If you were in any doubt as to the identity of the current golden girl of Hollywood, then the news that Anne Hathaway, already Golden Globe-nominated for her latest film, is to co-host the 2011 Oscars in February should serve as a neon sign.
At 28, she’s the youngest person ever to be bestowed with the honour, but neither the prospect of being watched by more than a billion people nor the fact she could commit career suicide if she’s critically panned appears to daunt the actress.
Hathaway’s simply pleased she has co-presenter and fellow Golden Globe nominee James Franco, 32, star of 127 Hours, along for the ride.
“I think that’s going to make it more fun than terrifying,” says Hathaway with a wide smile.
This positive approach to life may explain how she’s managed to achieve more before the age of 30 than many of us will in an entire lifetime.
She first came to prominence as a ditzy Disney princess in The Princess Diaries in 2001 but has gone on to prove her mettle and versatility in critically-acclaimed films such as Brokeback Mountain, Becoming Jane and Rachel Getting Married, which also earned her a Golden Globe nomination in 2009 and – perhaps a sign of things to come – a Best Actress Oscar nomination too.
It’s a quantum leap that countless others have failed to make but Hathaway describes it as “a natural extension”.
“I think my relationship with directors, and my ability to trust them, is in no small part responsible for the success that I’ve had and that began with the role of a Disney princess with the wonderful Garry Marshall,” she says.
This is the same director who launched Julia Roberts’s career by casting her in Pretty Woman but while Marshall has been influential, Hathaway is being a little too modest about her considerable talents.
Aside from the acting, she’s a trained soprano who’s performed at Carnegie Hall, a former English student of one of New York’s most prestigious colleges (though she enjoys delving into Newtonian physics in her spare time) and she’s the go-to girl for hosting events as diverse as US comedy showcase Saturday Night Live and the Nobel Peace Prize Concert.
And so to Love And Other Drugs, a film in which Hathaway stars as Maggie, a young artist with early onset Parkinson’s Disease.
“I wish I had some of Maggie’s toughness and temper,” sighs Hathaway. “I wish I was a more confrontational person like her. I had a lot of fun playing that, but I’m pretty diplomatic.”
The film reunites her with her Brokeback Mountain co-star, Jake Gyllenhaal, playing a charismatic pharmaceutical salesman called Jamie.
Aside from their strong performances (he’s been nominated for a Golden Globe too) it’s the pair’s nudity and sex scenes that have been creating a stir.
“Here’s the thing, I’ve had a chip on my shoulders ever since my nude scenes got cut from The Princess Diaries,” Hathaway deadpans. But, apparently, she really can’t understand the huge hoopla.
“It made sense to their story and shows the intimacy that Jamie and Maggie feel together and how their relationship shifts from sex into love.
“It’s only having to deconstruct it in the press that it seems like such a big deal,” she says. “We worked very intensively with Ed (the director Edward Zwick) to make sure it was never just a shot of nudity and that each time the story was advancing, something about the characters was being revealed, so the audience had no reason not to become disengaged and distracted.”
While she concedes that shooting nude scenes “is somewhat out of the norm”, what truly terrified her was the pressure of giving a realistic portrayal of early onset Parkinson’s.
“I’d have these little panics before we shot the close-ups and I would become terrified that I wasn’t being truthful enough and Ed had to really sit there with me and hold my hand and be very patient and talk me through it,” says Hathaway. “I hate being that needy actor. I love showing up and doing my job and it wasn’t like that this time. But just like my character, I learned an awful lot about what it’s like to need people around you and what it’s like on the days where you can’t get there yourself.”
As part of her preparation, Hathaway spoke to people in a similar position to Maggie, and everyone asked her the same question: “Has she accepted her diagnosis yet?”
“It led me to believe that there’s a whole world of anxiety before you come to that moment,” says Hathaway and references Back To The Future star Michael J Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991.
“He very eloquently and gracefully describes his relationship with Parkinson’s as having evolved to a place where he thinks of it as a gift but that it was quite a journey to get there. I think one of the strengths of the film and what drew me to the character was the articulation of that journey.”