Anne Hathaway talks about her latest film, The Intern
When you first read the script for The Intern, did you feel that you understood Jules Ostin immediately or did you have any notes on the character for [writer/director/producer] Nancy Meyers?
There's almost no point in giving notes to her because I have never known anyone to work as hard or be as thorough as Nancy. If you have a point to make about the character, you really better know her backwards and forwards while you are making this request. A lot of times you can come up with an idea and it doesn't work. And she's right. It's good that she's right because she is the director, and it's great to have confidence in your director.

There are certain choices she steered me away from. I wanted to physicalize Jules's anxiety and make it a little more raw, and she said, 'Not a wrong choice but that's not my Jules, the way I crafted her.' So I'm thinking, 'I am in a Nancy Meyers movie and I am going to see what this feels like,' and it was a stronger choice for the film I was in. So it was a real pleasure to trust Nancy and to trust her aesthetic and her instincts because she's one of the smartest people I've ever met and the funniest person I've ever met.

Nancy has said that when she was writing Jules, she put a lot of herself in the character. Did you see any of Nancy in Jules?
There is no mistake that my best takes were always when I put a little Nancy into it, just in terms of her timing. She has a wonderful quality and a beautiful heart. That was the thing that I stumbled upon with Jules – amongst many really impressive things, the best is the quality of her heart. She is a good person through and through. I think that's one of the reasons why Ben [played by Robert De Niro] responds to her, because he understands that she is not doing this from a place of ego. She's doing this from a really genuine place of passion and vision. And that's Nancy.

But it's interesting because, for me, the way I related to Jules was as somebody who had uncommon success at a young age that she then has to ride out visibly. She doesn't feel strengthened by her vulnerability, she feels exposed by it, and that's something that I definitely related to.


Do you think that's a product of gaining success at a young age?

Yeah, I think it takes a long time to trust deeper. You have got to go through stuff, and in some cases retreat from it before you learn that's not getting you anywhere. You have got to go with it – it's happening for a reason. And Jules learns that.

My favorite thing about Jules is that she is not defensive. When something goes wrong, she doesn't say, 'How dare you' or 'You are an idiot.' She says, 'How did I contribute to this? How can I do better? Now give me the chance to do better.' It's a beautiful quality.

Ben is observant and listens and resists that at first. But ultimately he has a calming effect on everybody, even her. Is that quality rare in men these days?
It's hard for anyone to be a good listener, let alone a man. [Laughs] An engaged listener, even a compassionate listener, is a hard thing to find in this world. It's something I work on, being a better listener.

With Jules, I think the reason she resists Ben initially is because she thinks she's going to have to babysit him and that he's going to slow her down. She thinks that moving fast is the way to make it through this moment. Ben teaches her that it's not about the speed they move but about the depth of your breath, and Jules has been taking very shallow breaths. Around Ben, her breath is allowed to drop and she doesn't know why she is feeling better. But he is literally giving her the space for her to provide more oxygen to herself, and that is a calming experience.

You have an eight-minute-long scene with De Niro in the hotel room, which is a substantial moment in the story. What was that like to film?
It keeps you on your toes. Don't take anything for granted and there are no, 'What are my lines again?' You know your lines weeks in advance.

Look, this was a challenging job in the best possible way. Nancy likes to do a lot of takes and it was a real treat. Bob talks about it, saying, 'It's 'old school, which is the way I love doing it.' I don't mind doing a lot of takes at all – it can be really exciting. It can also yield brilliant results. I love Nancy's movies so much for a reason, so however she works is the way that she works and I support it.

It's clear that you're a big fan of Robert De Niro too. Is it hard not to gush about him?
It is so hard not to gush about him. He's so gushy.

He's played some iconic tough guys. Was it surprising for you to see him as such a lovely man in this film?
Yeah, and that was the thing. You are on set and suddenly Bob's not there anymore and you don't know how it happened. He looks the same, but no, he doesn't look the same – he's a couple of inches shorter and older and his energy has been channeled in a different way. Suddenly you are not talking to Bob, you are talking to Ben Whittaker. How did he do that? It's like a magic trick!

Do you remember the first time you interacted with him in character?
It was our first interaction. We were in between takes and I asked Bob a question and he answered me. Then we went back to do the next scene and suddenly I was talking to Ben. All of a sudden I thought, 'Oh God, he's so good. Wow!'

What does Nancy bring to the table as a director? How is she different from other filmmakers you've worked with?
Well, every filmmaker is different. Everybody has a process, the way they like to work best. Nancy likes to do a lot of takes. She really likes to see on screen what she has in her head, and there's a lot of precision to that. As an actor, sometimes I come in and do a scene with a little bit of anxiety to burn and it's great to know you're going to get a lot of time that explore that. So, actually, I found it calming throughout.

But it was hard. It took me a couple of weeks to learn how to make my energy last the entire day. Once I got used to it, she was really supportive and loving and she's so funny and focused, really focused, as were Bob and I, so we all got along really well.


Is it hard to shake off a character like Jules?

The tightness in my chest, that level of heartbreak, that feeling of being stressed and having the weight of the world on your shoulders – I did take that home with me every day. I think it's because there is something universal about those feelings. We all have that experience, so even if I wasn't going through anything directly that provided it for me at that time, playing someone like that just tapped into muscle memory.

Thankfully, I don't have a lot in common with Jules, but, yeah, I did take her home. At the end of the movie, when we zipped up the final outfit from the final scene, I felt like she was gone and then I was off to the next thing.

You've had a pretty interesting career with many opportunities to work with people at the top of their game. What has that been like for you, to be invited to that table?
I have been lucky. I've been invited to that table for fifteen years, and Bob has been invited to it for 50. And Nancy has been at the table for over 30. It's like, damn! [Laughs] Then you look at somebody like Meryl Streep, who has been at the table for that long too.

There are people who have been able to make it last for their entire lives and whose work has gotten more precise and more nuanced and, in many ways, more open. I am in awe of that. My goal is to be an actor for the rest of my life, so I am moved when I am around people who have pulled it off. I admire them so much.