As I struggle for a diplomatic way to bring up that time when the internet was mean to her, Anne Hathaway graciously intervenes.
“Go ahead, say it,” she said, laughing.
So I press on, citing the relevance of her strange-by-design new movie Colossal. A monster appears, the world gawks, and Hathaway's character is forced to consider strange parallels between the creature and herself (I'm revealing no more here than you can see in the movie poster).
Does it remind her of anything?
“I don’t see how it could not,” she said. “And not just because of my own experience. We’re all going through this [online hostility] thing, figuring it out together. I’ve learned how to deal with it, and it doesn’t bother me that much now. I worry more about someone who’s 13 and getting beat up on social media, and being asked to understand it.”
It was just after she won an Oscar for Les Miserables that online Hathaway antipathy became a trending-now hobby for trolls. She read some of it and was blindsided and a bit confused -- in part because she didn’t recognize the "creature" under attack.
Who knows what gets under a troll’s pajamas, but Hathaway had a quick rise, enviable success, and a too-perfect image informed by her Princess Diaries movies. Hathaway, though, has done all kinds of things on screen -- she was a great Catwoman, a memorable apprentice to Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, and a human train wreck in Rachel Getting Married, a role with similarities to her latest.
In Colossal (opening Friday), she's Gloria, a young woman with a drinking problem who loses her job and her boyfriend (Dan Stevens), goes back home, where she starts waitressing -- and drinking -- in a bar run by an old friend (Jason Sudeikis). As Gloria upends things in her home town, a monster does the same to Seoul, Korea, and Colossal has far-out fun pondering the coincidence.
For Hathaway, Colossal is completely different -- just what she was looking for.
“I’m not trying to bite the hand that feeds me. I’ve done very well by Hollywood norms, but you never want to do to too much of any one thing. I sent out a request to my team: If you run across anything weird, can I please read it? I got back the script for Colossal with a note on it that said: Well, this is definitely weird.”
So weird that nobody was putting up money to make it. Writer-director Nacho Vigalondo was - best-case scenario -- contemplating a Spanish-language production in Madrid. With Hathaway attached, everything changed (she’s listed as executive producer). Sudeikis and Stevens were hired, an effects budget materialized.
She likes being in a position to make her own breaks.
“I’m at this age where, if you are a woman in Hollywood, you are supposed to start getting scared about your career. And I just wanted to go the opposite way,” she said. “After all the blessings I have had, I need to take risks, or I would not be offering the proper creative thank-you to everything that has made me feel secure in my career.”
And so, Colossal -- a movie that exists outside any known genre.
“This one feels so personal to me. It lives in the world of the dark and the silly, and that for me feels so true to a majority of the experiences in my life, and you can’t always find a way to get that into your work," she said. "This was magical.”
Hathaway, now mother to a young son (and passionate advocate of paid family leave) was pregnant (but not colossal) when she made Colossal.
“It really did resonate with me," she said." You take a hard look at your life and your habits. You worry about how much of that is going to be grist for their mill. Gloria has lived a self-centered life, and she realizes her actions have consequences in ways she has not seen, and she has to confront that aspect of herself.”
She thinks Gloria will resonate with a lot of viewers -- her Godzillalike alter-ego aside.
“She has her own set of problems, but she’s also feeling what everybody feels today. There are so many stresses and pressures. Everything’s a problem," Hathaway said. "Gloria just gets kind of capsized by all that pressure and tries to kind of right herself. I know I’ve felt that way in my life.“
Hathaway said that, when she was making Colossal, she knew there was a chance that it was a movie “that maybe four people would see.” But embracing the unique nature of the material was the whole point.
Since making it, she has been astounded and encouraged by the success of Jordan Peele’s Get Out, which she cites as an example of a movie that wasn’t afraid to go its own way.
“When people show up for a movie like that, it makes a big difference. I guarantee you, everyone in Hollywood is looking for that next new voice," she said. "It means that people are not going to be afraid of things they might have been afraid of before.
"And, as an actress, it’s so encouraging. It gives you the courage to take off in new ways, at a time [in your career] you are told to fear. I’m not afraid," she said. "Just really lucky, and really blessed."