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Young American newcomer Anne Hathaway makes her debut co-starring with Julie Andrews in The Princess Diaries – but she’d be just as happy as a Professor of English, she explains to Andrew L. Urban.

In The Princess Diaries, Anne Hathaway plays San Francisco teenager Mia Thermopolis, whose true identity has been kept secret by her artist mother Helen (Caroline Goodall). When Mia's paternal grandmother, Queen Clarisse Renaldi (Julie Andrews) arrives in the
US, the shy and awkward Mia is shocked to learn that she is now heir to the throne of Genovia, a tiny European principality. Given 'princess lessons' by her grandmother and the staff, Mia must decide whether to accept her royal role. A bit like Anne Hathaway, in a way.

Ever since she was a little girl, Anne Hathaway knew her priorities. When her parents would ask her, which is more important to her – to be pretty or to be smart, she’d always reply, “Smart.”

“(Acting) was just a hobby. It was not a planned career”

But when she was about seven, she observed her actress mother getting a great kick out of her work on the national tour of Les Miserables (as Fantine). “I saw her become a different person, and that appealed to me. But it was just a hobby. It was not a planned career. It only became a career choice when I did The Princess Diaries.”

But don’t get the wrong idea: it’s no flash in the pan. Hathaway, who goes from bushy-browed plain Jane to pretty Princess in her feature debut, has done other good work, like the Fox tv drama series, Get Real, in which her role as Meghan Green won her a nomination at the 2000 Teen Choice Awards, among others. She is also the first teenager admitted to the acting program of the award winning Barrow Group in New York She studied acting at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey.

“if there’s no work as an actress, or I choose not to continue that career, I’d become a Professor of English”

When looking through scripts for new roles, Hathaway tries to put herself “in that place. Sometimes I feel I’m not quite ready to play a role . . .but it’s three months of it, so I have to be prepared to be in that place for that time.”

There aren’t that many strong roles for an 18 year old, says Hathaway, relaxing on a couch in one of Sydney’s harbourside hotels. In fact, she still hasn’t found a suitable script since making The Princess Dairies last year (2000). But no matter, she’s back at university (for security reasons, her campus is being kept under wraps) majoring in English (with women studies); “if there’s no work as an actress, or I choose not to continue that career, I’d become a Professor of English,” she says flatly.

While movies don’t define the way people live, she says, “they do make a difference. Escapism, for one. But they can also help people. One nine year old girl came up to me after The Princess Diaries and said it taught her she could do anything...”

Published September 13, 2001

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