Anne Hathaway has had quite a year going into the Academy Awards, at which she's strongly favored to win the supporting actress Oscar for her role as Fantine in director Tom Hooper's "Les Misérables." She got raves for her performance as Catwoman in the summer blockbuster "The Dark Knight Rises," sang for President Obama at a fundraiser in August and married actor Adam Shulman in an outdoor ceremony at Big Sur in September. And this month, she's taken home trophies from the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards. It's rumored that the film's cast will perform a musical number at the Oscars; at press time, though, Hathaway said she was "still waiting to be told what to do."
Initially, the producers resisted seeing you for the role of Fantine. How did you persuade them?
I'm just very lucky that at this stage in my career, unless there's really stalwart opposition, I can usually get myself into a room. Once you're in there, all bets are off. You can change people's minds. I did it, and I've done it before.
What made the difference in the audition?
I was asked to prepare "I Dreamed a Dream" and "The Arrest." We went through each a few times, and Tom and I talked about the character — how would you do this scene, how would you do that scene? I love musical theater and film, and I've never gotten a chance to talk to anyone about my ideas about it before, so that might have been it. And then he said, 'Hey, do you mind doing the death scene? And I didn't, because my mom [actress Kate McCauley Hathaway, who performed in the musical's original touring cast] did the role. I literally grew up hearing her practicing and singing it, so I was able to wing it. After that, Tom still had to see everyone else in Hollywood. It was a month before I learned that I had the role.
Your performance of "I Dreamed a Dream" is so fragile and heartbreaking. Can you talk about how you got yourself to that place?
I don't have a lot in common with this character, but I'd done a lot of research about the emotional lives of sex slaves. I know this story was written 150 years ago, but these things are still tragically with us. So it was about feeling empathic for all the women in the world upon whom so much horror is visited. Fantine just wanted a true love, and she didn't get it. She was misled and misused at every turn. When we filmed it, I had this thing in my head that I wanted to nail it on the first take, and I didn't. So I started to get angry with myself, and it was a combination of that and Fantine's anger with the world. She's never allowed herself that before; she's always maintained a hopeful place. So "I Dreamed a Dream" was about watching a pure soul get filled with rage. Her hope is about to die. What you see was the fourth take. Tom came over afterwards and said, 'I've got it.' I was so nervous about the vocals that I wanted to do a few more, and we did, but that was the one he used.
You worked with voice coach Joan Lader. How has she helped you?
I've actually been working with her for 10 years, because I love singing, and I love doing stage. It was great to apply some of that language and baseline that we created together to creating Fantine's voice. I was aware that some people don't like musicals because everything is sung. So Joan and I worked on introducing a quality into my voice where at times I could be technically singing, but it sounded as effortless as speech.
During the filming in London, I'm told, Russell Crowe (Javert) would give Friday night parties at his place where the cast would have a few drinks and sing around the piano. What effect did that have?
That was a really key part of it. Russell is such a clever man, and I think he knew exactly what he was doing. We got to know each other's singing voices that way. It got us over that initial cringe-y awkwardness. When you showed up on Monday, you could be a lot looser because you've already sung in front of everyone, half-drunk. And it really got us behind each other. Everyone worked their rears off on this, so to be front row center when a cast member had a breakthrough with their singing was the best feeling in the world.
When it comes to the Oscars, you must feel like a real insider, having co-hosted in 2011 with James Franco. Does that take some of the pressure off?
I'll know all the crew, so I think it'll feel kinder. But more than that, it's knowing that I went through the whole show before as a nominee, and I didn't win, and it was fine. I got to go on and my life didn't suffer. Just getting there is the reward, I really do feel that. What really takes the pressure off is my wedding, in that I've already had the happiest day of my life. So now, whatever happens in February is OK. I kind of already know where I stand.