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Anne Hathaway seeks royal status

The 'Les Miserables' actress believes she has finally lost the stigma of 'The Princess Diaries.' She is in serious pursuit of joining the Hollywood elite.

December 27, 2012|By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times

"I see the sort of work that people like Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet can do, and I want to do that level of work so badly," said the actress, who was nominated for an Oscar for "Rachel Getting Married" but didn't win (the three women she referenced all have Oscars to their names). "But I don't believe I'm as gifted as them. So the only thing I can control is how hard I work at it — how much do I commit to it? How far will I take it?"

Almost too far, if you ask Hooper, who said he attempted to stop the actress from losing 25 pounds for "Les Miz."

"To be honest, I thought she was going further than she should, and I tried to discourage her," he said.

"Tom didn't like what I was doing, but he understood why I was doing it," Hathaway countered. "No one liked what I was doing. By the end, people were hugging me and they would get emotional because I felt so frail."

Preparing for Fantine

Holed up at one of her favorite West Hollywood sushi joints on a rainy evening last week, Hathaway's cheeks were no longer shrunken. Her hair — which she decided to hack off into a boyish cut for the film — had begun to grow back but still didn't come close to reaching the collar of her sweater. She was no longer depriving herself, freely ordering a smattering of vegan-friendly Japanese offerings for the table.

When a waitress approached a few minutes later carrying two vegetarian hand rolls, the actress began singing to the tune of the Pointer Sisters. "I'm so excited! To eat yummy food!" she crooned.

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Alternating between the hand rolls and spinach ohitashi, she tried to explain why she insisted on getting so gaunt for the part.

"If I have an extra glass of wine the night before I shoot a scene," she said, "I don't feel good about myself because of that. If I see it on-screen, the guilt is immediate. I feel like maybe I've let the scene down."

To prepare for the role, Hathaway also took voice lessons for months and practiced crying in the mirror, so she could control her face when emotion struck on set. But she also "mined some serious pain," as Hooper says, conjuring up a darkness that seems so contrary to the cheery, unshakable Hathaway who often turns up on red carpets and late-night talk shows. While filming the musical's critical "I Dreamed a Dream" number, she felt her anger multiplying, she said, her hope waning.

"The second all of those feelings that Fantine was feeling were turned on me, they were savage — they were animalistic, they had teeth and talons and they were shredders," she said. "I tried not to think about myself that day because I was in a very unkind place. Fantine did nothing wrong. And I think that's where I was getting in a lot of pain because of it. She's innocent."

Hathaway insisted Hooper let her perform over a dozen takes of "I Dreamed a Dream," even after he said he'd gotten the perfect performance on Take 4. She wanted to see if she could make it any different, any better, any more — "any anything." But after she'd given 20 more takes, Hooper told her to call it quits.

"And I was like, 'Fair enough.' I never bettered it," she explained.

Asked if she is pleased with the version that appears in the final cut, she shrugged half-heartedly.

"Eh."

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Part of her quest for perfection stems back to her mother, who quit acting to raise Anne and her two brothers in New Jersey after the "Les Mis" tour. "I think I've always taken acting very seriously and almost with a certain degree of earnestness because my mother was so talented and didn't work a lot," she explained.

It's clear her mother's approval is important to her. After one of the early performances of a 2009 Shakespeare in the Park production of "Twelfth Night," the actress was told by her mom that her portrayal of the cross-dressing Viola wasn't on-point.

"She was like, 'Look, I see where you're going with it. It's certainly not bad. But you've got a ways to go,'" the younger Hathaway said. "I knew she was right, and she was being fair."

In April, Hathaway is set to start filming the sci-fi thriller "Robopocalypse" with one of her childhood heroes, Steven Spielberg. In the fall, she and her husband plan to produce a film together that Hathaway will star in as a woman who spends a magical week with a stranger. With Fantine under her belt, Hathaway seems to have liberated herself from years of pressure to prove and redefine herself.

"I just feel that now I'm being viewed very differently," she said. After other roles, she said, "I'd think — 'Oh, this is the moment' — I'm playing a recovering drug addict. But there was always a kind of push back, like, 'Oh, she's not that sexy.' People were trying to put me in the good girl category or the bad girl category, and this is the first time I've ever been seen as a whole."

Part of her new ease may also have to do with her domestic life. Toward the end of dinner, Hathaway paused to text her husband, who would soon join her at the restaurant for food. She gushed about Shulman like a giddy schoolgirl, recounting how they cook and listen to music and dance at home.

"I know it sounds really eager, but I'm super psyched to be married," she said. "I feel very blessed in this moment, because I'm going through something that you could easily get swept up in, and I just want to go home and hang out with my husband every day. Letting yourself be taken care of is the most remarkable experience. I don't fall apart as much, because I know I can."

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

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