With her big Bambi eyes and gleaming smile, Anne Hathaway could pass for the flesh-and-blood incarnation of a cartoon princess. Even the actress’ bubbly spirit comes off as that of an animated heroine — try as she may to deny it. ”I do debaucherous things all of the time,” insists Hathaway, over a light lunch at a Manhattan bistro. ”You just don’t read about it. I want to be practically invisible except when I’m working.”
And yet, as the meal draws to a close, she’s told the bill has been taken care of — by a man at a neighboring table. ”My daughter is a huge fan of…what’s that movie?” the middle-aged stranger explains. Hathaway affably supplies the title — The Princess Diaries — and offers an autograph before turning back to the interview. ”You’re not going to mention that, are you?” she asks.
You’ll forgive Hathaway if a little concern slips through. Beginning with her memorable big-screen debut in Garry Marshall’s klutz-turned-swan family comedy, six of Hathaway’s eight films have been either G- or PG-rated affairs. Now the clearly ambitious 23-year-old seems determined to shake the tiara from her image. ”Because I became so associated with The Princess Diaries,” she explains, ”my main [criterion] is to look for the opposite of what I last did.” Hathaway’s plan is paying handsome dividends. Critics lauded her portrayal of the lusty cowgirl-turned-icy housewife Lureen in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. She has just wrapped the drama Becoming Jane, in which she plays a young and in-love Jane Austen. And, more immediately, she’s costarring in The Devil Wears Prada (out June 30), an adaptation of former Vogue employee (and ex-Anna Wintour assistant) Lauren Weisberger’s 2003 novel.
Hathaway fit easily into her Prada part, Andrea Sachs, a dowdy journalist who is seduced by the call of Chanel. Leading her into the sartorial fold is Meryl Streep, whose presence — like that of the ice-queen editrix she plays, Miranda Priestly — both frightened and inspired Hathaway. ”Horrifying!” the young actress exclaims. ”Acting against her was like taking a cold bath of terror every day. I was always ready to wet my pants.” She pauses. ”Wait, how can I say that nicer? My mom called the other day and told me to stop [using foul language] because she didn’t raise me like that.”
If aw-shucks asides like that make you question whether Hathaway can possibly be for real, her Oscar-winning costar has no doubts. ”There’s no artifice about her,” says Streep. ”Anne is just sort of buoyant, and it’s a lovely quality for this character who could be annoying. She’s just darling.”
But don’t mistake a lack of guile for naïveté. ”Annie is a girl who is very aware — of herself, of what every shot is, and how it might be used,” says Prada director David Frankel. ”After every take, she’d go to a monitor and watch herself and judge herself. Some of the biggest arguments I had with her were over her wanting to go again.”