It wasn’t so long ago that 22-year-old Anne Hathaway was living out a teenage actress’s dream career with a string of movies (The Princess Diaries , The Princess Diaries 2, and Ella Enchanted) that had the bejeweled young star prancing around in castles, having high tea with Julie Andrews, and kissing posh princes. But the leading lady of fairy-tale romance was bound to eventually ache for a return to the real world. This month she forays into the decidedly unfancy landscape of director Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, a rugged cowboy drama co-starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, and she is currently gearing up for her role in the big-screen adaptation of the best-selling roman à clef The Devil Wears Prada, in which she’s slated to star opposite the legendary Meryl Streep. Hathaway will also make an appearance in A Moment in the World, a documentary organized by her interviewer Angelina Jolie that placed roughly 25 participants in various locations on a specific day (Hathaway was in Cambodia), each instructed to videotape their surroundings at the same specific moment in time.
ANGELINA JOLIE: Hi, Annie, how are you?
ANNE HATHAWAY: Good. And you?
AJ: I’m good. So, I might ask you some strange questions. Some things that maybe I would have preferred to have somebody ask me.
AH: Okay. Well, then I hope you don’t mind if I turn it back on you and ask what your answer to your question is? [both laugh]
AJ: No. It’s nice to be able to say, “No, I’m the interviewer this time.”
AH: Okay, okay. I’ll respect your professional position.
AJ: I think everybody has a defining moment in their life when they changed-whether you became an adult, or a woman, or you just grew. Do you remember some of those moments?
AH: Two moments really stick out in my mind, which happened within about a month of each other. The first was when I was having a massive anxiety attack in a hotel room on the floor, just sobbing hysterically over something or another, and the thought of leaving my room was terrifying to me. But then all of a sudden I realized that I was beating myself up too much and there was no reason to be so afraid. I guess in that moment, just realizing that I had a choice was really important to my mental well being. And there was another time in my life that someone was hurting me very badly, and I had to make a conscious decision to distance myself from that person or just be dragged down with them. And it was that decision that kind of indirectly led them to a place in their lives where they could change and really objectively look at what they were doing and who they were hurting. It was a gamble, but it worked out and we’re still really close. So those are two experiences from which I grew, because I put my own health before the needs of others.
AJ: And that’s a big lesson to learn. Were you very young then?
AH: I was about 18 when all this happened.
AJ: That’s pretty young. That sounds about right.
AH: For those bad feelings to start kicking in? [laughs]
AJ: For those moments where you suddenly realize you’ve become more of a self.
AH: And I guess it’s worth it even if it’s only you respecting yourself. That’s an important relationship to have.
AJ: Absolutely. Probably the most important, because you really can’t do much without that. So, what do you fear in life?
AH: Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me. That horrible feeling of isolation is something that I hope I never have to deal with again.
AJ: Everybody has defining characteristics when they’re under pressure, like when there’s an extreme emergency. When the chips are down, are you the person that steps up and gets front and center and does something, or are you the person that panics?
AH: I’m pretty good at remaining calm during an emergency. My house burned down when I was 12, which made me really pragmatic about what needed to be done. But I can be bad in that I compartmentalize a lot of emotions and push them away to deal with them at a later date.
AJ: Ah, I see. So, are you working right now?
AH: No. I’m a lady of leisure for a couple weeks. I’m on vacation.
AJ: Oh, how nice.
AH: It’s very, very nice. I’m actually on a boat right now.
AJ: So, you’re traveling with your boyfriend?
AJ: That’s so nice. Have you been together a long time?
AH: About a year and six months.
AJ: That’s pretty long.
AH: It’s exciting to be able to be able to speak with even the tiniest smidgen of authority, because when we first met, I would be talking about my feelings for him, and everyone would be like, “Wow! How long have you been together?” And I’d say, “Three weeks!”
AJ: Well, I’ve had great loves in my life, and whether or not they worked out in the end, they remain the great loves of my life and great friends. And I knew when I met them that they were going to be very important people to me. [a child coos in the background]
AH: Do I hear a baby?
AJ: Oh yeah, that’s my daughter.
AJ: She’s lovely. She sounds like a pterodactyl. [Hathaway laughs] What about you? Do you think you’re gonna have kids one day?
AH: I want to have five.
AJ: Five? You decided on five?
AH: Well, I already have the names picked out, so I better have them. [laughs] I was lucky; I grew up in a pretty large family. We were really close-knit, so I definitely want to have lots and lots of children. But you’ve been very inspiring to me, and I’ve also thought about having the five and then adopting.
all of a sudden I realized that I was beating myself up too much and there was no reason to be so afraid. I guess in that moment, just realizing that I had a choice was really important to my mental well being.Anne Hathaway
AJ: It’s a lovely thing. So, let’s talk about the project we worked on together: A Moment in the World.
AH: I can’t wait to see it. How’s it going?
AJ: It’s going really well. There were so many different people and so many different things. You’ll realize what you are a part of when you see it.
AH: That’s exciting. It was such a pure experience making that, because it seemed to me that the whole movie was about breaking down what we see every day in this world and becoming aware of what’s out there that’s larger than ourselves and our own worries. The people that I spoke to on the project loved every minute of what they were doing, because they knew that other people were sharing that level of awareness.
AJ: Yeah, it was amazing. You were pretty amazing, too. We didn’t know each other at all when I asked you if you’d consider doing it. And I thought, “Man, she’s either really brave or kind of crazy, but she’s gonna go.”
AH: Well, I hope I’m a little bit of both.
AJ: It says a lot about your character that you would trust it and go to a place like that. And as you know, as much as Cambodia’s a beautiful place, it is heavy with the landmines and the war.
AH: I was really grateful for the opportunity. I love to learn and have new information and wrap my head around it. I had a vague understanding of what happened in Cambodia, but I was able to immerse myself in it before the trip and then go there and realize that all of my preconceived notions were so wrong. I had expected to meet defeated people, but I encountered a gorgeous culture that was simple but at the same time so filled with life. It was a wonderful experience.
AJ: I know sometimes it’s hard when you’re working to follow the news, but do you find you notice the news more?
AH: I think part of it is what’s available to you. Back in the U.S. we have satellite TV and a billion cable channels. Here, the only English-speaking channels that are available are CNN or Sky News from London. In the States I have my morning time when I read the paper and become aware of it, but it feels more pressing here. Actually I had a strange experience today, because I was in a hotel last night, and now I’m just cruising along these coasts that are so huge and so ancient-you can imagine what it was like when it was all Pangaea before everything broke apart. Sometimes I’m really happy that the world is ancient and that the earth is surviving and everything, but at the same time at least 43 people were killed in Baghdad today, and a plane went down in Venezuela, and Israeli citizens are being pulled out of their homes. It’s such a tumultuous time for the world, and it’s not that I feel guilty sitting here on this boat, but I’m just trying to make sense of how it all comes together-the reality of what’s going on in the day-to-day moments of life combined with how long all this has been here.
AJ: Especially when you start to think that something like 33 civil wars are going on every day, I think. We are very fortunate to live in a country where we can usually choose whether or not to pay attention to these things on a daily basis.
AH: And the strange thing is that we assume that we’ve come so far as compassionate citizens of the world if we do choose to read the news, yet the attitude towards life can be one where we put blinders on and forget that there are civil wars going on. It’s easy to forget that there are so many people starving to death every single day. And that for me is the one that I just can’t get my head around. I understand wars; conflict has existed throughout history, and there’s a history to these current conflicts. I understand that. But poverty and hunger are things that everybody could be involved in fighting. I know you’ve been involved with the Live 8 campaign, which is amazing.
AJ: Yeah, and there’s the Millennium Development Goals, which is something else. It mainly comes down to sharing resources, sharing our understanding of how to farm, how to use new technologies. It’s only in the last 200 years that things have become so different between the rich and poor.
AH: There’s so much wealth available that could benefit everybody. I’ve been talking with UNICEF to find out what I could do, how I could help. When you realize how far 7 cents can go towards feeding someone, it puts things into perspective.
AJ: Absolutely. Well, listen, I’m going to let you get back to your vacation, but when you come back let’s get together for a chat.