Anne Hathaway fought the fashionistas in the Devil Wears Prada. She tells Ellie Genower that it was ideal preparation her latest role – as a slick spy in Get Smart.
Anne Hathaway might look as pretty as a picture but she’s made of stern stuff. The perky brunette didn’t flinch when it came to performing action scenes wearing a tight dress and a pair of killer heels in new spoof comedy movie Get Smart.
“I feel like The Devil Wears Prada was my high heel training for this movie,” she laughs.
“We were trying to find a look where you could walk down a runway or fight ninjas. That was the challenge.”
It seems Anne took her comedy action role opposite Steve Carell very much in her leggy stride.
“Steve and I, at one point, when we were fighting a 7ft 4ins man, and doing quite well, just kind of looked at each other thinking; ‘you, me, who’d have thought it?”’ Anne says.
“It was a lot of fun. I grew up playing sports so it was an extension of that. It felt a kind of cross between training for ballet and training for lacrosse.
“I have a couple of dents in my leg.There was a scene where I had to hold on to a bar and kick someone in the chest, as one does. There was a second bar behind it that the camera couldnt see and which nobody had anticipated I would hit. Unfortunately I did and I had to get seven stitches in my left leg and eight in my right, and I couldn’t walk for about a week. But that’s not bad for a four month action movie shoot.”
Get Smart was originally a hit 1960s US TV series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. The movie version follows hapless and bumbling agent Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) as he is thrown into the role of a secret field agent.
He teams up with smooth and rather impatient operator Agent 99 (Anne), and they go on a hilarious mission to Russia to infiltrate KAOS, a terrorist group with a stash of nuclear weapons.
“Agent 99 is someone who is a workaholic and who takes her job seriously – rightfully so,” explains Anne.
“But she’s a little judgemental in the beginning. She’s not really in touch with her sense of humour – her softer side. She’s all business. And Max surprises and charms her and knocks her off balance a little bit and she really likes that. I definitely relate to being shown up, and learning more things about yourself. Thinking you know something, and then being totally surprised. I don’t go to the gym as much as she does though.”
Despite the glam appearance, Agent 99 is no Bond Girl – and that suits Anne just fine.
“I get to be funny in this movie,” she says.
“My character is the lighter interpretation of a Bond Girl. No disrespect to Bond girls – it’s fantastic, Halle Berry kicked ass in her Bond movie – and I feel like I got to engage in this film in the action arena. But I also got to trade quips with Steve Carell.”
Working with Steve, who is the driving force behind the US version of The Office, was a major factor in Anne taking the role.
“To say that I’m a fan of The Office is really putting it mildly,” she says.
“When Steve and I don’t see each other for a few weeks, my first question is – what’s coming up? I love the show so much. I love humour that makes you feel uncomfortable and that show is so brilliant at it – I really relate to it. When I went to audition for this movie, I didn’t think in a million years I was going to get the part, I really just wanted to meet Steve.”
Having made her name as a princess in waiting opposite Julie Andrews in teen movie The Princess Diaries when she was 19, Anne managed to move seamlessly into adult movie territory, starring as Jake Gyllenhaal’s wife in Oscar-nominated movie Brokeback Mountain and alongside Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.
The roles may have got bigger, but so has the publicity. Anne found herself in the media spotlight after reportedly ditched her former boyfriend Raffaello Follieri following his arrest on money-laundering and fraud charges.
Unsurprisingly, Anne remains tight-lipped about her ex and prefers to concentrate on safer topics, such as her good fortune in her career choices.
“I’m 25 years old and I’ve had tremendous luck in my life in terms of movies that I’ve made for artistic reasons which have gone on to become commercial successes,” she says.
“It’s kind of dumb luck. You never know what’s going to hit. Some movies which you think will have mass appeal will flop. Other movies you think will be niche makes their money back and out gross many of your other films. So the process is that you just pick the best you can from what’s available, and try to work with people who inspire you and that’s just about it.”
Those ‘inspirational’ people include Alan Arkin and Steve Carell in Get Smart, and Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci in The Devil Wears Prada, whom Anne calls ‘geniuses’.
“I can’t sum up myself. I can only sum up the talents of my co-stars that I try to learn from which is exemplary and impressive,” she says neatly.
As well as being able to run in killer heels, The Devil Wears Prada also taught the actress the importance of comic timing, something she was able to put to good use in Get Smart.
“I learned how important it is to underplay comedy – if you know there’s a joke coming up, you can’t play it as a joke,” she says.
“There was freedom to fail, and I think on this set, this was the environment that the director Pete Segal set up. In order to be funny, you need to understand that sometimes you won’t be funny and sometimes you will fail. But you need to go for it regardless.”
She might be happy on the work front but Hollywood isn’t always an easy place to be.
Having been thrust into the Tinseltown spotlight as a teenager, Anne admits she has sometimes felt pressure to conform to the Hollywood ideal of beauty.
“Growing up, there’s a lot of pressure on young women, when you first become aware of your own looks in relation to other women’s looks,” she says. “You just want to be cookie-cutter beautiful. And sometimes you think, maybe I could change something about myself to fit that mould. I’m no exception to that. When I was growing up, I wanted a nose job, because I didn’t think my nose was good. And my nose is now, I think, what lets me change my face a lot and lets me be glamorous as Agent 99. I just made a movie with Jonathan Demme, where I play a recovering drug addict and I look really rough.
“Your face needs to have character if you’re going to be an actor, or you’re just kind of a face,” she continues.
“You’re not really a person or a personality. If there’s anything in my power to change myself, I’ll do it, but in terms of radically changing myself for self-esteem or anything, no I don’t think I’ll ever do that.”