bathroom. I was always really into theater, and I’d always hoped I’d find a community of artists to nestle my way into. On this movie I felt like I had a tribe. And everyone had their own process, so you couldn’t look odd, which was lovely. I felt free of my rather overwhelming self- consciousness. I was in an environment where failure was okay.”
“I knew she’d give a great performance,” says Demme. “But I didn’t realize how deep and gut-wrenching it’d be. But nothing she’s done yet has even scratched the surface. Annie is so powerful—I keep getting these flashes of Katharine Hepburn when I talk about her.”
Blunt believes that the combination of her recent personal trials and the filming of Rachel Getting Married have initiated a sort of rebirth for Hathaway. “She puts pressure on herself, but I think she’s at a point where she can breathe and discover her whole bag of tricks,” says the British actress. “She has this newfound sense of confidence, and as her friend, that’s very exciting to see.”
With such momentum propelling her—in addition to Rachel, Passengers, a thriller with Patrick Wilson, opens in October; Bride Wars, a comedy costarring Kate Hudson, hits screens in early 2009; and this fall she’ll make her debut as the face of Lancôme’s new fragrance, Magnifique—Hathaway should probably be consumed with choosing and preparing for a slew of challenging roles. But lately she’s become convinced that she needs quite the opposite: a break. “I was up in Nyack [New York] the other night visiting Jonathan and his family,” she says wistfully. “They all had so much going on. And I just started to cry because I thought, I don’t have a life right now. And I haven’t for some time, and I just haven’t noticed.” So instead of transforming into a princess or a secret agent or a drug addict, at the time of our meeting Hathaway was hoping her next project would be working with Demme on location in Delaware on his upcoming documentary about Bob Marley—as a production assistant. “In the fall I’ll start focusing again,” she says. “But right now I need to be me for a little bit.”
Hathaway once said in an interview that her greatest fear is loneliness. Surely now that fear must loom larger than ever. But the actress, who calls herself an “optimistic fatalist—I assume bad things will happen, but I’m hopeful that maybe they won’t,” cautiously rejects this idea. “I’ve realized,” she says, “that no one is as good at making me feel isolated as I am. It’s something I did in the past.” Fortunately, difficult times have their rewards. “I’ve realized I have a lot of people in my life who, for whatever reason, love me very much. So I don’t think I’ll do that again.”