Anne Hathaway Is Jane Austen in Becoming Jane

Anne Hathaway plays the icon of romance literature

Anne Hathaway continues her meteoric rise with the next logical step for an American actress on the road to stardom: English period costume drama. Hathaway stars as romance literature's favorite heroine, Jane Austen, in Becoming Jane; a quasi-historical film about the author's first love with a Scottish lawyer (James McAvoy). The film has its moments and continues the diverse career path Hathaway has wisely chosen. The actress goes back to her comedy roots as "Agent 99" alongside Steve Carell in next year's remake of Get Smart.

So you're an American actress playing Jane Austen with a cast of reputable British actors. Did you worry about the accent?

Anne Hathaway: I worked really hard on the accent. I moved to England for a month beforehand. It was the thing that I knew people would talk about the most. I figured if I didn't get that right than the rest of the performance wouldn't matter because people would write me off in the first five minutes. Here's this young American upstart playing a beloved British icon. I felt really stupid staying in the accent the whole time. I really owe a lot to the rest of the cast. I had a wonderful dialect coach. Julie Walters told me I was doing a great job with the accent. She said this to me before we started filming, that kind of felt like a little blessing.

Were you a fan of her work before this role?

Anne Hathaway: I studied her work in school. I had to write a paper at the same time my brother was looking around at colleges. He went to the University of Vermont for his freshman year. From New Jersey to Vermont is a long car ride, so I read "Pride and Prejudice" on the way up and Sense and Sensibility on the way down. I was ashamed when I read the script that I'd never been more curious about her life. I had no idea that she even had flirtations. It just never really occurred to me to think about that. I inherited the image of Jane Austen as a sort of dried-out old spinster and in doing my research; I found out that she was anything but that. She was wonderfully alive. It was wonderful the idea of playing the woman before the icon.

Is this romance historically accurate? Or is there a lot of dramatic license in the script?

Anne Hathaway: She did have a relationship with Tom Lefroy, but that's all we know. We're not deliberately trying to mislead the world about Jane Austen. We really did as much as we could with the information we had. I'm sure that he did have some influence on her and her life but, it's a portrait of an artist, her contemptuous relationship with her mother, her standing in society; her frustrations at her poverty. It's very plausible that something like this could have happened.

What was it like working with James McAvoy?

Anne Hathaway: I really like James McAvoy. He's smart, terribly clever, a lot of fun, and a brilliant actor. The questions that people ask about chemistry, there's no formula to it. He and I understood our characters well enough that we were able to let that relationship come through.

You've been a roll the last few years. The Devil Wears Prada was very successful. Working with Julian Jarrold here, Get Smart with Steve Carell next summer, what do you attribute all of the success to?

Anne Hathaway: I'm very grateful and I feel very blessed in my life. It hasn't been one big easy wonderful ride. There have been hidden moments in there. I've been just as surprised as anyone. It's absurd that I'm as successful that I am as young as I am. I love my job. I really get to work with exciting, interesting people every day.

Becoming Jane is in limited theaters now, opening wider on August 10th.