The Witches, a completely unnecessary and wildly misbegotten remake of a ’90s classic, arrived on our screens in all its glory last month. While it’s not a ‘good’ movie by any reasonable standards, it will stick with me forever thanks to Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch.
‘Big’ does not even begin to describe the scale of this hissing, howling, shrieking, furniture-throwing performance. To give you some idea of what we’re working with here, watch the below scene in which she instructs her fellow witches to remove their human disguises:
At what I’ll call the crescendo of the scene, as Anne screams “YOU MAY … REMOVE … YOUR VIGS!”, she snatched mine clean off. My bestie and I were in near-hysterics by that point, gasping for breath, and have been repeating the line to each-other constantly since then.
What this character also demonstrates about Anne Hathaway, for better or for worse, is her incredible commitment to accent work. Per the lore of The Witches, her character hatched out of an egg in Norway, and she really gave herself over to exploring how such a person might sound.
In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, she spoke about her preparation for the role, saying:
“My dialect coach gave me the idea of maybe exploring Old Norse. So I found a guy who was reciting Old Norse poetry on the Internet in front of a mountain and it was just so mystical and sinister-sounding … Everything sounds kind of weird and spooky and sinister in an Old Norse accent.”
There’s so much I love about that, like the idea that Anne actually engaged the services of a dialect coach to arrive at this accent, which comes across more like The Count from Sesame Street doing Zsa Zsa Gabor on an episode of Drag Race.
The Witches is really the tip of the iceberg in terms of Anne’s incredible accent work, so in its honour, let’s go back and look at some of the others she’s adopted over the years:
As Mary Poppins on Saturday Night Live
Anne Hathaway was born too late to play the role of Mary Poppins in the original film, and I’m sure that torments her every day. Fortunately, she had a shot at it in a 2008 episode of SNL, and she went for it full throttle.
She adopted the clipped British cadences of Julie Andrews in what basically doubled as an audition tape for a potential remake of the movie musical. Sadly that has not worked out for her yet, but we’ll always have this.
As a questionably British con-woman in The Hustle
The Hustle is another movie that’s not ‘good’ per se, but it’s absolutely riveting, thanks to Anne and her commitment to cycling through an array of deranged accents, from a caricature of posh, rounded British tones all the way through to an absurd German accent she adopts for a job.
She has said that her British accent in the film was deliberately inauthentic, in line with her shady con woman character, and that she based it on a combination of Joanna Lumley from Absolutely Fabulous and Stewie Griffin from Family Guy. Pardon me while I scream forever.
Anne later said sorry for a broad Aussie accent she put on in one scene, telling The Daily Tele:
“I am pretty proud of my accent work in this movie but I do feel like I need to apologise to Australia. In that scene, my character is very annoyed with Rebel‘s [character] so she is doing a very broad harsh Australian accent. I didn’t do as much prep work on that one so thank you Australia, I appreciate it.”
Never apologise for anything, Anne, you sweet, beautiful angel.
As a lovelorn Yorkshire woman in One Day
Anne Hathaway put on a Yorkshire accent for this weepy romantic drama from 2011, and said she was more nervous about the accent than about a nude scene. Critics in Britain were not kind, with one saying she only remembered to speak in Yorkshire tones during the film’s emotional bits.
“I was so distracted, wondering what version of the mother tongue she was going to attempt next – veering from wartime-BBC to proper ‘Eeee by gum’ clangers – I actually forgot to cry, which was a shame, as it’s a corker of a tale, and Edinburgh and London both look lovely.”
James Corden later told her the whole of the UK was mad at her for her “awful” accent in One Day. Oh dear.
As a young Jane Austen in Becoming Jane
So the title of this article is “A Tribute To All The Times Anne Hathaway Has Fucked Me Up With Her Iconic Accent Work”, but things have taken a turn, and somehow it’s become more “All The Times Anne Hathaway Was Maligned For Her Questionable Attempts To Play A British Person”. Oop.
I’m sorry, Anne, please forgive me, I never meant for things to turn out this way. Before we go, though, its worth giving a shout-out to this 2007 film, in which she played a young Jane Austen. She herself has admitted that this one was not great, saying after its release:
“I used to think that I was the bee’s knees when it came to a British accent, but now I know better. Who cares what people say? It’s still not really in my repertoire. I’m much better at a New York accent.”
So there you have it. Anne has perhaps rightfully been criticised for her British accents over the years, but much like the scene in The Witches when she levitates over a crowd as they shout “GENIUS!” at her and snap their fingers (a thing that actually happens), she’ll always be a flawless icon to me.