Anne Hathaway has been a film festival staple for the past year, with the premiere of James Gray armageddon time at the Cannes Film Festival and Eileen, the adaptation of Ottessa Moshfegh, in Park City at the Sundance Film Festival last month. Now she’s headed for the Berlin Film Festival with She came to methe latest from writer-director Rebecca Miller (The Ballad of Jack and Rose, Maggie’s Plan).
She came to me, which is set to open the festival, follows an opera composer who is in the midst of a protracted case of writer’s block and has an affair with his therapist-turned-wife (Hathaway) with a love-addicted tugboat captain (Marisa Tomei) . But while the adventure seems to cure writer’s block, it puts his personal life in crisis.
Ahead of the premiere, Hathaway spoke to THR about her hopes for independent film, auditioning for Miller when she was 19 and how A pretty woman introduced her to opera.
She came to me deals with very serious subjects, but it is also deeply funny and has an absurd side. How would you describe the film?
I was trying to talk to someone about it today. They were like, “So how is it?” I said, “It’s kind of a lyrical comedy.” And they were like, “What does that mean?” I was like, “Well, if you see the movie, I think that will make sense.” The idea is that it’s a bit like an opera – it takes a minute to set the scene up, but once it kicks in it’s just overwhelming and beautiful and dimensional and you really get swept up in it. There is a certain moment for me when the table is set, then the meal really begins to be served and everything starts. I say to myself, I don’t want to be anywhere else and I care about these people so much and I support everyone.
How did you get involved?
I start repeating myself with each of these films. I have a list of admins that my reps know and they’re just a blinking “yes”. I just always want to know if they have something, even at the limit of their age. Rebecca Miller is one of them. I was so excited when the script was sent to me, and I read it, and I was charmed by it. I thought the script was great and the project was really promising, but I just wanted to know what the music would be. A lot of this movie really lives off of that. I met Rebecca and after talking with her I knew whatever music was going to be good. I was attached to [the project] for a long time and it came together in different ways, as indie films often do – they come together and then fall apart, then it all clicks together. But throughout, Rebecca really held the center and knew what she wanted to do.
Was the film’s music always conceived as an opera?
It was always opera, which was a big draw for me.
Are you an opera fan?
I’m a fan. I would never say I’m a freak. I’m not at that level. I think like most people, my introduction to opera was A pretty woman. From a very young age, I knew that opera and cinema were going wonderfully, but you hardly ever see it. Then I saw Dreamer, and it’s my favorite operatic comedy of all time. Obviously it’s very different, and I would never dare put us in this business, but to me they are related. They are no different in the sense that they are heightened circumstances. You must suspend belief. It is magic.
What is it about Rebecca Miller movies that made you say, “Anyway, I’m in”?
His work is always so smart and risque and often features smart, complicated women, which I’m just a big fan of. I auditioned for Rebecca when I was 19 and was really smitten with the experience. I’ve never met anyone like her, and I was really drawn to her. I didn’t get the part, but from that day on, I remember she had a sense of destiny in her. I always paid attention to what she was doing and was curious, as a fan, and then I was so, so, so excited when I got the chance to see her again.
Did you see her between the audition for her when you were 19 and the meeting for this film?
No. It was funny, I sat down and she said, “I’m very happy to meet you.” And I said, “Well, I don’t know if you’d remember, but we really did meet.” And I described the audition to him. “I’m in poetry class right now, and I read a poem and it reminds me of this character and I just wanted to leave it to you. So literally decades later, I sat down with her and she said, “Nice to meet you. And I’m like, ‘Well, we’ve met before.’ And she’s like, ‘Really?’ don’t know if you remember, but I brought the poem in. And she’s like, “Oh, that was you!” I was like, “That was me! Hi. I still play.
Both your character in Eileen, which premiered at Sundance, and in this film are therapists. Is that something you thought about when you decided to play one or both roles?
I think the common thread between the women, who are extremely different, is a genuine belief that people can be helped and a desire to be of service in that way. But that’s really where the similarities end. It’s funny, people sometimes ask me if I have a career strategy. And really, really not. It’s very instinctive, in the moment. I am attracted to filmmakers. I am drawn to projects. I am drawn to stories. I’m drawn to characters, but sometimes you have to be careful not to repeat yourself. Also, you can do two things years apart, but then they can come back one after the other. I signed on to this project and Eileen quite far apart, and now they’re at back-to-back film festivals. In fact, I sat with it for a very long time – to figure out if I could play both roles, as if the audience would let me. And what I’ve come to say is you listen to these women for a minute and you realize they’re completely different human beings.
Why was it important for you to also be a producer on this film?
I have to be honest, Rebecca suggested it. I did not expect that. This project came to me as an actress, and I mentioned that it took a bit of time to come to fruition, and Rebecca and I kept talking about it and talking about my character. One day, kind of out of the blue, she just called and she offered me the credit and said, “I really feel like you’ve earned it.” And I was floored. It had never happened to me like this before. I was just honored and touched that she thought of me that way. Isn’t it amazing? You never hear that.
You’ve been to back-to-back festivals for a good part of the year. What are your hopes for independent cinema?
I just want independent cinema to exist, and I want to continue to be invited to be a part of it. It is a place of passion. It is a place of imagination. It’s a place where you push the limits. What’s coming out of it right now is one of the most exciting movies I’ve ever seen. I hope it will prosper, and I hope I will have the chance to be a part of it.
Interview edited for length and quality.