Anne Hathaway Says One Unique Sex Scene in ‘The Idea of You’ Became a ‘North Star’ for the Movie’s Intimacy: It ‘Makes It About Her Pleasure’

Despite their rom com-heavy résumés, Anne Hathaway and actor-turned-director Michael Showalter had never met prior to collaborating on the May-December love story “The Idea of You,” which bows May 2 on Amazon Prime Video. Unless you count that one time at Beverly Hills’ Gucci Osteria, which in 2022 was the site of a dinner party to celebrate Jessica Chastain’s Oscar nomination for the Showalter-directed film “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”

“I wanted to talk to Anne, but I was too embarrassed,” Showalter recalls of the soiree. “The path of least resistance is to just not talk to anybody.” Adds Hathaway with a chuckle: “I couldn’t figure out how to breach my wall of shyness.”

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Months later, Hathaway conquered her timidity when she recruited Showalter to co-write and direct “The Idea of You,” in which the star of “The Devil Wears Prada” and “The Princess Diaries” portrays a 40-year-old single mother who falls for a 29-year-old Harry Styles-esque pop star played by Nicholas Galitzine.

Given the movie’s strong female-empowerment theme, were there conversations about whether it should be directed by a woman?

Anne Hathaway: We did have that conversation. [But] there were so many forces that made Michael the absolute perfect choice for this.

Michael Showalter: If I can identify with my characters, I know I can make a good movie.

Were you on the same page from the outset regarding how explicit to make the sex scenes between Hathaway’s Solène and Galitzine’s Hayes?

Showalter: I never wanted it to go into “Red Shoe Diaries” territory.

Hathaway: I was inspired by [Robinne Lee’s novel on which the film is based] in terms of … what’s the polite way of saying …

Showalter: Sex?

Hathaway: Intimate acts! In the book, Robinne describes intimate acts with the most unbelievable energy. In their first physical sexual connection, Hayes brings Solène to orgasm while [she is fully] clothed. That became our North Star in terms of expressing cinematic sex in a way that makes it about her pleasure, while also making the point that a huge part of pleasure is giving someone else pleasure.

“The Idea of You” is the latest Amazon film to skip theaters and go directly to streaming. Did either of you attempt to talk them out of that strategy?

Hathaway: I’ve never had a movie this size be released [exclusively] on streaming … so I’m not really in a place to answer that question. Part of me is excited that such a wide audience is going to have instant access to it. And a part of me [is aware that] there aren’t a lot of reasons for moms to grab each other by the hand and go to the movie theater; this movie would’ve been perfect for that.

Showalter: I don’t understand how moviegoing works anymore. And as a filmmaker, I’m genuinely grateful to be given the opportunity to just make a movie.

Hathaway: Some of my favorite romantic comedies came out in the ’90s and I watched them on home video. I never saw the original theatrical runs of “Pretty Woman,” “Notting Hill” or “My Best Friend’s Wedding” — clearly, I’m a Julia Roberts fan! —but I loved them. A part of me loves the idea of having a huge worldwide theatrical hit. But it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the opportunity to have a different kind of [moviegoing experience].

The Southern California-set film takes a somewhat dismissive attitude toward Glendale. What do you have against the Valley?

Hathaway: I love Glendale. I did not write those lines. The Valley is awesome!

Showalter: [Laughs] I don’t think there’s anyone from Glendale that would see this film and not laugh heartily at the Glendale stuff.

Michael Ausiello is founder of TVLine, owned by Variety parent company PMC. He wrote the memoir on which Showalter’s 2022 film “Spoiler Alert” was based.

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