LOS ANGELES – She’s one of the sweetest and friendliest stars in Hollywood, but Anne Hathaway has thoroughly enjoyed playing a wicked character in “The Witches.”
“I just like screaming at everybody,” she joked before emphasizing to EFE that she hopes that the cruelty and vileness of authoritarianism will stay in the fictional realm.
The winner of an Oscar for her role in the 2012 film “Les Miserables” shines in every scene in this new adaptation of the children’s book by Roald Dahl, which first came to the big screen as “The Witches” in 1990 starring Angelica Huston.
Now, working under versatile and veteran director Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump,” 1994), the new “The Witches,” which hits Spanish theaters on Friday, also stars Octavia Spencer and Stanley Tucci in this tale that mixes laughter and frights for children and tells the story of a boy who faces down a coven of spooky witches.
There are people who knew “The Witches” through the book and others through the 1990 film. What was your first connection with this story?
The film. In fact, I didn’t know for a long time that there was a book and I didn’t read it until they offered me this part.
I like the melancholy of it. You know, I liked that there wasn’t a happy ending. Obviously, I loved the imagination of it. But I also loved the way Roald Dahl was introducing to kids that evil does exist in this world and you need to be smart about it and just because you’re a child it doesn’t mean that it won’t find you, but then to put it in a way that felt very empowering to children, the idea that it doesn’t matter how small you are, you can stand up to it, you can make a difference, you can stop it.
Since you’re a fan of the earlier film, did you use the performance of Angelica Huston to inspire you or did you prefer to remain aloof from that?
That’s a good question. I think that anything that might seem like an imitation would be rather disrespectful for both of us.
But, how to do it? Her version was so perfect that it would be a waste of time for everyone. I didn’t want to do “The Witches” unless I felt that I could do something that was really mine and specific for Robert Zemeckis’s version.
It’s one of your first really evil roles. What did you enjoy about playing the Big Witch?
I just like screaming at everybody. It’s so inappropriate in life. I don’t know. I think we should keep authoritarians on the screen and not let them run our countries. But it was very fun playing somebody who’s so obviously, brazenly awful, and to really show what I think awful and evil looks like and then to know that she was going to be stopped in the end.
The accent, the gestures, the movements … What was it like to create this very particular witch?
I started with her walk because I was aware that she had a very long toe and so I thought that I’d have to walk clumsily, like a horse …
The rest of it, I don’t know, she’s such a diva. She just imagines herself to be so fabulous, and so everything kind of had to be rooted in that, that she was kind of walking around expecting applause every second and getting very annoyed with people who didn’t … She’s very hard to please. What a high maintenance witch!
Why was Zemeckis the ideal director for this film?
For his sense of humor. What really opened up the character for me and the performance I wanted to give was when Bob showed me how he was going to do my smile. When I saw that, I just screamed out loud. I was just: “You’re going to do what to my face? Oh my God.” And I realized that he had the terrifying stuff down. That was actually so scary that I felt really free to make the rest of my performance really wacky and really funny and weird.
In these films for children, but with touches of terror, it’s always difficult to find the perfect point so that it’s not too scary.
You don’t just want people screaming. You want them screaming for different reasons _ because it’s funny but also because they’re scared. And I realized that he had the terrifying stuff down. That was actually so scary that I felt really free to make the rest of my performance really wacky and really funny and weird.
Witches are historically terrifying figures, but there’s also something very attractive and fascinating about them…
Well, you just described power. There’s something very terrifying about when it’s used incorrectly and exciting about when it is used correctly. So, it’s all about who wields it.
“The Witches” is beginning to be shown in Spanish theaters, but in the US it was presented on HBO Max due to the pandemic. What do you think about the situation in Hollywood? And how do you think films are going to survive this dark scenario?
I think about that all the time. … It’s a true pleasure going to the movies, and I just have to think that that’s not something we’re going to give up without a fight. So, I don’t think we have an answer yet, but we will figure it out because we can’t let that go away.