Anne Hathaway spent the past few years unaware of the rise and fall of WeWork. “Between just being focused on my work ................................and becoming a mother—it was a period
of my life I don’t think I was following all of the various news stories that WeWork was a part of,” says the 39-year-old actor. “I somehow missed the entire thing.”
The first time she was made fully aware of the backstory of the multibillion dollar co-working startup—anchored by the intense relationship between its founder, Adam Neumann, and his wife, Rebekah Paltrow Neumann—was when she was offered the part of Rebekah in WeCrashed, Apple TV+’s adaptation of the Wondery podcast that details the fraught inner workings of the company and the romantic partnership at its center.
Hathaway—who prefers to be called Annie—has been a household name since she first appeared in the Princess Diaries movies. She then transitioned into adult roles (Brokeback Mountain, Rachel Getting Married) and iconic characters (Andy in The Devil Wears Prada; Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises) and became an Oscar winner (Les Misérables) and host. She is currently on Zoom in a hotel in Rome with parakeets flying outside of her window, recounting the story of her most recent role as actor and executive producer.
It seems as though every actor’s latest turn is a ripped-from-the-headlines story that seeks to explain the strange times we live in. (See also: The Dropout, about Elizabeth Holmes; Inventing Anna, about Anna Sorokin, better known as Anna Delvey; Super Pumped, about Uber’s ex–chief executive Travis Kalanick. ) When co-creators and executive producers Lee Eisenberg and Drew Crevello offered Hathaway the part, she was intrigued once she got up to speed on coverage.
“The story intersected, I thought, at a lot of really interesting points: late-stage capitalism, the commodification of spirituality and toxic positivity,” Hathaway says.
WeCrashed is also a chaotic love story, almost a folie à deux, between Jared Leto’s borderline messianic Adam and Hathaway’s Rebekah, who comes across as a kind of Lady Macbeth for the Goop crowd. (Gwyneth Paltrow is Rebekah’s cousin and a specter of success and admiration in the show.) Hathaway was excited to take on the role opposite Jared Leto, who transforms into Neumann, an Israeli serial entrepreneur. “Something has to be exceptional,” she says, “and Jared is certainly exceptional.”
“Everyone I knew who had met Adam told me what a compelling character he was,” Leto says. “The deeper my research went, the more I was excited by the opportunity.”
Rebekah Neumann, whom Hathaway has yet to meet, has a distinctive low voice and distinct cadence. Hathaway worked with a dialect coach, but it wasn’t until Leto arrived on set as Neumann that she nailed it. “I’d been playing around with it, but it was something I was doing rather than feeling. And then, when he showed up and started speaking as Adam, it was like a tuning fork for me,” she says.
She remembers admiring Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth as a teenager and then later getting to work with her on Ocean’s Eight as a full-circle experience. She had to remind herself, “Please, do not embarrass yourself,” she says. “Just have a great time.” It was also her first role after taking time off for maternity leave. “I just had Jonathan, and I was so grateful to be there and so happy to be back at work,” Hathaway says. “I was so sleep deprived that I couldn’t hold a thought for longer than probably 30 seconds. I was just like a little happy goldfish on that project.”
Blanchett says Hathaway has an element of a “goofy Maria Callas” to her—commanding but funny—as well as a technical gift. “She’s got this innate understanding of style and morphs into the atmosphere and demands of what she’s doing, which is why she’s been able to channel so many different genres,” she says. “Maybe panache, that’s what it is.”
This article appeared on the cover of the April 2022 issue of WSJ. Magazine.