Anne Hathaway talks about some of the challenges of playing Emma Morley in Lone Scherfig's adaptation of bestseller One Day, including tackling the accent and staying true to a difficult friend. She also discusses her audition process and what she did to convince Lone to cast an American in a British role.
Having done Becoming Jane is it safe to assume that you didn't have too many fears about coming back to England and working again on an English character?
Anne Hathaway: You underestimate me sir [laughs]! It was a totally different accent. If there is such a thing as a standard British accent this certainly wasn't it! It was not only a regional dialect but it was one that changed over the course of 20 years, so I was quite nervous going into it.
So, as she's getting more London-orientated, she's becoming more southern? Is that how you interpreted it?
Anne Hathaway: Yeah, throughout the course of coming up with Emma's accent I met loads of people from Yorkshire and some of them were from the same town, but you'd never be able to tell because based on where they'd gone to school, based on the jobs that they'd had, where they moved to, how much time they'd spent back at home, their personalities... it all affected their accent. So, it wound up becoming less of an accent and more of a personal voice for Emma.
When reading the book, was there one scene in particular that really made you want to do the film?
Anne Hathaway: It wasn't any one particular scene, it was the way I felt when I finished it. I felt as though I was coming up for air and I had no idea how I'd got so far down. Very few things are that transportive, for me at least. So, I just thought if there was any chance that I could be a part of bringing this to the big screen I'd be so honoured. I knew that Lone was probably going to be meeting with a lot of girls, and probably wasn't going to be meeting with any Americans, so I just kind of kept my hat in there. And then I found out that she would meet with one American and it would be me. And things kind of went my way, so I've been very lucky.
What do you think you did to convince her?
Anne Hathaway: I don't know. When I was around her I always felt very tongue-tied and very kind of silly. I mean, anybody can tell you why they're the perfect Emma and I don't really think it's about whether or not you are them, it's about whether you can play it. I prefer to audition for things that have general meetings because it's easier to become the character than it is to show up and be it when you're also being yourself. So, what I did was I sent Lone a bunch of songs and a bunch of music that I thought Emma would either be into or reminded me of her and Dex's relationship. And so I tried to give Lone a feeling that I had about Emma and she responded to it I guess.
How did you respond to the themes of making the most of your opportunities while they exist?
Anne Hathaway: I think if the movie encourages us to try to do one thing it's not to take our lives for granted, for sure, in many ways. And it does so in a very clever way because I don't think Emma and Dexter could have got together a day earlier than they did. I think that it would have been wrong. I think he would have cheated on her and she maybe would have not stood up to him. She would have been tortured and she would not have been able to totally own herself in the relationship. So, they can't get together a minute earlier than they do but it takes them so long. It comes back to what I say about not taking life for granted, but you also have to be realistic and honest about who you are and what's available.
She also sees the good in him and keeps faith in him when he can be a bit of an asshole...
Anne Hathaway: I think that's friendship too, though. I hope so. God knows, I can be an asshole sometimes [laughs] and my friends still seem to believe in me. I think believing in each other but also being realistic and seeing people for who they are... I think being able to see someone for who they are and still believe in them is a great gift and Emma certainly does that. I think he believes in Emma but I'm not sure he ever totally lets himself see her until later on when they get together because I don't think he lets him see himself. But we're all humans - we have good moments, we have bad moments and hopefully the people who love us have faith in us.
Jim [Sturgess] has said that he sees a lot of Emma in you. He mentioned the terms elegant and nerdy...
Anne Hathaway: That's such a compliment! Thanks Jim!
Is that part of what resonated when you first read the script, that you could see elements of yourself in her?
Anne Hathaway: I love Emma so much I wouldn't presume to see myself in her. I aspire to be Emma Morley; I am not Emma Morley. I think Emma Morley is a wonderful bundle of contradictions. She has a tremendous integrity and backbone, but she's also woefully insecure and she has a biting wit, but she's also very kind and sensitive and angry and caustic. She's so many things wrapped up in one and the thing that I loved playing about her was... OK, go with me on this one! I thought a lot about the big bang theory and I thought a lot about rosebuds opening and I thought about butterflies and the way all of this mass of information and all of this matter is contained in a very dense way in each of those things that I described. And then transforms outwards and opens. So, that's the way I thought about Emma. I thought in the beginning: "How wonderful if all that stuff is so densely packed you can't even see it and she can't even see it and how amazing that I have 20 years in the character's life to draw all those things out and so by the end, you're seeing the exact same person that you saw at the beginning but so much more clearly defined, although everything was there in the beginning". But you only see it at the beginning by getting to the end. So, I thought: "God, what an amazing challenge to get to do that."
Fans of the book weren't initially very happy with you being cast as Emma because, among other things, they thought you were too beautiful. How did you react to that?
Anne Hathaway: I knew that... or I expected that fans would be possessive of Emma because, look, if I wasn't the person playing her and I was a fan of the book, I'd be possessive over Emma. And I'd have a lot of opinions over who was meant to play her. But what you just said they were criticising is just absolutely ridiculous... they have never seen me when I've just woken up! Glamour takes time, frumpy comes very easy to me [laughs]. I thought for me the biggest challenge that I had was that I wasn't British and that there's a whole culture that I had to learn about and a whole way of communicating - the humour itself required so much time just to learn that particular dryness. So, I had a lot more work than a lot of British actors would have to play, but I also thought that gave me... although it would make it harder for me to pull it off, it also meant that I maybe wouldn't take things for granted and I would possibly do more work than anyone. So, I don't know if I'm any good in this movie or if people will be happy or not, but I can guarantee everybody that I worked my ass off!
Interview: Rob Carnevale Photo: Universal