Anne Hathaway is lost, and it's for a very Anne Hathaway reason. She has gamely volunteered to drive me to the train station after our interview at a cozy café in the middle of nowhere, Long Island. It’s an extra-kind gesture, and not just because we generally do not expect our Oscar-winning actresses to chauffeur near-strangers around. She’s leaving town herself in just a few hours, rushing to pack up the summer home she and her husband have enjoyed for the past few months in this low-key area — near the Hamptons physically, but far away in spirit — before heading to Spain for vacation, then back to real life in Los Angeles.
And now, here she is maneuvering her SUV — water bottles and shopping lists (avocados, yogurt) strewn on the floor — through three-point turns in dirt parking lots; speeding along tree-lined country roads with few intersections; and staring at misguided Google maps.
Wearing her cropped hair in a messy bun, zero makeup, and an anonymous blue T-shirt, she looks like she just came from yoga class — because, well, she did. Here, she is “Annie,” which is how she introduces herself today. She makes being lost comfortable, with easy conversation. She apologizes for the lack of music in the car: “I was worried if I turned it on it would be Top 40, and you wouldn’t like that,” she says, then makes a confession: “I love Miley.” As two new co-pilots, we chat among a variety of topics: Britney Spears (she remembers the exact hotel she was in when she heard about Britney’s head-shaving breakdown), her two brothers (one older, one younger), good local places to get cheese, and bikini waxes. (FYI, the latter can get awkward when you’re famous.) She even has an opinion on the ubiquitous first family of E!: “I used to be like everyone else and think the Kardashians are just famous for being famous,” she says. “But I've been really impressed with how supportive Kim Kardashian has been of Caitlyn Jenner.” Time is ticking away toward the train departure time, but I barely mind, at least for the moment.
Hathaway is, clearly, the normest (and nicest) of normcore. While tooling around Long Island with her, it’s easy to forget that, at 32, she’s among the most accomplished actresses of her generation. In fact, it’s easy to forget that even when not tooling around with her, since social media doesn’t remind us daily that she’s appeared in dozens of films since her 2001 breakthrough in The Princess Diaries, a startling number of them critically acclaimed. She’s toggled between crowd-pleasers like The Devil Wears Prada and intense dramas like Brokeback Mountain and Interstellar. She’s been rewarded with one Oscar win (for Les Misérables in 2012) and another nomination (for Rachel Getting Married in 2008). But, at a time when media attention tends to favor extremes — aspirational goddesses like Beyoncé, selfie queens like Kim Kardashian, and impossibly cool girls like Jennifer Lawrence — Hathaway tries to disappear when she’s not working, a quality that doesn’t translate on Twitter and Instagram.
In her newest film, The Intern, a comedy directed by Nancy Meyers that’s in theaters September 25, Hathaway plays the founder of a Brooklyn-based internet fashion company who’s struggling to keep her home life together — she’s also a wife and mom — while her website expands into the e-commerce stratosphere. She finds salvation in her company’s new “senior intern” program — specifically, the retired business executive played by Robert DeNiro. Her character, Jules, is driven, caring, passionate, perfectionistic — exactly the kind of career woman many of us strive to be, and exactly the kind that Hathaway is. “I don’t always relate to my characters, but Jules I really did,” she says over lunch before our little road adventure. “It’s hard to be a person making mistakes in the spotlight, and I related to her on that level. But she is someone who is handling her stress pretty well.”
In that regard, it’s high time we rethink — or at least expand — how we think of “cool” when it comes to our female stars. Hathaway has never cultivated the kind of calculated laissez-faire attitude often celebrated in young actresses of today. She’s not the sort of woman who boasts to red-carpet reporters that she ate three cheeseburgers on the way over. She’s the sort who is poised and polite, articulate and eager. She’s a theater kid who wants to entertain audiences, and she’s visibly driven to make that her career — to, in fact, be the best at it. And, for some reason, that has rubbed some people the wrong way at times. No one seems to care when male actors exhibit a similar drive (well, unless that male actor is named Miles Teller), but much of the world still treats ambitious women as a foreign species not to be trusted.
You won’t hear Hathaway complaining about this. But, she does admit to seeing a double standard for women and men in her profession. “When I was younger, I felt very much like, oh, I have to be a certain way, I have to look a certain way,” she says. “You really, really don’t.” Still, it can be challenging to keep that in mind when the industry holds actresses to such unattainable standards: Be thin, be beautiful, be “likable” (whatever that means). “That’s the way women are treated differently than men,” Hathaway continues. “I mean, I've had actors argue with me about this. They say, ‘Oh, we all have to have six-packs.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, that might be true, but with women, it’s so many things. It’s not just about having a six-pack. I mean, we have to have a six-pack and be able to run in heels.’”
She’s well aware of such judgment, now more than in the beginning of her career, thanks to the relentless instant verdicts the internet issues on anyone it deems ripe for a tearing-down. “It does very much at times feel like we’re living in the days of the Colosseum, where people get the thumbs up and you live, or the thumbs down and you die,” she says. “But the thing is, you won’t die. Sometimes it feels like you will, but you won’t die from humiliation on the internet. You have to get really strong and dig down deep and get really tough. For the first time in my life, I’m feeling comfortable. Not settled, not complacent, but just like I can take whatever is going to come.”
Those who have worked with Hathaway see her as equal parts on-point professional (Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway) and sweet, thoughtful friend (Annie). The Intern’s writer-director Nancy Meyers calls her “a really good girl” but says she cast Hathaway because of “how gifted she is, wise beyond her years.” Meyers adds, “I call her the A-student. She wants to get it right. You can’t fatigue her. She’s not a complainer.” Andrew Rannells, who plays Jules’ second-in-command in The Intern, cherished his in-between-takes time with her, bonding over their shared love of Broadway musicals. “She sang a large portion of Into the Woods for me,” he says. “She was a fun hang — dare I say, a cool girl.”
Like Jules, Hathaway says she struggles with work-life balance. “I have a tendency to go into monk mode, and people in my life know that about me,” she says. “They know that when I’m working on a project, I’m never fully present in my life.” There is, however, a more laid-back side to Hathaway that isn’t on display when she’s in public as an actress, host, or interviewee — i.e., when she’s working. For example, she and her husband of almost three years, actor-producer Adam Shulman, spent the summer on Long Island grilling, doing yoga, playing with their dogs, and swimming. She drove into New York City only a few times, for promotional work or meetings, purposely protecting her downtime.
And here’s something that might surprise you about her: She’s a huge football fan. That’s right — the Oscar-winning theater nerd loves herself some New York Giants (her hometown team) and San Diego Chargers (her adopted West Coast team). Her husband even bought her tickets to a Chargers game for her birthday. The conversion to fandom was recent and swift. When she watched the 2013 Super Bowl, she enjoyed it so much, she decided she wanted to understand the ins and outs of the sport. At the time, she was shooting Interstellar on location in Iceland with Matt Damon and Matthew McConaughey, football fanatics who were happy to walk her through every technicality. “We were stuck inside because of a windstorm, and they just explained all the cool stuff,” she says. “They were so much fun to listen to.” Last season, Hathaway even joined a fantasy football league with Intern co-star Zack Pearlman and came in second place.
But there’s a reason she throws herself into her work: She loves it. She’s wanted to be an actress since she was 3, inspired by seeing her mother perform on stage. “I didn’t fall into it,” Hathaway says of her career. “It was a concentrated, focused thing. I worked really, really, really hard on it. From a young age, I treated it seriously.” As for a career plan, she says her objective has been simple: be as diverse as possible. “I just wanted to do as many different things as I could with as many different directors,” she explains. “I’m like, ‘Oh, you’re doing a Western right now about gay cowboys? Holy shit, great!’ And then, it’s like, ‘Oh, a movie about fashion with Meryl Streep? Okay.’”
Those movies are, of course, Brokeback Mountain and The Devil Wears Prada. Recently, Hathaway and Shulman stumbled upon Prada (in which she stars as a put-upon assistant at a high-fashion magazine) while watching TV. “Adam turned to me and he’s like, ‘Can we please?’ I said, ‘Yeah, okay.’ I can actually watch it now. It takes me a few years not to pick myself apart so much. But it’s such a good movie.”
“She’s a really committed person,” says Hathaway’s friend Emily Blunt, who co-starred with her in Prada. “Every fiber of her being was meant to do this. I love seeing that about her.” That holds true even when Hathaway’s competitive streak comes out blazing, as it did when she went hilariously head-to-head with Blunt on Lip Sync Battle in April. “My delightful friend became this beast,” Blunt says. Not surprisingly, Hathaway won for her go-for-broke rendition — tighty-whities and all — of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.”
There’s a through-line between The Devil Wears Prada and The Intern that goes beyond the two films being set in the world of fashion. In both movies, Hathaway got to play opposite masters: Streep in Prada and DeNiro in The Intern. Streep is an obvious role model for Hathaway, down to her trademark ability to nail an accent, and “Bob Freakin’ DeNiro,” as she calls him, is his own experience. “He’s, like, sweet and powerful, and it cracks me up,” she says. Hathaway delights in revealing this little-known fact about the tough guy who played Jake LaMotta: “The man loves The Bachelor,” she says. In fact, he was thrilled to hear that ads for The Intern were running during Bachelor in Paradise. As proof, Hathaway pulls out her phone and quotes from DeNiro’s email to her and Meyers: “You bet your ass I’m a big Bachelor fan!”
This glee over a 72-year-old man who so assuredly encompasses both legendary thespian prowess and Bachelor fandom speaks to a quality that Hathaway has been learning to cultivate: the confidence to embrace every aspect of herself, despite public scrutiny, no matter what anyone else thinks. She swoons over other stars who manage this. “I am crushing so hard on Amy Schumer,” she says. “Women like her who have chosen to stand up for themselves and face the bullies are being so embraced. I think that’s the new message: Figure out who you are, be happy with yourself, and don’t take anything from anyone. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about you. That’s something that I’ve been growing into.”
Hathaway says this despite a little joke at her expense in Schumer’s summer hit, Trainwreck — in which the comedian scolds Bill Hader’s character for carrying his Doctors Without Borders award with him everywhere, “like Anne Hathaway on Oscars night.” In July, Hathaway saw the movie — which she loved — and posted her ticket stub on Instagram with the comment, “Dear @AmySchumer, Don’t pretend like when you win your Oscar- which you could for your brilliant and refreshing writing and/or acting in @TrainwreckMovie- you won't tote it around to every Oscar party you go to. Way to slay, Annie.” Girl’s got a sense of humor.
(In a happy ending to this exchange, Schumer tweeted this response: “I love you Anne Hathaway. I have no problem selling out and telling you that that was @JuddApatow’s joke he made me say! #truth”)
Hathaway may never be the rebellious shocker that Schumer is (not that she's trying to be), but when asked if she ever just says "fuck it" in her life, she lights up and rattles off her favorite rules to break:
“You can’t do this because you’re a girl: I’m a tomboy, which is its own sub-genre of girl.”
“Don’t wear white after Labor Day: White is a great color and it looks good on me, so I’m going to wear it.”
“You have to be an asshole to get ahead at work: One thing that I love about Jules is she’s a nice boss. She can be a little high-strung and she works everybody like crazy, but she is a nice boss.”
“Never stop moving forward with your career: When you’re burned out and you can’t think straight anymore, if taking time off is an option, do it. You have to be really honest with yourself. Sometimes you need to value your health over your career. I know I say that from a position of privilege, and so many people don’t even get two weeks off a year. But if you do have power over your own schedule, don’t be afraid to say you need a break.”
Hathaway’s vacation from the spotlight will be coming to a close soon, and she’ll emerge from her summer cocoon to hit the promotion trail for The Intern. She's already lined up her next big projects: She will star in the sci-fi alien comedy The Shower and produce and star in the television miniseries The Ambassador’s Wife, based on journalist Jennifer Steil’s recent novel. Those will keep her pretty busy, but she’s relaxed enough into herself at this stage that she’s prepared for the (unlikely) possibility of a career downturn. “It could continue on at the clip that it has, which would be lovely because I love what I do,” she says. “And getting to do it at the level that I’ve been allowed has been a real gift. But it could also disappear and I could go to the back of the line. I think I have the right stuff in my life to be able to survive either.” Mainly, she says, that means strong ties with family and friends: “You gotta know where you live, and you gotta live there with great people.”
Luckily, one of those people is her husband, who, among other qualities, gives great directions in a pinch. As my train time nears, Hathaway pulls into a liquor-store parking lot and finally calls him for help. As soon as he talks her through, using familiar strip-mall and fruit-stand landmarks to point the way, we arrive with a few minutes to spare. She offers a warm hug in parting, and then she’s on her own way — back to where she lives.