By Maureen Lee Lenker
October 28, 2020 at 09:00 AM EDT
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type
  • Movie
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Life can be a real witch or a devil of a good time.

For actors Anne Hathaway and Stanley Tucci, it's both, as they got to hold a mini  The Devil Wears Prada reunion on their new film, an adaptation of Roald Dahl's The Witches. Hathaway and Tucci chew the scenery as the gleefully evil Grand High Witch and hotel manager, Mr. Stringer, respectively.

They first met over a decade ago while making 2006's The Devil Wears Prada, and they rejoiced in this opportunity to reconnect. "It's nice to be with somebody that you know when you're going into a film," Tucci told EW. "Because you start a new film and it's like the first day of school, all the time, no matter how many films you've done. To know you're going to be working with someone that you love, who's so talented, it helps you relax right away."

Hathaway echoed Tucci's sentiment, saying, "It was just so wonderful to walk onto set knowing there was one connection that had been made, a relationship that was over a decade old, and just knowing that I was going to be working with an actor that was Stanley's caliber, so I knew the scenes would have pace and they would be light and fleet and funny, and I just know from experience what a great scene partner he could be, particularly in a set-up like this."

The two reminisced about how far they've come since their time making Prada, a satirical look at the fashion industry and style reporting also starring Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestley and Emily Blunt in a breakout role. "You had the hardest role in the film," Tucci told Hathaway. "Because you were completely reactive and yet, you're carrying the film. It's the hardest thing to do and you did it brilliantly. There aren't many people who could do that."

"I just remember watching you, Meryl, and Emily and going 'Figure out how to be loose like that,'" Hathaway replied. "'Figure out how to be that specific and that funny and that connected and precise, but also completely loose and playful.'"

Hathaway absolutely did figure it out, as evidenced in The Witches, where she gifts the audience with a deliciously over-the-top version of the Grand High Witch complete with an indistinct, semi-Scandanavian accent. Still, she found reassurance in her choices with the role from Tucci during her first scene, where she asks him about "garlock."

"That was the first scene I shot in the film and I knew I was coming in with this take on the character, and a performance you could probably see from space, it was so big," she said. "I said one of my first lines in the rehearsal and Stanley just giggled. Stanley loves to laugh, but on set, he doesn't laugh unless something is genuinely funny...It just lifted me up and made me feel like literally I was levitating. [Because] I didn't have a Plan B."

Hathaway's performance leans into the campy whimsy that is inherent to so much of Dahl's writing, aiming to temper the witch's scary appearance (a ghoulish, wide mouth with jagged teeth and claw-like fingers and toes) with a humorous take. It was a choice she made specifically with younger viewing audiences in mind. "When [director Robert Zemeckis] showed me what he was going to do with my face with the smile, I just went 'Oh, ok, that's so scary that if I make the rest of the performance scary on top of that, it actually will stop being enjoyable for kids,'" she explains. "They'll just be terrified. And every parent across the world will hate me because they'll have a screaming child every night for months having nightmares. So that was when I decided to lean into trying to make her funny."

For Hathaway, that also came with the opportunity to defang the face of evil and give children a way to face it. "The world is so traumatic," she reflected. "You think about what a child who just might randomly see the news would see these days, it's so much to process and take in and make sense of. So it became really important to me that kids know that laughing at evil is an option too. You can stand up to it, but you can also laugh at that bully. You can laugh in their face because if they're anything like the Grand High Witch, they're utterly ridiculous and their hate will only shrink them down."

Watch the video above for more. The Witches is now available on HBO Max.

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The Witches

type
  • Movie
genre
mpaa
  • PG
runtime
  • 91 minutes
director
  • Nicolas Roeg

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