How Anne Hathaway used her experience with undeserved online hate for “The Idea of You”

"You know that I'm a person that's experienced it," the actor tells Entertainment Weekly.

Anne Hathaway knows a thing or two about being hated on the internet for no real reason. Just search the term "Hathahate," and you'll be reminded of the moment in pop culture when, a little over 10 years ago, the world decided it hated her for ... (checks notes) winning her first Oscar for Les Miserables? And also, supposedly, caring too much about winning said Oscar?

It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment or reason people turned on her, but the resulting wave of hatred cost her roles for years — not to mention the toll it took on her emotionally. That's why it's nearly impossible not to draw comparisons between Hathaway and her character in the sexy romance The Idea of You. In fact, through her performance, she deftly utilizes her personal history to hold up a mirror to audiences, forcing them to reckon with the unfair treatment she experienced in the past.

<p>Courtesy of Prime</p>

Courtesy of Prime

The Idea of You (out now on Prime Video) is based on the novel of the same name by Robinne Lee and follows 40-year-old art dealer Solène (Hathaway) and her unexpected but intense relationship with 24-year-old boy band member Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine, continuing his hot streak of roles after Red, White, & Royal Blue, Bottoms, and Mary & George). After a meet-cute at Coachella, Solène attempts to resist the inferno of chemistry she shared with Hayes. But ultimately, she gives in and rediscovers her own sexuality and identity post-divorce. While they try to keep their sizzling May-December fling a secret at first, it's eventually exposed, and Solène's life is destroyed by online hatred over an older woman dating a young, beloved pop star.

"At the end of the day, it's about a woman's ability to get comfortable and think for herself and about herself without the influence of the world, which — spoiler alert — is not always fair to everybody," Hathaway tells Entertainment Weekly hours before the movie's premiere at SXSW last month. "I know, I'm dropping a truth bomb right there. No one ever thought about that before."

When discussing how she used her own experience dealing with online abuse to portray Solène, she is flattered to hear the opinion that the hatred towards her was "undeserved."

"I really do appreciate that," she says. "One of the things that it helped inform is that this happens. There's no real denial of it. When you're watching Solène experience it, and you know that I'm a person that's experienced it, you can't really escape the film. It happens. And it's us — this is what we are doing. It's not some other thing controlling us; we are choosing to do these sorts of things and behave in this way."

Hathaway adds that she hopes that this kind of hatred and bullying "is a growing pain."

<p>Courtesy of Prime</p>

Courtesy of Prime

"I'd like to think that this is something that we have to go through in order to understand ourselves, and we're going to grow out of it. I'm an optimist," she says with a laugh. "And also, I know that a lot of people go through this. It's not just me, obviously, unfortunately, so I think there's something really powerful — especially when I know that a lot of young people are really struggling with this in particular, and it's a lot of their lives and a lot of their realities — to say, 'Hey, it's okay, just keep going, and your life will grow beyond this and hopefully be more beautiful and more fascinating than you could ever imagine in this really painful moment.'"

As Solène's life begins to fall apart when her relationship is outed, she delivers a particularly poignant line: "I didn't know my being happy would piss so many people off." It's a sentiment that resonates so perfectly with Hathaway that you might even think she wrote it. And that's because she did.

"There's a chance — did I write that line?" Hathaway asks her costar, Galitzine, who sits next to her for the interview. "I don't know, you wrote a bunch of lines," he admits.

"I think that one might have come from me," Hathaway adds. "But I just knew it was true."

Both Hathaway and Galitzine let out a big laugh at that understatement before she continues, "We were beginning with a wonderful script from Jennifer Westfeldt, who clearly wrote something that got us all incredibly excited... and then Michael Showalter, our director, is the most wonderfully generous collaborator and he was really curious about what we had to say, from our perspectives, being similar ages to our characters. He was really open and really supportive. We just got really, really lucky in that Michael let us add our own touches and flourishes to it."

Both stars also loved how the movie explores, in no uncertain terms, the unfortunate reality of misogyny and how the reaction to the wide age gap in Solène and Hayes' relationship would be categorically less explosive if the older person were a man.

<p>Alisha Wetherill/Prime</p>

Alisha Wetherill/Prime

"I think it's very revealing about where we still are, unfortunately, as a society and how much we need to grow past this," Galitzine says. "I hope we can do something to normalize this and, I think, shine a light on the existing misogyny within our industry and within society. These are two people who have a deep spiritual connection, and there are so many examples in movies and TV where there are bigger age gaps, and nobody bats an eye because the man is the older part of the relationship. Anyone who sees this movie can just see that there is nothing odd about this relationship — they are so meant for each other."

"I love what you just said," Hathaway says as she turns to him. "And I think that we have to normalize the idea of women wanting what they want and being comfortable with that being something that comes from within anybody. If you really want to go deeper into it, it's not just about women. We just have an imbalance right now. But we should be more curious than judgmental."

Hathaway reveals that she, Galitzine, and a large group of the movie's creative team recently went to dinner and raised a glass to The Idea of You author for writing a story that smartly and beautifully addresses so many persistent and maddening issues women face.

"This is born of her experience wanting to expand our understanding of what the role of 'Mom' is," Hathaway explains. "And I love the way she's just letting everybody know that she wanted to challenge the stereotype and the way that we see 'Mom.' And that's one of the things that I was really excited about bringing to the screen." You just can't hate it — or her.

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