The in-demand actress prepares to headline ''Twelfth Night'' in Central Park

By Tanner Stransky
Updated June 12, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

While rehearsing the role of Viola (who pretends to be a dude named Cesario) in William Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night in NYC’s Central Park, Anne Hathaway went to great lengths to — how to put this delicately? — pad her performance. ”I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t walked around my apartment with a sock shoved down my front,” says Hathaway, 26, of prepping for her gender-bending part. ”I’m definitely new to the sock.”

Hathaway is also new to the Public Theater’s annual Shakespeare in the Park series. In Twelfth Night, which runs through July 12, she plays opposite Tony winners Audra McDonald and Julie White, and admits that keeping up with the 17th-century poetry is draining: ”I’m a little brain-dead because of the iambic pentameter. I’m steeped in it.” But she’s no stranger to the stage — she performed at a New Jersey regional theater in her teens — or the Bard. (Odd bit of trivia: Hathaway has the same name as the great writer’s wife.) ”Since the first time I did Lady Anne’s monologue in Richard III,” she remembers, noting a Shakespeare-focused acting class she took at age 15, ”I was hooked.”

After her final bow in the park, Hathaway returns to her white-hot movie career. The Oscar nominee (who wowed audiences singing with host Hugh Jackman on last February’s Oscarcast) has already shot next spring’s Alice in Wonderland, trading her Disney tiara for a wicked turn as the White Queen. She’s in talks to reteam with Brokeback Mountain costar Jake Gyllenhaal in Love and Other Drugs and is attached to Get Smart 2; the musical biopic Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland; the rom-com The Fiancé and the star-studded film Valentine’s Day. ”When I signed, both Shirley MacLaine and Julia Roberts were on board,” Hathaway says of the last project. ”That was good enough for me!” The best part? No sock required.

For full reviews of new shows, including Farragut North (opening June 24 in L.A. and starring Star Trek‘s Chris Pine), go to