Sundance: Anne Hathaway says 'Song One' most 'understated' role yet

PARK CITY, Utah--When we most recently saw Anne Hathaway in a movie with musical numbers it was the large, showy spectacle of “Les Miserables,” in which Hathaway, of course, played the tragic prostitute Fantine.

At this year's Sundance Film Festival, however, the Oscar winner has been displaying a different kind of acting in a music-themed movie. In “Song One,” Hathaway plays Franny, a PhD student who, after her subway busking brother is hit by a car and falls into a coma, enters into a delicate relationship with a soulful musician whom her brother idolizes.

Hathaway said the two experiences couldn’t be more different, both physically and thematically. 

PHOTOS: Sundance Film Festival 2014 | Photo booth

“I had fun with the people on ‘Les Miz,’ but the actual experience was something else. Just the pressure — it was a physical challenge and a lot of deprivation,” she told The Times in a video interview at the festival.  “This is a different trauma, different music.” 

She added,  “This film is so much about a journey, and it’s a positive journey. That one? Not so positive.” (You can watch the full interview above featuring Hathaway, director Kate Barker-Froyland and costar Mary Steenburgen, who plays Franny’s mother.)

Barker-Froyland is a first-time director working off her own script. She was inspired to create the story, she said, because she had been thinking a lot about the role songs plays in people’s lives, particularly during times of crisis. “I wanted to explore the idea of  music and how it connects people in ways they’d never predict,” she said. 

PHOTOS: Sundance Film Festival 2014 | The Scene

To do that, Hathaway toned down her more vivacious qualities, something she said didn’t come easily.

Noting that she normally plays much more manic people, Hathaway said of this film. “It’s a challenge -- I’ve never played a role as understated as Franny,” adding, “There’s a fine line between doing a lot very subtly and it not registering at all."


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