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.
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.” Hathaway has been, too, negotiating a high-powered Hollywood career as she transitioned from teenager to insecure twentysomething to confident thirtysomething, all while under increasing scrutiny from gossip magazines, paparazzi, and the ultra-reactive internet. She can joke now about her awkward Oscar co-hosting gig with James Franco in 2011 (even though, as one critic noted, “Hathaway worked her derriere off”). She’s a pro at skillfully shutting down tasteless interview questions, as she did when Matt Lauer opened with a weirdly slut-shamey reference to an upskirt paparazzi photo of her in 2012. These qualities might not be as meme-worthy as Jennifer Lawrence tripping at the Oscars, being witty after tripping at the Oscars, flipping her middle finger backstage at the Oscars, or riding a jet ski with Amy Schumer. But they certainly exude another kind of cool — the kind that comes with striving for excellence and not having to apologize for it.
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.’”
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.
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.”
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.