Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway in a scene from the movie The Hustle.
Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway in a scene from the movie The Hustle. Christian Black

Hathaway cons her way into playing the bad girl

Anne Hathaway has a few apologies to make relating to her latest movie. First on the list are Australians as a whole, with the Academy Award-winning actor explaining she felt she could have done better with her Aussie accent in her new big screen comedy, The Hustle.

"I am pretty proud of my accent work in this movie but I do feel like I need to apologise to Australia," Hathaway says.

Hathaway stars alongside Australian comedian Rebel Wilson, whose character Penny Rust carries her native accent in the film about two rival con artists.

"In that scene, my character is very annoyed with Rebel's (character) so she is doing a very broad harsh Australian accent," explains Hathaway, who speaks with a British accent in the rest of the film.

"I didn't do as much prep work on that one so thank you Australia, I appreciate it."

Hathaway's other apology goes to fellow Oscar winner, Russell Crowe.

Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson in a scene from The Hustle.
Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson in a scene from The Hustle.

In one scene, Hathaway's character, Josephine Chesterfield, hits out at Penny Rust, calling her a "big-titted Russell Crowe".

Hathaway and Crowe worked together on Les Miserables, a role that earnt her the best supporting actress Oscar in 2012.

"Fingers crossed I don't get an email from him being like, 'excuse me'," she says.

"I didn't write that one and I really didn't want to say it.
I was like, 'guys I know Russell, please'. And they said, 'just do it, we probably won't put it in the movie'. And now of course it is in."

Hathaway spoke to The Sunday Telegraph by phone from New York where she was mid-way through a press day for the film directed by actor-turned-director Chris Addison (Skins, Doctor Who, Veep).

The 36-year-old, who has a three-year-old son with actor/producer husband Adam Shulman, sounds genuinely excited and clearly loved every minute of working on the film, particularly the opportunity to bounce off Wilson.

"Rebel didn't know but I was kind of stalking the development of the project so I was really thrilled when it came my way. She didn't know but she had a blinking yes from me," she says.

So what drew her to the project?

"Honestly it was more the fun. I just thought it was going to be so much fun to misbehave in the south of France and wear fabulous clothes and get to watch Rebel Wilson improv every day. There really was no drawback. There was no sense of sacrifice."

Anne Hathaway liked playing the “bad girl” con artist in The Hustle. Picture: Paul Morigi/Getty
Anne Hathaway liked playing the “bad girl” con artist in The Hustle. Picture: Paul Morigi/Getty

Wilson is known for her improvisational comedy so going head-to-head with her in the improv stakes was a daunting prospect.

"I feel like I have gotten to a place where I don't slow a scene down but I am not Rebel. She has really, really got like a fun god gift," Hathaway says.

Shot in France, the premise of the film is simple - two female con artists compete to swindle as much cash as they can out of unsuspecting wealthy men in a reverse of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the 1988 hit comedy starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine.


Josephine and Penny's modus operandi is to disarm the men with their beauty and charm.

"No man will ever believe a woman is smarter than he is," Josephine explains in one scene.

Hathaway laughs when asked about the quote.

"I do think that is a fairly extreme view. I would say small-minded men, I would put that caveat in there," she says.

Hathaway relished the opportunity to play bad on screen.

"You know what I liked about it, I liked seeing a movie about women that aren't nice, that is what I loved about it," she says.

"I just loved that. They are rude, they insult each other, they do what they want and there was something really delicious about that."

Hathaway says she "felt very at home" with the banter.

"Not necessarily with the insults, I found the straight up insulting someone, that part I didn't love. But the just kind of (looking at) society's expectations, I liked that part."

Hathaway loved working with “improv queen” Rebel Wilson.
Hathaway loved working with “improv queen” Rebel Wilson.

Growing up in New York, Hathaway started acting as a child and became the first and only teenager accepted into off-Broadway theatre company The Barrow Group.

After playing Meghan Green in 1999 television series Get Real, Hathaway landed The Princess Diaries, a 2001 film that saw her rocket to Hollywood leading lady status.

The Princess Diaries 2 followed three years later,
the same year that she also played a fairytale princess in Ella Enchanted.

"I was aware early on based on the reception that I got in the Princess Diaries that people would have been very happy to have me play that role again and again and again," she says. "I love her (character Mia), I love those movies but that wasn't the end of my dream. I just kind of realised from an early age that if I wanted to be thought of as a nimble and diverse actress that I was going to have to make that a priority."

With that in mind, Hathaway chooses roles based obviously on scripts but also directors she thinks will challenge her.

Anne Hathaway plays a con artist in the movie The Hustle.
Anne Hathaway plays a con artist in the movie The Hustle.

The result is a varied filmography, from playing Jake Gyllenhaal's rodeo-riding wife in Brokeback Mountain to long-suffering fashion PA Andy Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada.

"So many of them (her film choices) are director based," she says.

"It is kind of like, I wasn't meaning to play a grey area super hero villain (Catwoman) but Chris Nolan was directing it (The Dark Knight Rises).

"I didn't know I was going to play a kind of struggling addict but Jonathan Demme was directing it (Rachel Getting Married). A lot of it has been I just wanted to work with the best directors I could find to become the best actress I could and it has led me down this really diverse path."

Some 18 years after her first film and with more than 30 movies under her belt, Hathaway is a veteran of the industry.

"I am getting to that point where I walk on to set and I am one of the more seasoned members of the crew, that is starting to happen," she says.

Hathaway has several films in the works, the next of which will be playing the Grand High Witch in Robert Zemeckis's adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's classic, The Witches.

"I am really excited to just camp it up there," she says.

* The Hustle is in cinemas from Thursday

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