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  • Interview: Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt

    Thu, 02 Oct 2008 15:33:38

    Interview: Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt - Actresses Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt talk sibling strife

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    In Rachel Getting Married, actresses Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt play estranged sisters who reunite upon the occasion of a family wedding. Hathaway is Kym, a recovering narcotics addict who, as a teen, was the agent of a tragic accident that her family struggles to forgive her for. DeWitt is Rachel, the elder sibling and bride-to-be who prays that her eccentric sister does not disrupt the biggest day of her life. Hathaway and DeWitt are deeply endeared to their characters and each other, each woman lauding the other’s brave performance in a film which is heavy with somber tones, but also light and uplifting at times. ARTISTdirect spoke with the duo about director Jonathan Demme's unique shooting style and what it means to be a loving sister, among other things.

    Anne Hathaway

    What was the coolest thing about playing Kym?

    You mean besides the hair? I think for me, it was the first time that’d I’d ever not editorialized a character, if you know what I’m saying. Sometimes I felt like, okay, I’m going to know my character better than anyone. Here’s what you’re supposed to like about her, here’s what you’re not supposed to like about her, here’s where she’s coming from and here’s her journey. In a way I would overthink it, and I had a realization about a month before we made this movie that it really doesn’t matter if I like Kym or not…Actually the only thing that was important to her story is that you understand her. The worst thing I could do would be to, in any way, try to manipulate her, or to try and gain the audience’s sympathy or respect or anything like that; that was never my intention. I just figured [out], “Oh my God, all I have to do, my only job is to make her truthful. And if you make her truthful she’ll be understood and then people can take away from her what they want, but she’ll be honest.”

    Who’d you understand her to be?

    I’ve gotten a lot of questions like, “What was it like playing a selfish character?” And I say, “Yeah, Kym definitely has flaws and sometimes you want to smack her and everything,” but the thing I love about this movie is, underneath it, here’s a girl fighting for her survival. She’s fighting for her survival, she’s fighting to stay sober, and then to the people that say she’s selfish, I’m just like, “Do you see what she puts up with in the movie? The way she’s perceived? The way she’s treated?” She’s there putting up with it because she loves her sister. Kym is fierce. Kym has the biggest heart of any character that I’ve ever encountered, and she’s frighteningly intelligent and she’s just really extreme…Kym overwhelms your senses. She’s so much fun to play. [Laughs]

    Jonathan said that the looseness of Jenny [Lumet]’s screenplay made him feel more free as a director. Did you feel that same freeness because of the material, and were you kept on your toes because of the shooting style?

    Do you do yoga? You know when you’re trying something new and the only way to do this incredibly difficult pose is to be as relaxed as possible? That’s kind of what making this movie was like. There were so many things being thrown at you, but all you can kind of do is say, “Alright, fine, let’s try that. Jonathan Demme is steering the ship and I’m happy to be aboard.” In a way, I personally feel that your own personal hang-ups and feelings don’t really matter when you’re on set. It’s all about telling the story and doing the scene and telling the truth. I just automatically try to feel comfortable wherever I am, because if I’m uncomfortable that’s only going to stilt me and make me more self-conscious, and I’m kind of both of those things anyway. The script, the consistency of it, the complexity of the conflict, the truth of the characters made it very easy because there was nothing you had to bring to it. You just kind of had to show up and find the truth everyday.

    Do you think that events that take place during the teen years influence the rest of your life, or can you put it in the back drawer if something traumatic happens?

    I think one of the most beautiful things we have going for us as human beings is our ability to heal…Everything that has happened to me, good and bad, I feel has happened for a reason and I’ve been made stronger from the good stuff and much, much, much, much, much stronger from the bad stuff. I don’t want to put anything in a drawer, but I do want to let things rest and heal, and it just becomes a part of you. One of my favorite lines in the movie is [from] the woman who gets up at the first N.A. meeting and says, “I’m an addict. That’s just one fact, one fact among many.” I think that when you’re talking about your past, that is what happens. Depends on, of course, the level of the trauma.

    I felt more willingness after I played this character to put myself out there and not be afraid of being judged.

    Did this role stay with you for a while, as an actor, afterward?

    I didn’t want to let Kym go. I’m not going to lie. I didn’t want to let her go; I loved her. I felt more inspired to be honest. I felt more willingness after I played this character to put myself out there and not be afraid of being judged or misunderstood or disliked. I found a lot of confidence in this role to be able to approach people and say, “Look, as long as I’m myself, you can like me or dislike me, but at least it’s under honorable pretences.” I felt really comfortable, and I found that level of honesty and self-representation has really evened my relationship with people that I love in my life and it’s made my life better. Even if Kym’s not with me anymore, her lessons are.

    How are you dealing with all of the [Oscar] buzz?

    What buzz? Bees, you mean? [Laughs] It’s thrilling to have inspired people in a performance to put their passion out there on display. That’s so cool, and I’ve never done anything that warranted that before or garnered it. I’m enjoying having my work enjoyed. That being said, ultimately the buzz doesn’t matter until the nominations come out, so I’m not really thinking about it too much.

    You and Rosemarie didn’t have much time to meet pre-production?

    We didn’t want to. We went out to have a dinner, and it was a little awkward because we were half in character, half really curious about what the other person was like. We didn’t really try. We thought the awkwardness would be good between the two of us because the characters don’t know each other very well…and are kind of getting to know each other again during the course of the movie. We never focused on that or doubted that. We kind of kept a really respectful, friendly distance from each other. There was never any question that it was personal; it was just what’s going to serve the story best. We’ve gotten to know each other since the movie finished, and I really like her. She’s a great girl, and she’s so adorable! She’s, like, the most adorable person on the planet. She’s a phenomenal actress and I expect such great things for her and doors to open from this performance because it’s just magnificent.

    Rosemarie DeWitt

    This was a very interesting wedding ceremony. What did you think about it?

    I went into it thinking, “Why an Indian wedding? Why this, why that?” Instead of asking, I just kind of went with it and when I saw the finished product, I think it was kind of ironic. I don’t think she [Rachel] took it as seriously as maybe I was in playing it, which is good.

    Working with Jonathan Demme can be an interesting experience. The way he used the camera on this film [was unique]. How many cameras were actually filming during your wedding ceremony or some of the other big scenes?

    [In] the rehearsal dinner and the wedding ceremony, [there were] maybe about six, sometimes? It was usually maybe two or three production cameras. I could be wrong about this, but I think [that’s] what it was. There would be, like, a wedding videographer, who’s an actor in the movie, another actor with a camcorder. I think, initially, and I don’t know what [Demme’s] vision was, I thought, “Oh, maybe they’ll use all of it, a lot of the camcorder footage.” I think they used a lot of the production [and] occasionally, in some spots, they used the other camcorder stuff. Those scenes were just thrilling. Anywhere you’d look, there was usually a camera somewhere in your face. The word “performance” sounds so weird, because you can’t be acting…you just have to be present. If you don’t get your lines out, who cares, because that’s not what’s really happening.

    So you never knew when the camera was really on you?

    No, not in those big group scenes. Some of [it is] scripted stuff in the family scenes. There’s very few two character scenes in it, actually, when you look at the movie. Some of the ones that were in there, [Demme] took out, I think because they felt like a film. Because very rarely in life do two people sit in a room and look at each other and talk to each other. [During] those you knew when the camera was on you, but even then, the camera could be on you, you could be doing something great and then Declan [Quinn, the D.P.] would feel Anne starting to, I don’t know, just some energy kick up over here. He’d just move the camera, and that was never planned. It was so much fun to work that way.

    Can you talk about working with Anne and what she brought to Kym?

    So much. She feels no obligation to be likeable or polite, and she did that on Day One. She just came in, and was all up in my grill and in my personal space. And I was like, “Why do I feel like there’s no oxygen in the room?” [Laughs] I was like, “Oh, good. This fits the dynamic. It’s all in. Everything is right for this movie.” Not that she’s like that as a person at all, but she and I didn’t spend a lot of time together before [filming]. I don’t know that that was conscious...and I think it was helpful because these two women are awkward together. They wish they were best friends, but they’re not. The first time, to me, when I watched the film, they seemed truly aligned is [during] the last scene with Debra Winger…But before that, it kind of worked in our favor. If I spent time with her and I had breakfast with her every morning I would like her too much and then not be able to be terrible to her in the next scene.

    Can you talk about your reaction when you first saw it as a viewer? Did you feel that it was both of their stories, or did you feel it was a little more Kym’s or a little more Rachel’s?

    Reading the script I felt like it was all Kym’s story…I thought there was this incredible family dynamic. I didn’t necessarily see it as an ensemble movie, I should say that. Then when I met with Jonathan [about] it, he said, “You know, I really see at the heart of this film these two sisters.” And I was thinking, “Oh, really?” I was also thinking, “I’ll never get the job now, because [Demme] thinks it’s a more interesting part than I thought, initially.” The title used to be Dancing With Shiva, which is very much a shout out to Anne’s character—Shiva the creator, the destroyer…Rachel getting married is the event of the wedding…I had a very different experience of what the story was as a viewer. In it, I think sometimes as an actor you have to think it’s your story to think it’s your life. The stakes have to be that high.

    With such a raw shooting style, were the effects of being on set pervasive?

    Not in any kind of awful way. In a way that I was happy to never fully let go of it so that it would still be there the next day. I was doing a play this summer, and I was like, “God, I wish I could take a shower or something every night,” because it was just too hard emotionally. [With this film], if my shoulders start[ed] up here [scrunches shoulders, feigning tension], they’d just gradually come down through [shooting] the movie.

    It seemed like, the way you filmed it, there was a lot of room for improvisation. Did you lose any scenes that you were sad to lose?

    I heard Jonathan say in an interview that the movie was 90 percent scripted and 10 percent something extra. I always like to emphasize, it really is the script. It’s not one of those improv movies where the really cool scenes are blindly made up. That’s actually not the case. We lost some scenes, two-person scenes…Those scenes don’t end up in the movie, but you have the experience of doing them.

    —Heidi Atwal

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    Tags: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger, Jonathan Demme, Jenny Lumet

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