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December 21, 2012 at 05:00 AM EST

First Anne Hathaway got our hearts pounding as the duplicitous, sexy thief Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. Then she busted our tickers in half as Les Misérables’ desperate, dying single mother Fantine, who delivers an aching rendition of ”I Dreamed a Dream” — a performance that has propelled her to the front of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar race. ”With Batman, I didn’t know how fans would react, and I was a little bit nervous,” she says. ”With Les Miz, I had total confidence. Like, bizarro-town confidence. But I just didn’t know how it was all going to come together.” That’s because she and her castmates, including Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, were singing live instead of lip-synching to pre-recorded tracks. In fact, Hathaway, 30, didn’t even want to know how it was all coming together: While shooting her key scene, she used dual earpieces to drown out her own voice with the accompanying music. ”I’m just your average actor with all your hang-ups and neuroses,” she says. ”I was just trying to get out of my own way.” And in doing so, she very likely cleared herself a path to the Academy Awards.

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