Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway, originally from Millburn, NJ, attended the prestigious Paper Mill Theater School, performed in their Summer Musical Theater Conservatory and starred on their Main-Stage. Paper Mill theater teacher Mickey McNany first remembers the actress as a bright, ambitious 10-year-old who was eager to make her mark on the stage. The 30-year teaching veteran spoke exclusively to BWW about the student she calls "larger than life," and even shared some rare footage of the actress from the earliest days of her career!
It must have been thrilling for you to see Anne win the Academy Award on Sunday night. Can you talk a little bit about what that was like.
Well I was home watching the Oscars and just keeping fingers crossed and watching Annie, and honestly, it was such a moment when she won the award. She looked down at the Oscar and she said, 'It came true." And I just kept thinking, "We knew you could do this Annie, we knew it for such a long time and it's so great that it has happened and we're so proud of you!" And it was just a wonderful moment of everything coming full circle at that time, as well as being so affirming for her I'm sure.
Did you realize from the start that there was something special about her and her acting abilities?
You know we really did. She had her first theater class here with us at Paper Mill when she was around 10 and it's funny, I remember right from the beginning there was something very special about her. The very first show she did was 'Aladdin' and she was playing the larger than life character of the evil magician. And I remember it was dress rehearsal, and all the kids came out in their little pieces of costumes and I was taking notes, and I looked up and I saw her, and she had found some extra pieces of material and some jewels and some scraps and had made this fabulous turban for herself and a sash. (laughing) And I looked up at her and I said, "Annie, that is awesome - it really works!" So she had style when she was 10 already, and a great presence and a larger-than-life personality and very serious about acting. This was what she wanted to do and she was super.
The second show she did with me she did with a broken arm and nobody even knew because Annie felt the show must go on. She was just genuine and so great with the other members of the cast. You know, when they are that little sometimes they forget their lines, and she would always not tell them what to say, but she would ask a question or help them to bring the story along, so gracious and generous, even then. And then she went on to study in our summer conservatory and be on our Main Stage and get her TV show and the rest is history.
She is one of the rare actors who has been able to make the transition from teen roles to adult roles. What is it about her that has enabled her to do that successfully?
Just the versatility of her skills. And she's so serious about it, and not afraid to be vulnerable and to try out different roles that are outside of her comfort level. She's a professional and she makes it happen. And I think because she's so talented and so genuine and so driven that she just continued until it all happened.
Anne received Paper Mill's Rising Star nomination for her performance in 'Once Upon a Mattress.' What do you remember about that performance?
I didn't see the actual show, but when she was nominated she did have the opportunity to sing a little snippet of the show and it was terrific. She was young, but she didn't just get up and sing a song, she acted it and had the facial expressions and the dynamics of the character and it was very endearing, it was charming.
Do you think your students will be inspired by the fact that Anne has won the Academy Award?
I see it already and it's very interesting. When I teach my acting classes here, one of the first things I do is ask the children, 'Ok, who's your favorite actor and tell me why," and for the past three or four years, Annie's name keeps coming up, "Oh Anne Hathaway, Anne Hathaway". And it's so cute because even the little boys say to me, "Is it OK Mickey if a girl is my favorite actor?" and I say, "Sure, who's your favorite actor?" and they answer, "Anne Hathaway," and I say, "Well, I'm sure she would be delighted to hear that!" So it's great. Everyone is aware of her and loves her and we couldn't be happier.