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Anne Hathaway Is Done Trying to Please

This is the debut of The Interview, The New York Times’s new weekly series, featuring in-depth conversations with fascinating people. Each week, David Marchese or Lulu Garcia-Navarro will speak with notable figures in the worlds of culture, politics, business, sports, wellness and beyond. Like the Magazine’s former Talk column, the conversations will appear online and in print, but now you can also listen to them in our new weekly podcast, “The Interview,” which is available wherever you get your podcasts. Below, you’ll find David’s first interview with the actress Anne Hathaway; Lulu’s first interview, with the Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid, is here.

Listen to the conversation with Anne Hathaway

On the debut of ’The Interview,’ the actress talks to David Marchese about learning to let go of other people’s opinions.

On one level, Anne Hathaway’s new movie, “The Idea of You,” which arrives on Prime Video on May 2 and is directed by Michael Showalter, couldn’t be more straightforward. It’s an adaptation of Robinne Lee’s hit romance novel about Solène, a divorced 40-year-old mom played by Hathaway, who winds up in a relationship with a much younger man — a singer in a boy band, played by Nicholas Galitzine. Warmhearted and with unabashed mainstream appeal, the film is a return for the New Jersey-raised actress, who has fruitfully spent much of her time lately playing thornier characters in indie films, to the kinds of charming fish-out-of-water tales that first helped bring her to stardom, like “The Princess Diaries” and “The Devil Wears Prada.” This time, though, instead of being the plucky ingénue thrust into a glamorous, high-pressure situation, Hathaway is playing a character who’s coming into a new world a little less starry-eyed, and with a firmer sense of self.

But “The Idea of You” also works on another, more complicated, even self-referential level. It’s a movie about a woman pushing against societal expectations and getting a lot of grief for it, which is something Hathaway, 41, knows about. More than a decade ago, around the time she won an Academy Award for her work in “Les Misérables,” the online commentariat turned on Hathaway for … who knows, exactly? Some strange groupthink kicked in that caused people to pile on her for seeming like an inauthentic striver — or something. Other than as a case study in the inexplicable and random cruelty of the internet, the whole phenomenon, described at the time as Hathahate, makes even less sense now than it did then.

Since that time, Hathaway told me when we talked twice last month, she has been learning to let go of other people’s opinions and expectations of her as an actress, a celebrity and a human being. This has made her work even more compelling to watch and made her more guarded as a public figure. “I really like expressing myself through my work,” says Hathaway, who after so many years and so many great performances is still figuring out the best way to play the puzzling real-life part of a famous actress.

There are a bunch of things that are intriguing to me about the new movie. One of them is that there are a few of what I took to be Anne Hathaway psychological Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the film. I’ll get to those, but first: You haven’t done a romance in a while. Can you talk to me about why you wanted to do “The Idea of You”? It’s such a softball question, and I can feel my brain complicating it.

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