Anne Hathaway stirred up buzz at the start of 2021 by revealing she was the studio’s ninth choice to play Andrea “Andy” Sachs in “The Devil Wears Prada.” Which actress did Fox prefer to star opposite Meryl Streep in the 2006 comedy? Rachel McAdams was the top choice, but a new oral history of the film published by Entertainment Weekly also reveals Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman, Kate Hudson, and Kirsten Dunst were pursued before Hathaway was considered for the part. Through it all, Hathaway campaigned to get the part.
“I remember [Anne Hathaway] sitting on my sofa in my office and explaining why she wanted to do this, why she had to play this role, and giving script notes about the third act,” former Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler told Entertainment Weekly. “When I look back on it, it wasn’t exactly what we ended up doing, but her sensibilities were completely aligned with what we ended up doing…Annie never gave up. She never stopped campaigning, calling, she came into [Fox executive] Carla Hacken’s office and wrote in her zen garden, ‘Hire me.'”
Even when the filmmaking team behind “The Devil Wears Prada” wanted to move ahead with Hathaway on board, the studio refused to advance. As director David Frankel said. “We started negotiating with Annie to make a deal, and that didn’t go well with the studio…We offered it to Rachel McAdams three times. The studio was determined to have her, and she was determined not to do it.”
What sealed the deal for Hathaway was a screening of Ang Lee’s acclaimed “Brokeback Mountain” that Streep saw while the studio was dancing around casting Hathaway in the film. Hathaway has a crucial supporting role in “Brokeback” as Lureen Newsome Twist, the wife of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jack Twist. The character pivoted Hathaway’s career away from teen-friendly hits (“The Princess Diaries” franchise, “Ella Enchanted”) and toward more serious-minded drama. Streep was so impressed with Hathaway in “Brokeback” that she made a personal call to the then-chairman and chief executive officer of Fox to champion the actress.
“Meryl was eager to make the movie, and she said ‘let me meet with her,'” Frankel told EW. “‘Brokeback Mountain’ was about to come out. Annie had a wonderful, small role in that. And Meryl watched that scene from the movie, she met with her and called up Tom Rothman at Fox and said, ‘Yeah, this girl’s great, and I think we’ll work well together.'”
In IndieWire’s own 10th anniversary oral history of the film, screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna spoke about why Hathaway was perfect for the part: “The Anne Hathaway part is that person who is intelligent, the best student in the class who writes these pretentious pieces. Anne gets across that sense of a super-smart books/art person, which is a difficult thing to fake. She nailed the smugness, that slight you feel when you come out of the school world which was your oyster because you got As in college.”