Anne Hathaway received a raft of awards in early 2013 for her role as Les Miserables’ tragic heroine Fantine. But along with the Oscar, Bafta and Golden Globe, she was also the recipient of vitriol, with pages devoted to the examining why the star was so ‘annoying’.
Her response was to lay low, out of the limelight.
“I was in the press so much at the beginning of 2013, I think people got really sick of me. I mean, I was really sick of me, so I can’t even imagine how everyone else felt,” says the 31-year-old, dressed today in a preppy black skirt, white blouse and thick denier tights. The only quirky touch is a black flower clipped into her hair, which she’s kept short after chopping it off for Les Mis.
“I try to take as a much of a break as I can,” she adds. “Sometimes people are parked outside my house [in Los Angeles] and take my photo, so I don’t have a choice in that matter, but as far I was concerned, I was very happy to take a break from the limelight.”
Hathaway makes for entertaining company, taking the mickey out of herself on camera and talking openly about her husband Adam Shulman (who she married in a clifftop ceremony in September 2012) in between sips of fresh mint tea.
She does love a mint tea. “I’ve had it the whole press tour. It’s like giving your insides a hug,” enthuses the actress, who’s mid-way through promoting animated sequel Rio 2.
It’s three years since she first voiced Jewel, the feisty macaw who gets together with Jesse Eisenberg’s gentler and geekier Blu in Rio. This time round, they’re enjoying domesticated bliss with their three kids, though Jewel wants to embark on an adventure to the Amazon to discover whether they really are the last of their kind.
“It was fun to play somebody that has the arc she’d had from the first one,” says Hathaway of her feathered alter ego. “She was very angry and mistrustful of the world. Not to get too serious with it, but a little bit damaged. To see her in this new place, where she loves being the mother, her heart’s so open and she’s enjoying life for herself, I was really happy to see her go on that journey. And happy to get to voice it.”
Given her character’s evolution to ‘mother bird’, it does beg the question whether Hathaway’s feeling broody – a topic she can’t escape, it transpires.
“Not just my own family, everybody asks! On camera, on planes - people want to know that,” she says. “A lot of people want to know whether playing a mother in this film changed my attitude towards motherhood, but I’ve truly wanted to be a mother since I was 16. I just wanted a career as well.”
Born in Brooklyn, Hathaway’s studied at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, The Barrow Group in New York City (in 2005 she was honoured as the only teen ever admitted to their intensive acting programme) and at NYU’s Collaborative Arts Projects ‘CAP 21’, where she focused on her musical theatre training.
Following several stage productions, her role in the TV series Get Real earned her wider recognition, which was followed by the film The Princess Diaries, with Julie Andrews, in 2001.
Dramatic roles in Brokeback Mountain, Becoming Jane and The Devil Wears Prada followed, and then in 2009 she earned her first Oscar nomination for her depiction of an alcoholic young woman in Rachel Getting Married. That year she lost out to Kate Winslet for The Reader, but four years later, she’d scoop the golden statuette.
As with the first Rio outing, the sequel boasts an impressive soundtrack and Hathaway gets to sing once more on the big screen – although she jokes it was “less intense than Les Mis”.
“All of the music that’s come into my life in the last few years has been a real surprise, but not an unpleasant one – and certainly not an unwelcome one,” says the actress, who also sings in Song One, a film about a woman who strikes up a relationship with her ailing brother’s favourite musician.
“Singing is something I’ve always loved to do in choirs, like most people do in school, and that it’s been able to find a way into my movie career when I never thought it would has been wonderful.”