Terrified Anne Hathaway Tackles Scary Shakespeare

Many Hollywood stars have come to New York thinking they could conquer the New York stage and many of them have failed miserably. Now here comes Anne Hathaway in her "first major theatrical production," playing Viola in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

Hathaway, coming off a much-deserved Oscar nomination for her performance in Rachel Getting Married, is starring in the Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night opening this week at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. As a result, Hathaway was featured in a piece in Sunday's New York Times and is subject of this week's New York magazine cover feature.

About her gender-bending role in the play, Hathaway sounded, well, terrified in the Times piece.

"I have a double learning curve, not only because it's my first time with Shakespeare but because this is my first major theatrical production," Ms. Hathaway said. "So just staving off a nervous breakdown has been the main thing for me."

"A lot of people in the cast come up to me at the end of the week and ask how I'm feeling, and I kind of vomit emotions, and they say, ‘Oh, good, that's exactly where you should be,' " she said. "And I remember the first time a bug flew into my face at rehearsal, I turned to Dan and asked, for my own edification, ‘If a bug flies into our face, are we allowed to react or just be stoic?' He just said, ‘Use your discretion.' "

Ms. Hathaway still seemed a bit surprised and thrilled to be in the cast.

"Yeah," Ms. Hathaway said, "I think I live in constant fear of being revealed to be a fraud because I'm with not only exquisite experience, but actors who have so much stage experience. And people who have experience in the park, which is a whole different kind of expertise."

"I had a very naïve, really arrogant adolescent idea that I could do Shakespeare because I did one monologue in an acting class when I was 18," she said. "One thing that dawned on me early in this process: We were sitting around and sharing our knowledge of Shakespeare and some trivia, and I just realized that the study of Shakespeare is cumulative, and I felt really lucky to be getting my first crack at it at such a young age."

In the New York piece, Hathaway noted how she's long yearned to spread her dramatic wings by tackling stage roles and secretly harbors a desire to become a full-blown stage diva.

She likes the long rehearsals, she likes slipping off to the uptown Shake Shack with cast and crew. It's a bit of being the actress she imagined she'd be when, as a child in New Jersey, she decided to take after her mother, who acts in regional theater and has done so forever. "I hounded [Public Theater director] Oskar Eustis for years," she says. After Rachel, "I think it became more of a priority for him to get me onstage." Hathaway stirs her coffee. "I do hope that doesn't sound obnoxious."

Talk of other projects swirls around her, but she's coy about it. "I don't mean to be, but sometimes things don't work out in the end, and then people think it's because you hate someone, and I don't hate anyone!"

It has, however, been confirmed that she'll be playing Judy Garland on Broadway, and that seems about right.

"This is so embarrassing, but one of the waitresses just walked by with a glass of white wine and I almost reached out and grabbed it. It would be lovely to have a bit of release, but no. I have to go to rehearsal. I don't want to be the girl who shows up tipsy. But wouldn't it be fun? Wouldn't it be fun someday to be a grande dame who can get away with anything?"

We think she'll do just fine and we look forward to seeing her perform in the play. Now, who wants $50 to go out and wait in line for a ticket for us, because we don't have time for that crap.

The Three Sisters of Twelfth Night [New York Times]
Her Enchanted Evenings [New York]