At a Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend, Anne Hathaway addressed reporters’ questions about her forthcoming psychological thriller Eileen, based on the 2015 Ottessa Moshfegh novel of the same name, and spoke on how the movie has resonated with her on a personal level. Specifically, Hathaway cited misogyny she faced early in her career, which helped her connect with the plot of Eileen and its dark observations about the oppressive life of a young woman in the 1960s.
“I just remembered one of the very first questions I ever got asked when I started acting and had to do press was: Are you a good girl or a bad girl?” Hathaway said, according to Variety. “I was 16. And my 16-year-old self wanted to respond with this film.”
At 16 in the late 1990s, Hathaway was just shy of rocketing to fame through her breakout role in The Princess Diaries. The invasive, grossly sexualized comment she received as a teen is, unsettlingly enough, pretty much on par with what a lot of women in Hollywood say they had to put up with early in their careers. Last month, former Disney star Bella Thorne revealed that she was denied a role at age 10 when a casting director accused her of flirting with him. In conversation with Thorne, Emily Ratajkowski revealed that when she was 16, her agent at the time “pointed to my picture…and they were like, ‘This face. This is how we know this girl gets fucked.” In 2018, Natalie Portman, who’s now 40, recounted that shortly after her role at age 12 in the movie Léon: The Professional, her local radio station launched a countdown to her 18th birthday. Throughout the ‘90s and 2000s, radio hosts started similar countdowns for the Olsen twins and Emma Watson.
And, of course, in the new Hulu documentary Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields about the actor-model’s life, Shields herself comments on the highly sexualized film roles and brand campaigns she took on as a minor. Headlines about her from the 80s read, “America’s Newest Sexy Kid Star,” and, “World’s youngest sex symbol?”
Hathaway, unfortunate enough to find herself in this mix, now seems to be tapping into her justified, lingering frustrations with the mistreatment of women and girls through her role in Eileen, slated to release later this year.
In Eileen, Hathaway plays the titular Eileen, a secretary at a New England prison living a dead-end life, taking care of her alcoholic father, committing petty crimes all across town, and dreaming of leaving it all behind and running away to New York City. Her life is transformed by the arrival of prison psychologist Rebecca Saint John, played by Thomasin McKenzie, and the homoerotic friendship the two women forge.
Hathaway told reporters at Sundance that her interest in the film adaptation of Moshfegh’s novel was piqued by director William Oldroyd, after Hathaway watched his 2016 film Lady MacBeth. “I thought it was an extraordinary work,” she said of the drama starring Florence Pugh. “I saw a study of female complication that hit me really, really deep, and I felt like Will was a filmmaker that could be trusted to tell complicated stories, especially about females.”
I am forever Team Anne—all the more so for movies in which she broods and fans the flames of sexual tension with a female prison psychologist, which sounds like pure chaos. Put me down for one ticket to Eileen, please.