INTERVIEW: Anne Hathaway finds her groove in Amazon rom-com ‘The Idea of You’

Her character plays a 40-year-old single mom who falls for a 24-year-old boy band singer.

In the film “The Idea of You,” the meet-cute happens when 40-year-old single mom Solène Marchand (Anne Hathaway) accidentally enters the trailer of 24-year-old boy band leader Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine) at Coachella while looking for a bathroom.

When she figures out the mistake, she reacts with a level of nonchalance that charms and intrigues Hayes. And his surprising maturity and self-assurance captures Solène’s heart.

Based on a bestselling 2017 novel of the same name by Robinne Lee, this sweet, gently grounded rom-com is out now on Amazon Prime.

“The Idea of You” was shot in metro Atlanta but fictionally set in Los Angeles and parts of Europe when Solène, an art gallery owner, joins Hayes on tour with his band August Moon, an amalgam of boy bands such as BTS, One Direction and the Backstreet Boys. Hayes, who is British, shies away from the inevitable comparisons to One Direction alum Harry Styles, but it’s inevitable since Styles eventually carved out a respected solo career, something Hayes seems to want himself.

“I had to humanize this person who believes that people think he’s a joke,” said Galitzine in a dual interview with Hathaway at the Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown last month. “He is someone who has lived this really difficult life, becoming famous while he’s a teenager. I can understand since I very much fell into acting.”

Hathaway, who has been in the public eye for more than 20 years since “The Princess Diaries,” was bemused when he said that. “I literally have thought about nothing else since I was a child,” she said. “Fell into it! How nice! I’m just obsessed!”

Somewhat coincidentally, Hathaway actually turned 40 just days before the movie shot Solène’s fictional 40th birthday.

“I’m a producer in this movie,” she said. “You turn your producer brain on. We had to open a gate into this warehouse, a huge loading dock gate. We had to get a shot in or we’d have a meal penalty [which happens if the shoot goes beyond time for a meal]. When the gate opens, everyone screams ‘Happy birthday!’ You’d think someone was coming at me with a knife. Meal penalty! I was told, ‘It’s OK! You’re going to be fine! Enjoy this moment!’ So I did.”

Turning 40 is often considered a milestone, a moment to assess one’s life in middle age. “My feelings about it kind of made it in the movie,” Hathaway said. “I don’t think about it. I fell in love with acting from a really young age. I never believed my opportunities had any correlation with my age.”

She said as a mom, “the first thing you realize is take your idea of milestones and throw them out the window and pay attention to who your child is. I found that really helpful for all aspects of my life. I find it more interesting to engage with something than what I think it should be or expect it to be. Be present. You get surprised that way.”

And that is how Solène manages to get into a serious relationship with Hayes despite the 16 year age difference.

“She’s someone who has a good life,” Hathaway said. “It isn’t a fairy tale but she appreciates what she has. She has nurtured certain aspects of her life and enjoys them. She doesn’t feel defined by her age or her job. She has tapped into what’s important. It’s all the more surprising when she finds something unexpected.”

But at the same time, she said, Solène “was nurturing this pain she had. She went through a really rough divorce, humiliating in its own way. We get caught in loops. Her identity was so tied up in her marriage. I love watching a woman embrace and expand her sense of who she is.”

Hayes, in the meantime, appreciates that she “treats him like a human,” Galitzine said. “I love the line where he hates when people call him by his entire name, Hayes Campbell, because that doesn’t tell the whole story. He’s used to people portraying him as a reductive, very enclosed brand of something.”

She sees Hayes beyond that brand name, as a “smart, wonderful listener, which surprises her because he’s interested in what she has to say. And she encourages him to create music for himself because that is what she does as an art gallery owner. “He’s trying to find texture to his life and artistry, which she finds incredibly compelling,” Hathaway said. “And they make each other laugh.”

The film has received largely positive reviews with an 82% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus: “‘The Idea of You’ offers a welcome reminder that Anne Hathaway remains a thoroughly delightful rom-com lead ― and reaffirms that few filmmakers understand the genre better than Michael Showalter.”

Showalter has directed and produced other rom-coms like “The Big Sick,” “The Lovebirds” and “Spoiler Alert.”

“I like all my films to create a sense you’re there, that it’s real,” said Showalter at the Plaza Theatre red-carpet premiere of “The Idea of You” last month at The Atlanta Film Festival. “You try to put the audience in the room and you’re with them in the journey.”

He was able to masquerade Atlanta as Silver Lake, California, with heavy use of the Virginia-Highland, Candler Park and Cabbagetown neighborhoods as well as The Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton for the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, with palm trees and mountains added in postproduction.

Jim Frohna, the film’s chief cinematographer, said they had only 150 extras to use to fill out the festival. “Every angle, we’d run 150 people here, then run them over there. For the concerts, we had to use visual effects,” he said. “But we had a company that made it feel like we were at an actual concert.”


“The Idea of You” is streaming on Amazon Prime