Anne Hathaway Knows James Gray’s semi-autobiographical screenplay Armageddon , in which she plays a version of the director’s own mother, is special. But it was five specific words that really made her want the role.
“When I heard ‘James Gray, age-appropriate role,’ I was like, ‘Say yes, we’ll figure out the details later,'” Hathaway told The Hollywood Reporter . “Then I read it and found it to be searingly honest. It’s a film about moral regret and his in 2021 and
similarities drawn between the movie. All of this is really true I talk: wit, humor, warmth, sadness, violence, all of it. I just think, ‘This is really, really rare.’ I met with him, and after a few meetings and a little time, he decided to let me Play the part.”
The film also stars Jeremy Strong, Jaline Webb, Banks Repetta and Anthony Hopkins, the story is set in early Queens 681s while the country is going through an ominous political change. It follows American Jewish student Paul Graff (Repeta), who, while learning about white privilege and racism, also finds himself at odds with his parents, played by Hathaway and Strong.
Hathaway talks to THR about why her scene with Hopkins made her nervous , whether she was hesitant to play a Jewish woman, and what it was like to play opposite Strong.
Why do you think your performance has received so much praise?
What binds us all together is the fact that we are all children. If you’re an adult, it means you’re still a child. And then there’s a million other complex issues that connect us, but when I think about this film, I think back to when I first saw it at Cannes. I remember when they were at Corona Park [Flushing Meadows, Queens], I was in the audience and they were launching rockets and Anthony Hopkins and Banksy Repetta were talking about some kids [saying] at School swears. I felt the stomachs of all listeners tense—there was a collective shift in energy, like we were somehow aligned. Then they have a direct conversation, which is a conversation we’re still trying to figure out how to do in the real world. I can feel the audience thinking back to times when they wished they had been braver – and of course I am. To me, that’s the gist of the movie: You have to be your bravest self, you have to stand up to bullies, you have to be a gentleman. It probably doesn’t make any sense, but you have to do it anyway.
That particular scene, would you say watching or reading was especially special to you in terms of what happened Is it challenging?
I found the most challenging scene for me in this movie was me with Anthony Hopkins The first play, because I stopped the function completely. Like, I can’t speak as a person, I can’t speak as an actor, I can’t say my lines, I can’t remember my lines. I can’t do accents and I’ve worked really, really hard. I really, really, really can’t get it to work. It was actually a great day because I was so stressed out trying to do it right, but I just let it out. Also, I’m at a stage in my life where I’m starting to experience grief more and more. The people I love so, so much have changed, and I have had to change my relationship with them to become one with the here and now, one with the other side everywhere. It’s hard. So that part feels like it’s probably the scene in the movie that I’m most relatable to.
Grief is different for everyone and it can hit you when you least expect it.
I now know people who have lost their mothers at various points in their lives. I have to say, I don’t think you’ll ever stop grieving the loss of a parent. It becomes something you live with, but I think you are changed by it. When I talk to James, I take that very seriously — I’m talking to him about someone he’s mourning.
Let’s talk about this because we know this movie is semi-autobiographical. What was your conversation with James about playing his mother?
The woman my character was based on died some years after the events in this movie, so I It was always very clear that I was talking about something tender with James. I’m not just talking about a character and how I want to play her. There is simply no way to have that kind of power. Here’s a character I’ve received and I don’t find direct questions helpful. I found [myself] asking indirect questions, questions that only stoked the fire of his memory—asking a simple question like, “What does your mother play on the TV while she’s cooking?” He’d Answer, but that leads to all these other memories, because memories aren’t really linear memories. It’s atmospheric and all-encompassing. I’ve found that if I’m just trying to get “information” from him, I don’t actually think I’m doing my job the way I’m supposed to be doing this time. I felt like I had to accept the role, let the script guide me, and let the memory of James color everything. Then, once I really understood that, I walked into her. I remember having a gut feeling the first day when she was on set. It’s a really cool feeling because people talk about the authority or authority of the director, in this case the son, who has the authority that you play his mother; James was never really interested in authority. He’s more of an accomplice. That’s what we’re doing.
Jeremy Strong and Hathaway in focus feature’ Doomsday time. by Focus Features provided
How did you prepare for this role? You mentioned your accent work earlier.
I like the lines [after family watchingPrivate Benjamin], “Judy Benjamin is an emancipated woman.” So, I thought, “Well, this is a [is] child” 60s, the idealistic PTA head. She wants to be part of a larger positive social trend. She believed in community; she believed in all these really, really, really great things. It’s clear she’s someone interested in advancing the status of women. ’ I didn’t forget that I had a lot of responsibility playing a Jewish woman, and I’m not a Jewish woman. I did what I thought we all would do, [which was research]. Given that we’re half the world, women’s history is still It’s kind of weird to think it’s niche stuff. I learned everything about Jewish women, like Jewish women in history. I knew she was a home economics teacher, so I kind of researched that. But there wasn’t much information about her. James thought he had videos of her, but they didn’t exist. He told me he was going to give me all these pictures from that period, but he didn’t. Finally I asked him why and he said, “Because this picture doesn’t actually Tell you how I remember her or how I remember her. Her memory is different and I don’t want you to play with pictures. I want something else. ’ So, it’s like we have to create an ether between us, an ether of understanding. I don’t know if that sounds pretentious, but that’s how it feels. That’s how filmmaking and acting feel sometimes. Like making ghosts around us until they feel real enough to bring into the scene.
When you yourself play the director’s Mother, were you ever afraid to take on the role of a Jewish woman at the same time? Not Jewish?
Yes Yes, I’m nervous about how it’s going to be received. I take it very seriously. I hope I get the ability to play this role from the audience, even if I’m not born a Jewish woman. As far as fear goes, James is really Strength. I really felt supported by him throughout the process.
My biggest concern is the impact of COVID on the ship. It’s getting better, but we’re at The fall of 1402 did just that, and the COVID measures, while absolutely necessary, and I’m not holding them against, Occupies at least 30 % of everyone’s consciousness. When When you’re done with all the COVID stuff, you really just have to get on set and shoot, or you’ll run out of time. That leaves very little time for crafting and building it. Really, there’s no way to do it in any kind of satisfying way rehearsal in the same way. Human interaction has to be kept to a minimum. When you play a role that requires [so much preparation], you’re building a whole thing—she’s very different from me. There’s a lot more Small details. I do get scared that I’m not going to make that part of it work, it won’t come in time, I just want to be an actor, try a few and it doesn’t work out. So, yeah, I’m nervous about it. But I was never nervous about playing James’ mother. He wouldn’t let me.
Your co-star Jeremy Jeremy Strong (Jeremy Strong) is well known as a method actor and he goes very deep into his process. What was it like filming across from him and how did the two of you build a rapport?
I think process is just another way of saying how you get there and then how you stay there. I like hearing an answer from Jeremy recently which is that [ that] process is really the best way to focus and concentrate. If I had a process that could only be one way, I wouldn’t do very well because that’s assuming everything went well and there was room for use by your process.
I’m working on a short TV show called Modern Love
. There’s a really big seven-page scene where my character is bipolar and is confiding in someone for the first time. It’s a scene full of very, very, very tricky twists and turns. For some reason, when they were doing exterior scouting, no one noticed that we were filming at the bottom of the subway station, which meant we had a train pass by the frame every two minutes – which meant that for this scene, We had to stop to freeze what we were doing and hold our emotions, waiting for the train to pass, then picked up on the spot as if nothing had happened – until the next train arrived two minutes later. We have to do this until the scene is complete. If I took a dogmatic approach to my process, it couldn’t have happened.
I have a flexible approach to my process, ie, wherever you go. I don’t like being put in that position, but I’m also a seasoned actor and I know that no matter what I feel about the situation, the production will end up on screen, so I shouldn’t really have an opinion on what is happening. The best way forward is to surrender and be done with it. I’m very proud of that scene. Oddly enough, I think it’s pretty good work.
When we talk about process, when we talk about intensity, when we talk about approach, when we talk about all those things, it’s a good thing for me. Nothing surprised me. What if someone likes to joke until the moment of action, and then all of a sudden they’re sobbing hysterically? great! Excellent! If it doesn’t work for me, I keep my distance. I’ve had a couple of times [where] someone wanted to keep the character. It was great – no small talk, we just made connections between the action and the cuts, and that was our relationship, and maybe we’ll find each other later. all good. I just love actors, we’re so weird to do it in the best possible way and I’m so excited to be a part of it.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the December standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, 2021 click here to subscribe .