Anne Hathaway plays ‘One Day’ character strictly by the book
BY DENNIS KING
NEW YORK – Anne Hathaway knows that she might not have been first choice among devoted fans of David Nicholls’ international best-selling novel “One Day” to play the screen role of Emma Morley, the quirky, waifish Yorkshire gal who endures an on-and-off, two-decades friendship cum love affair with the posh, upper-crust rascal Dexter Mayhew.
Much as the choice of Yank actress Rene Zellwegger to play the thoroughly British Bridget Jones (another working-class Yorkshire lass) in the film adaptations of Helen Fielding’s comic novels set off an irate buzz among dedicated readers, so too did the American Hathaway’s casting irk certain bookish anglophiles (not to mention a legion of English actresses).
But during press interviews for the film at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel hosted by Focus Features, the chipper Hathaway proved herself thoroughly unperturbed by the online kerfuffle over her casting.
She said she simply went about researching and building the role with the precision and enthusiasm of the veteran actor and Oscar nominee (for “Rachel Getting Married”) that she is.
“Getting into the accent was the first challenge,” said Hathaway, a Brooklyn native without a whit of Brooklyn patois. “The accent was key, and it informs so much about Emma and Dexter’s relationship that we don’t necessarily address in the movie. But a huge part of the book is the class difference between them, and how that’s actually one of the things that keeps them from getting together early on. I think it’s one of the things that keeps Emma from feeling totally comfortable and confident in this life that she’s trying to establish for herself.”
“One Day” tracks 20 years in the lives of gangly Emma and handsome Dexter from the day they graduate college in 1988 and attempt an awkward, bungled one-night stand. It revisits the two each St. Swithin’s Day, July 15th, as they suffer the ups and downs of careers and personal lives and as their relationship converges and diverges through the turmoil of the years.
Hathaway, who is no stranger to things British since she portrayed that most iconic of English literary lights, Jane Austen, in 2007’s “Becoming Jane” (for which she received a British Independent Film Awards nomination), said she nonetheless immersed herself in research for the new role.
“Understanding Emma’s education was pretty key,” she said. “One of the things I did was I tried to read as many books that David Nicholls mentions by name in the novel. But Emma was a really, really good reader, and the books were a little arduous. I much prefer Dexter’s tastes. He was always reading The Face magazine, and I was like, ‘can’t I do that?’”
Hathaway also said she spend as much time as she could in London and in the Yorkshire region before filming began.
“I tried to pay attention. I went up to every single person that I could meet from Yorkshire and asked them as many questions as I could,” she said. “Kate Fox wrote a book, and I’m blanking on the title right now, it’s either ‘Studying the English’ or ‘Watching the English’ or something like that (‘Watching the English – The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour’). It’s an amazing book and it breaks down a lot of typically British characteristics. And the chapter on humor really helped me understand Emma.”
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