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SAN FRANCISCO - It was only eight years ago that Anne Hathaway made her professional acting debut in the short-lived Fox series “Get Real.” Take a few moments and try to remember the show. Today, Hathaway is so well-known in the feature film world that she landed the coveted role of Agent 99 in the new movie take on the classic television series “Get Smart.” This follows much big-screen success in movies, including “The Princess Diaries” and “Brokeback Mountain.”


On a Saturday in February, the 25-year-old Brooklyn native had just sent the audience at the WonderCon convention into a frenzy with her appearance to promote the movie four months before it opened.


This kind of rapid rise to stardom could not be some kind of a fluke. There had to be a plan.


“I have not planned one minute of my career,” Hathaway says after facing the fans. “That’s because you never know what kind of film you are going to make until it is edited and sold.”


She points to “Princess Diaries” as the perfect example. The final product ended up being a family-friendly movie about a young woman whisked away from a pedestrian life into the world of royalty.


When Hathaway signed on, the character wore knee-high combat boots, swore a little and was involved with underage drinking. By the time audiences saw it, the movie had taken on a fairy tale feel. Her “Ella Enchanted” was written for a teenage audience. It ended up being popular with children.


Hathaway shows a willingness to make fun of where her career has taken her when she says the movie “Havoc” was “supposed to be good.”


So instead of a plan, Hathaway has just taken roles and done her best to help tell the story the director is trying to tell.


“Get Smart” director Peter Segal has nothing but praise for Hathaway. The director, whose previous work includes “50 First Dates” and “Anger Management,” describes working with Hathaway and the rest of the cast as the best moviemaking experience of his life.


There may not have been a plan to Hathaway’s career, but she has always thought hard about each role she accepts. That was particularly the case with this film. Agent 99 is one of best-known characters in television history.


“With every single role I play, I have a moment where I say, ‘I don’t think I should do this.’ There are usually several reasons why I think I should never act again,” Hathaway says. “I loved the series growing up. And Barbara Feldon was an icon to me. So I did have a moment’s pause of accepting the inheritance of that role.”


She decided to take on the part as a way of showing respect.


And so Hathaway, with “Get Smart,” has reached the kind of fame, even without a plan, about which most actors can only dream. Surely she must be taking advantage of this status to do jet-setting things.


“I am taking lots of yoga classes and learning to play the banjo,” Hathaway says with a smile.


Interesting. She must be planning on starring in a movie about a woman who rises from rags to riches through her love of bluegrass music.


“I decided to learn the banjo because my hands aren’t big enough to play the guitar. There was a banjo on the set of the last movie I made, and I liked the way it sounded,” Hathaway says.


In other words, she never planned on playing the banjo.

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By Steven Rea
17 Oct 2008
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