She has acted opposite stars like Meryl Streep and in hit movies including “Brokeback Mountain,” but for Anne Hathaway, the pressure of playing British writer Jane Austen in the film drama “Becoming Jane” was so great, she almost quit.
Hathaway, 24, is one of Hollywood’s rising young stars who mostly stays out of tabloid headlines dominated by the likes of Lindsay Lohan and other troubled young celebrities. Her new movie “Becoming Jane” opens in major cities on Friday.
“A lot of people put pressure on me. I put a lot of pressure on myself,” Hathaway said. “There was a time when I considered stepping away from the project because I really didn’t want to fail.”
She stayed on, Hathaway said, because she felt she had more to gain by overcoming her fears than walking away.
The actress became a teen sensation in 2001’s “The Princess Diaries,” displayed real acting talent as the wife of a gay man in “Brokeback,” and held her own as a plucky assistant to a wicked fashion editor (Streep) in “The Devil Wears Prada.”
“Becoming Jane” marks the first film in which her popularity is the key draw.
For the movie, Hathaway had to master an English accent as well as learn the history and customs of the late 18th century. Further raising her anxiety was the fact “Becoming Jane” is a fictional tale of Austen’s life.
The movie imagines Austen as a young woman falling in love with a brash young man, Tom LeFroy, and it creates events that audiences are led to believe could have shaped Austen’s novels such as “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice.”
Raising eyebrowsTaking liberties with history has raised eyebrows among Austen purists, but Hathaway argues that little is known about Austen’s early years and what influenced her writing.
“The fact of the matter is no one can write the definitive portrait of Jane Austen,” she said. “The film says, these are the influences, and whether her experience or imagination made her a great writer, we’ll never know.”
Hathaway said she read Austen’s novels as a 14-year-old, and while they take place some 200 years ago, the stories’ themes are still relevant today.
“Her novels are unbelievably entertaining, but they also ask some pointed questions about the lot of women in life,” Hathaway said. “She had a mind of her own. She questioned the world around her, and that is something very modern.”
The actress was raised in New Jersey and when she was young, dreamed of playing Broadway. She said she never thought acting in Hollywood also would require being a celebrity.
But Hathaway has used fame to raise money and awareness for causes supporting women and kids, among others.
Unlike Lohan or other Hollywood contemporaries, such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, Hathaway described herself as a “private person” who prefers to stay out of the limelight.
That changed in June when Los Angeles investor Ron Burkle sued Hathaway’s boyfriend, Raffaello Follieri, claiming Follieri improperly used investment funds for personal expenses.
Thankfully, that remained primarily a business scandal that didn’t draw her in, Hathaway said.
“I know I’m not a good celebrity,” she said. “I’m boring and closed and probably seem very safe.”