PITTSBURGH – Let's be honest, the past 18 months publicly haven't been the best of times for Anne Hathaway. A year ago, the acclaimed actress was coming off co-hosting arguably the worst Academy Awards show of all time and had the “no, it really doesn’t work” drama “One Day” had been sent to the art house dumping ground of mid-August. And while those tough events might have been stewing around in the back of her mind, in actuality Hathaway was leaving out a dream; portraying the iconic character of Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” Of course, whether she thought that once in a lifetime opportunity would take place in the relatively unglamorous confines of Pittsburgh is still unclear, but when she sat down to talk about her experience on set she was beaming with pride.
It’s early August 2011 and Nolan’s “Dark Knight Rises” production has settled in Western Pennsylvania for a few weeks shooting exteriors in the Steel City. On this day, a major stunt is about to go off – literally – in Heniz Field during a game between the Gotham Rogues and the Rapid City Monuments. Hathaway plays Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) in the picture, but she’s not required on set today. In fact, she’s stopped by to chat with visiting press about her dream role before quickly flying to New York to take part in some press for “One Day.”
Contextually, Hathaway’s Catwoman had just been revealed to the world in a still image released by Warner Bros. a few days before. The studio and the filmmakers had been concerned that the first image of the character would be captured by the public during a major set piece downtown and it would feature Hathaway’s stunt double and not the Oscar-nominated actress. It was a very smart move.
Are you happy to be able to finally talk about the movie?
I’m happy to be able to talk about the movie as much as I can. Obviously, a few secrets are out now so I can discuss certain things, but quite a few things are still under wraps.
What is your reaction to the photo getting out on line of you as Catwoman?
I asked people to check it out for me…It’s a little over whelming.
Can you talk about stepping into the shoes of such an iconic character? A lot of people grew up with Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman and Eartha Kitt. How does it feel to be Catwoman?
Well, the first thing you have to say is what an honor. It was funny for me because when I got my start, I kind of got my big break with ‘The Princess Diaries’ and during the press rounds for that everyone asked me, ‘Did you always want to be a princess growing up?’ And the truth was, ‘No, I wanted to be Catwoman.’ And I think a lot of women feel that way and the fact that I am actually her [now] is such a dream come true. It’s such a pinch me moment. And the fact that I am Catwoman in Chris Nolan’s Gotham to Christian Bale’s Batman is unbelievably cool.
When you got this role, what did Chris tell you about not letting any secrets out?
It’s sort of implied that everything is meant to be kept under wraps as possible. The production isn’t called Batman, it has another name. When I first read the script I couldn’t take it home with me, I had to read it in a locked room. Maybe the room wasn’t locked, I could be adding that for dramatic effect…but you know…
How do you learn your lines if you can’t even take the script home with you?
I read it through once really fast and I went back and read over all of my scenes and tried to memorize them as much as I could. It’s cool, you can call Chris and ask, ‘What is this scene about again?’ And eventually you get a copy of the script. But everything is done with the utmost secrecy. When I screen tested, I took the sides home with me. And it was really awkward because the producer had to hunt me down to get the sides back so that they could be destroyed. So, it’s implied that this should be treated with a certain amount of secrecy which is great because I think it is so much more fun to discover it in the movie theatre when there is so much anticipation about the movie. I’m excited for people to discover it when it’s all pieced together the way Chris wants it.
What has been the physical challenge of this role for you so far?
I’d always thought I was pretty healthy and I always thought I had worked hard in the gym and it turns out that what I thought was hard is actually light to moderate in Catwoman’s world. I’ve had to ratch it up a notch. I have the most incredible stuntwoman in the world and she’s [taken] me and the character to another level.
Why did you want to be Catwoman when you were a kid?
I loved Catwoman’s sense of humor. I love how sly she is. I love how she walks the fence and you don’t know which side she’s going to come down on. She’s totally independent. Let’s face it, she’s badass.
Who is your favorite Catwoman?
They have all been great. Each Catwoman is specific to the Gotham city she lives in and the director that helps shape her. So, it’s kind of hard to have a favorite and I’m not just being political, it’s hard to have a favorite because each one is so specific. And you look back at the history of the comic and Catwoman gets reinvented every ten to fifteen years anyway. You can have preferences, but the core of the character remains.
Did you look at any of them as inspiration?
I grew up with all of them so I was well acquainted with the character’s dimensions. She’s one of my favorite characters in the comic book world and in the movie world. But, I didn’t go back to any of the other ones because I’m in Chris’s Gotham City. For me, it didn’t make a lot of sense to look at them for inspiration, even as extraordinary a performance that Michelle Pfeiffer gave, that was Tim Burton’s Gotham.
What is that shooting with the larger and louder IMAX cameras?
I have noticed the noise because it sounds like a cappuccino being made constantly! (Laughs) For the fight sequences I actually love it because it keeps you out of your head and it adds to the adrenalin somehow. But I haven’t shot that many of the dialogue scenes yet.
After Christian Bale you are the most high profile person in the cast at this point in time, Is this movie going to be important for your career?
Obviously, Christian is Batman and it’s the Batman series and he’s the star of it. One of the things that I love about working with Christian and this franchise is that it does feel like an ensemble each time. Christian is the leader of the actors and he is so lovely so I haven’t really thought about it to be honest.
What are the styles of Martial Arts you do in the film? Don’t you have a dance background?
Yes, I do. I don’t actually know the name of it – sorry this makes me sound like an airhead. The stunt department are all phenomenal fighters and so I’ve just been mimicking them and doing whatever they tell me to do. I do all sorts of kicks. I do a roundhouse kick, I think its all mixed martial arts. I don’t know what the martial arts technique is called but I’ve been doing it in heels!
How does it feel to be Chris Nolan’s first cool action hero female?
I didn’t realize I was the first and I feel a little nauseous. I couldn’t feel more privileged to walk on the set every day. I’m the most annoying chipper person, because every day I walk on set I just want to do back flips at how happy I am to be here. I would have played street cop number three if it meant getting to work with Chris Nolan but I get to play Catwoman! I hope I don’t let him down.
“The Dark Knight Rises” opens nationwide and in IMAX on July 20.
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