EXCLUSIVE: Anne Hathaway praised James Gray for not being a “kid-glove” director. The filmmaker directed the Oscar-winning star in his autobiographical film Armageddon Time, which is receiving its North American premiere Friday at the Telluride Film Festival.
Hathaway plays Esther Graff, mother of increasingly wayward son Paul (Banks Repeta), who has become pals with Black schoolmate Johnny, played by Jaylin Webb.
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Set in Queens, New York in 1980 against a backdrop of racial tension and economic inequality, Esther’s exasperated while wanting to do what’s best for her son.
Hathaway noted that Gray “can see his own life through very clear, unsentimental, but empathetic eyes.”
She said that she was fully engaged in Gray’s vision for the film and was happy “stripping off all the glamour, and getting to play this woman who was, frankly, overworked and exhausted, and stressed out,” she told Deadline at Telluride.
“He’s not a kid-glove director,” she said, indicating that she was grateful for that.
”Sometimes you’re the best actor in the world and sometimes your notes are a little bit rougher than that. He’s honest and if a take is not up to snuff, he will, in his own inimitable way, let you know,” Hathaway said.
Asked to give an example, Hathaway removed her sunglasses, laughed and gave a defiant response, which was “No!”
”It’s private, and it’s something that I really appreciated within the context of this world and this character,” she said.
“It brought me to a place, and I aspire to be the sort of actor that gives themselves over to the process, and really yields to the director and that alchemy and atmosphere that they’re trying to create,” she explained.
Laughing again, Hathaway sized up the situation with this comment: “I feel like the headline for that is, ‘James Gray Is Tough On His Actors,’ and I don’t want that because he was unbelievably supportive and was guiding me to a place that he knew better than I did; until it was a place that we knew better together.”
Asked what her preferred headline would be, Hathaway wrote it out in the air: “James Gray Is A Dream Director If You Are A Tough Actor.”
Is Hathaway tough? “I aspire to be a tough actor,” she said. “I’m grateful to be here and I haven’t felt tempted to take an exit ramp yet.”
She mused for a moment on the themes raised in Armageddon Time. “It was interesting just being in a world where anger is treated so casually and things go from very goofy to very explosive in the blink of an eye. I think it’s something that we all actually recognize as something true to life,“ she said.
Armageddon Time also stars Jeremy Strong (Succession), Anthony Hopkins (The Father) and Tovah Feldshuh (Lady In the Water).
The Focus Features production will have a limited theatrical release October 28, expand November 4, and wider beginning November 11.
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