Last year, during the 75th Cannes Festival celebrations, I made Anne Hathaway - one of Hollywood's biggest stars - cry in front of everyone. I certainly didn't intend to bring the Oscar-winning actress to tears, but the question I directed at her during a press conference - whether she enjoyed portraying a Jewish mother in the film Armageddon Time - touched a sensitive spot.
At the time, Hathaway, who is married to a Jewish man, had only lost her mother-in-law, Jacklyn. The actress shared the profound impact Jacklyn had on her role in Armageddon Time, and on her in real life.
Hathaway's emotional response earned applause even from the most cynical journalists, those who had already seen a sea of tears flow from the eyes of stars. The incident made headlines in media outlets around the world in the following days. Months later, I met Hathaway again, this time in a hotel in Berlin, and I began by apologizing for the question that brought her to tears.
“No, no, no. It's fine,” she was quick to reassure me. “[Jacklyn’s death is] probably going to be a tender spot for the rest of my life. It's all right to be tender.”
Hathaway attended the opening ceremony of the Berlin Festival for the premiere of her new movie She Came to Me. Her red carpet appearance in a tight sheer Valentino Couture gown managed to capture the critics’ attention. Another unforgettable fashion moment from the star who has long been recognized as a fashion icon.
“I was lucky enough to attend the Valentino Couture show in Paris, and Pierre Paolo invited me to preview the collection the day before,” she recalls the first time she laid her eyes on the gown,” And I remember seeing that particular dress and being amazed by the depth of talent and craft in the atelier Valentino. I remember seeing it on the hanger. I saw it when it walked down the runway. It reminded me of Mr. Valentino and his visual iconography, the way he loves a bow. When it was offered to me to wear [the dress] for the premiere, I couldn't think of a better option and I was very pleased to wear it.”
She notes that after starring in The Devil Wears Prada, which delved into the inner workings of the fashion industry, she realized fashion can be akin to high art, yet it also has its share of pretentiousness.
Walking down the path of love
She Came to Me, a romantic comedy directed by Rebecca Miller and produced by Hathaway herself, will be coming to the Haifa International Film Festival, set to take place this coming Sukkot. Hathaway portrays a New York psychologist (and again, Jewish), married to a struggling composer (Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones) who is seeking a muse to complete an opera score.
“This is one of the very best pieces of writing I've ever gotten a chance to perform,” she asserts.
My favorite scene was where you made kreplach (dumplings). Have you ever made kreplach at home, how did you prepare for this scene? “In my head, so many times. I have made Kreplach in my head so, so, so many times,” she says. “I've made dumplings but not kreplach. And I did prepare for it.”
She Came to Me is predicated on a very romantic motive. Do you yourself still believe in romance? “I think we need more grace. I think we need more kindness. I think romance is an aspect of love the way compassion is an aspect of love. I just think we need more love in general. We've tried so many things. We've tried war, we've tried cruelty, we've tried torture, but have we ever really tried love?”
Hathaway states that one of her favorite aspects of the film is the ability to be unique and to change. “The part of the film that I love so much is… the way that people are able to be themselves, be themselves and be loved for exactly who they are without trying to be forced into something that makes them uncomfortable. That is so at odds with the modern world and the way we're all expected to be so defined. And there's a push to turn humans into brands.”
Your character becomes very spiritual throughout the movie, to say the least. Is spirituality important to you too? “I haven't decided if it's too personal yet. Maybe we'll talk about that. At this moment, it feels too personal.”
Not holding back
Brooklyn native Hathaway, 40, the daughter of a lawyer and a stage actress, studied theater, participated in plays, and appeared in the sitcom Get Real alongside Jesse Eisenberg. Her breakout role came in 2001 with The Princess Diaries, catapulting her to overnight stardom.
“I'm so lucky. My first major film was with a director named Gary Marshall (also director of Pretty Woman). And I was so empowered in that process to be as detailed as possible to take this character that was written on the page and turn her into a real person. So everything from the posters that were on her walls, to the shoes that she wore, to the backpack that she had, I was consulted on every single decision that really related to her.”
Following her early success, Hathaway starred in light-hearted films like The Princess Diaries sequel. However, seeking to evolve from her kitschy image, she took on raw roles in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain and as a recovering addict in 2008’s Rachel Getting Married. This shift earned her a Golden Globe for Rachel Getting Married and her first Oscar nomination.
Hathaway went on to star in blockbusters such as Alice in Wonderland and The Dark Knight Rises. Her crowning achievement came with an Oscar win for her transformative role in 2012’s Les Misérables. The Academy often recognizes actors who wholly commit to their roles through significant physical changes. For her portrayal of Fantine, a woman descending into prostitution, Hathaway dramatically cut her hair and lost a significant amount of weight.
So where do you keep your Oscar? “I'm embarrassed to tell you right now. It's a personal question.”
That's not fair. Come on. You can't just say everything’s 'personal.' “No, because it's that question that becomes the headline and it's in a temporary place and it hasn't found its final home yet, but it's not front and center. I'll tell you when it finds its home. I promise. I'm just not ready to answer that one yet.”
This answer well illustrates Hathaway's complex personality – she can be genuine, open-hearted, emotional, but on the other hand, enigmatic, pretentious and fiercely protective of her privacy. Her insistence on being true to herself, not always succumbing to the media or the expectations of her, has come at a cost.
About a decade ago, the debate "Why do we hate Anne Hathaway?" was a favorite topic in the tabloid media. In a poll by the San Francisco Chronicle's website, she was titled "The Most Annoying Celebrity of 2013".
The late comedian Joan Rivers relished mocking and insulting her on her popular show Fashion Polic", and Hathaway’s haters even earned their own hashtag on X (formerly Twitter), Hathahaters.
Her emotional acceptance speeches during the award season for Les Misérables only fueled the ridicule and snark: "Pretentious", "Try hard", "Calculated", "Inauthentic", "Acting", and "There's something annoying about her" were among the labels attached to her, along with the argument, "She doesn’t seem like a genuine person."
The animosity toward Hathaway was so apparent that bloggers, cultural researchers, psychologists and scientists felt compelled to delve into the issue. The conclusion was that the resentment toward her was not necessarily personal but directed at her as someone who represents something broader.
“It’s not really Anne Hathaway I ‘hate,’” Sarah Nicole Prickett, a writer for Vice and The New Inquiry, told the New York Times. “It’s all the lesser, real-life Anne Hathaways I have known — princessy, theater-schooled girls who have no game and no sex appeal and eat raisins for dessert.”
Beside Hathaway stood Lena Dunham, the creator and star of the series Girls. “Ladies: Anne Hathaway is a feminist and she has amazing teeth. Let's save our bad attitudes for the ones who aren't advancing the cause,” she tweeted.
Hathaway also found herself forced to defend herself against the relentless attacks. "It does get to me," she said. "But you have to remember in life that there's a positive to every negative and a negative to every positive."
The best part about parenting
Today, that tough and unfair period is far behind her. She is a respected and sought-after actress and producer ("I got really cool agents and representation and they send me things that they think I like”), she scintillates on red carpets and receives critical acclaim. Her movies are screened in prestigious festivals, from Cannes and Berlin to Sundance. This year, her film Eileen was featured at Sundance and will also be screened at the Haifa Film Festival during Sukkot.
It is an adaptation of Otessa Moshfegh's book about a young, passionate woman who murders another woman, inspired by an older woman (portrayed by Hathaway).
“I love finding characters that I am not sure I am not going to be able to pull off. I love the risk of it, I love the experimentation of it. I'm just drawn to stories that resonate with me in a certain way and sometimes they present as a $100 million movie and sometimes we'll be lucky if we can get $8 million together to tell the story.”
Hathaway also ventured into television, starring last year in the mini-series WeCrashed (on Apple TV Plus) about the rise and fall of Israeli WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann. Hathaway portrayed his ambitious and not-so-successful actress wife, Rebekah Neumann.
“I wasn't sure what [show creators] Lee [Eisenberg] and Drew [Crevello] were going to do with Rebekah at that point, it seemed like maybe the story could go one of two ways. And I wanted to make sure before I signed on that, it was actually going to be a two-hander and that they were going to spend as much time exploring my character as they would [Adam’s], so that it was really about the relationship between the two of them.
"They said that they did. And then I said, ‘but what are we really doing?’ Because I had read the media coverage of them and I just thought I'm not interested in humiliating anybody. I don't want to drag anybody.
"And once I knew that they were invested in exploring my character, that we wanted to explore these people as human beings and not judge them, and that I was going to get to act with Jared Leto, then I was very interested in the whole thing.”
How did you approach playing the role? “I spoke to a few people that knew her and the word that kept coming up was, ‘Oh gosh, she's so sweet.’ And of all the adjectives that I was suspecting, sweet was not one of them. And I thought, ‘God, this is a really, really complicated person.’ And as human beings, we are all a mixture of admirable traits and stuff that we're working on and that we're developing. And it was just very important to me every day that I was playing her, that I really stayed grounded in that, and that knowledge that this was not to be an exercise in superiority. I wasn't looking down at anybody. I certainly wasn't judging anybody. Because I'm just a human being. And so is she.”
Hathaway was also struck by the wonderful chemistry that existed in real life between Adam and Rebekah. “Chemistry is a strong thing. She hadn’t been with anybody for seven years prior to meeting Adam. And I think she just came back from a silent retreat, had been in an ashram, and then that was when she met Adam and with other guys that she'd met, she's like, ‘I liked them, but I could feel a ceiling with them. And there was a place that we could go with Adam. There was no ceiling.’
“I think that it's very understandable that when searching for a romance, we all want something kind of epic and cosmic and extraordinary. But even those types of relationships, even that kind of chemistry, even that kind of spark, it does take work, you can't just let it be, the connection and the energy do all the work for you. You have to show up and tend to it like a garden.”
Speaking of energy, how does it feel to turn 40? “I am really lucky, and I am enjoying my life. Perhaps it’s me or the moment that we live in and the fact that – I am grateful. I don’t feel obligated to be tortured by it, because I am really grateful. The desire to torture people for aging is really misguided and obviously, some people have been misguided. But we have never been here before, I don’t know what is happening tomorrow and also I can’t take for granted that I can get it tomorrow. I don’t have that right. No human does. So I am happy that I’m here. And that’s how I feel about it.”
One of the main reasons for her happiness is her family - her husband, actor and businessman Adam Shulman, and their shared children, Jonathan, 7, and Jack, who will soon turn four. Hathaway and Shulman were married in September 2012, in the romantic Big Sur nature reserve in California, and the wedding incorporated both Christian and Jewish motifs. The menu was mostly vegetarian, as per the bride’s request.
What have you learned from your own children? “I am going to bore everybody. It’s been a completely transformative experience becoming a mother. I think just how amazing it is to be able to take your time and just watching the development of someone’s brain and sense of self and their confidence. To watch how lessons stack on top of lessons has been really revelatory for me because I came up being an actress, and one of the ways I used to motivate myself was to be very, very hard on myself.
"Since having kids, I realized that’s not really the way to do it. If you can motivate yourself through love and self-acceptance - the way we do for our children, we love them and accept them. It’s a much more gentle way of being nascent, it has led to so much more happiness and heart-openness.”
How do you impart to your children that life is not always fair? “I wish it were as simple as telling your children the world is not fair and you are privileged and you must be a good person. You have to peel back the layers of that question and say: ‘What is at the root of all of these things’ and begin there.
"Do you yourself say ‘Thank you’ that’s where I am at right now, is looking at my own behavior and see if I really am the sort of person that I am encouraging my children to be and if I am not doing the best to change it.
“I am trying to teach them by example, ask them questions and try to be honest with them and put it in terms that they understand with the goal of one day having a very frank and serious conversation with them, because at that point I hope that they the sort of person who within the joy of their own life is able to understand serious matters as well. [Armageddon Time director] James [Gray] said the most wonderful thing the other day. He said the greatest side of parenting is having your children tell you you have made a mistake.”