Berlin: Anne Hathaway on Producing Fest Opener ‘She Came to Me’
Anne Hathaway has been a film festival fixture over the past year, premiering James Gray’s Armageddon Time at the Cannes Film Festival and Eileen, the Ottessa Moshfegh adaptation, in Park City at last month’s Sundance Film Festival. Now she’s headed to the Berlin Film Festival with She Came to Methe latest from writer-director Rebecca Miller (The Ballad of Jack and Rose, Maggie’s Plan).
She Came to Me, which is set to open the fest, follows an opera composer who is in the middle of a protracted case of writer’s block and has an affair on his therapist-turned-wife (Hathaway) with a love-addicted tugboat captain (Marisa Tomei). . But while the fling seems to cure the writer’s block, it sends his personal life into crisis.
Ahead of the premiere, Hathaway spoke to THR about her hopes for independent filmmaking, auditioning for Miller when she was 19 and how Pretty Woman introduced her to opera.
She Came to Me deals with very serious subjects, but it is also deeply funny and has an absurdist quality to it. How would you describe the film?
I was trying to tell someone about it today. They were like, “So what’s it like?” I said, “It’s sort of an operatic comedy.” And they were like, “What does that mean?” I was like, “Well, if you see the movie, I think it’ll make sense.” The idea is that it’s kind of like an opera — it takes a minute to set up the scene, but once it gets going it’s just overwhelming and beautiful and dimensional and you get really swept up in it. There’s a certain moment for me where the table has been set and then the meal really starts to be served and everything clicks in. I’m just like, I don’t want to be anywhere else and I care about these people so much and I’m rooting for everybody.
How did you get involved?
I’m beginning to repeat myself with each of these films. I have a list of directors that my reps know about and they’re just a blinking “Yes.” I just always want to know if they have anything even borderline age appropriate. Rebecca Miller is one of them. I was so excited when the script got sent my way, and I read it, and I was charmed by it. I thought the script was great, and I thought the project was really promising, but I just wanted to know what the music was going to be. So much of this movie really lives on that. I met Rebecca and after speaking with her I just knew that whatever the music was going to be it was going to be right. I was attached to [the project] for a long time and it came together in a few different ways, as independent films often do — they come together and then they fall apart, and then everything clicks. But throughout, Rebecca really just held the center and knew what she wanted to do.
Was the music in the film always planned as being opera?
It was always opera, which was a big draw for me.
Are you a fan of opera?
I am a fan. I would never say I am a buff. I’m not at that level. I think like most people, my introduction to opera came through Pretty Woman. Since I was a kid, I knew that opera and cinema go together beautifully, but you almost never see it. Then I saw Moonstruck, and that’s my favorite operatic comedy of all time. Obviously, this is very different, and I would never presume to put ourselves in that company, but to me, they’re related. They’re not dissimilar in the sense that it’s heightened circumstances. You do have to suspend belief. It’s magical.
What is it about Rebecca Miller’s films that made you say, “Whatever it is, I’m in”?
Her work is always so intelligent and risky and frequently features intelligent, complicated women, which I’m just a big fan of. I auditioned for Rebecca when I was 19 and was really struck by the experience. I just never met anyone like her, and I was really drawn to her. I didn’t get the part, but from that day I remember she had a sense of destiny about her. I always paid attention to what she was doing and was curious, as a fan, and then was so, so, so excited when I got the chance to meet her again.
Had you seen her at all in between auditioning for her when you were 19 and then meeting for this movie?
Nope. It was funny, I sat down and she goes, “I’m very pleased to meet you.” And I said, “Well, I don’t know if you’d remember, but we actually did meet.” And I described the audition to her. I’d done something a little unusual in the audition, which was I said I have no idea if I’m going to get this part — which I didn’t get — but I was at Vassar at the time and I said, “ I’m taking a poetry course right now, and I read a poem and it reminds me of this character and I just wanted to leave it with you.” So, literally decades later, I sat down with her and she’s like, “Nice to meet you.” And I’m like, “Well, we’ve met before.” And she goes, “Really?” I said, “Yeah, I auditioned for this project. I don’t know if you remember, but I brought the poem. And she’s like, “Oh, that was you!” I was like, “That was me! Hi. I’m still acting.”
Both your character in Eileen, which premiered at Sundance, and in this movie are therapists. Is that something you thought about when deciding to take one or both roles?
I think the commonality between the women, who are extremely different, is a genuine belief that people can be helped and a desire to be of service in that way. But truly that is really where the similarities end. It’s funny, people ask me sometimes if I have a career strategy. And I really, really don’t. It’s very instinctive, in the moment. I’m drawn to filmmakers. I’m drawn to projects. I’m drawn to stories. I’m drawn to characters, but sometimes you do have to be mindful of whether you’re repeating yourself. Also, you can make two things years apart, but then they can come out back to back. I signed on this project and Eileen pretty far apart from each other, and now they’re in back-to-back film festivals. I actually sat with it for a really long time — about whether I could play both parts, like whether audiences would let me. And what I came down to was you listen to these women for a minute and you realize they’re completely different human beings.
Why was it important for you to also be a producer on this movie?
I have to be honest, Rebecca offered it. I wasn’t expecting it. This project came to me as an actress, and I mentioned it took a bit of time for it to come together, and Rebecca and I kept talking about it and talking about my character. One day, kind of out of the blue, she just called and she offered me the credit and said, “I really feel like you’ve earned it.” And I was floored. That had never happened to me like that before. I was just honored and touched that she thought of me in that way. Isn’t that incredible? You never heard that.
You have been in back-to-back festivals for the better part of a year. What are your hopes for indie film?
I just want independent cinema to exist, and I want to continue to be invited to be a part of it. It’s a place of passion. It’s a place of imagination. It is a place of boundary-pushing. What’s coming out of it right now is some of the most exciting cinema I’ve ever seen. I hope it thrives, and I hope I’m lucky enough to be part of it.
Interview edited for length and quality.
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