Anne Hathaway is spinning in a circle with the black chiffon pleats of her dress floating around her as Jason Sudeikis counts off, “Eight, nine, ten.” She calls out “Action!” and then wobbles in her Louboutin heels to an imagined mark on the carpet. “Boom! Away you go. It’s like heels with Bambi,” Hathaway says. That’s what the actress would do right before scenes that required her to play a convincing drunk in Nacho Vigalondo’s monster movie, Colossal. “There’s probably about an hour of footage you could cut together from the 15-seconds-before shots,” Hathaway says. “And it’s just me spinning.”
In Colossal, Hathaway plays Gloria, a New York City party girl, who moves back to her small hometown to dry out. It’s there she meets Oscar, her old elementary-school classmate, played by Jason Sudeikis, and where she discovers that she can, under very particular circumstances, become a monster that can wreak havoc on Seoul. The monster, of course, is just a metaphor, and Colossal moves from a genre film to a story about alcoholism and control — specifically the ways in which men try to control women. Sitting together for a press junket at the Whitby Hotel, Hathaway and Sudeikis talked about shooting fight scenes while Hathaway was pregnant, monstrous egos, and toxic nice guys.
The two of you have some pretty brutal fight scenes. What was it like shooting those?
Anne Hathaway: Well it’s funny, because it’s one of the gentlest experiences I’ve ever had doing a fight scene, because I was probably about 17 weeks pregnant. And I didn’t want to move as quickly as I normally would. It’s an amazing thing to learn yourself when you take ego off the table. Off like, “Yeah, I can do this.” But you’re like, “I can’t. I can’t.” So we broke it down, and then edited the whole thing together. And there’s no reason for anyone to ever get hurt or feel stressed.
Jason Sudeikis: And your stunt gal was awesome. She was super cool.
AH: She was super cool. And it’s funny because your body changes when you’re pregnant. And it was my first pregnancy, so I didn’t know what was going on. There’s a shot in the movie when I saw it, and I was like, “Oh see, I kept my butt in great shape.” And the second time I watched the movie, I realized it was her.
Jason, your character really epitomizes what I think of as the “nice guy from OKCupid.” Was it difficult to access that darkness?
JS: No. But that’s assuming it was effective. [If it’s not] people would be like, “Oh, well it should have been harder.” But it didn’t feel that way, because it was very clear to me upon the first reading where it was. And then there’s enough of my own journey with people in my life, where I could metaphorically see moments from my own life, of being almost every character in the film, to be honest with you. And Oscar specifically, it was like: Oh, a few breaks not going my way and maybe a few relationships ending. Or not ending, for that matter.
I’m a summation of all the people I’ve had the opportunity to bump into, for good or bad. And some I have no choice over, like family, and others I had a great deal of choice over. So yeah, they’re all in there. It was a weird thing to read, and then also to have someone say, “Hey, would you want to do this?” I take it as a compliment because I’m like, “Oh, wow. Thanks for seeing this in me potentially,” And I want to do a good job by you, speaking of Nacho specifically. But at the same time you can be like, “Oh, do you really think I could be like that?”
AH: Can I pause at something?
JS: Yeah, please.
AH: Also, Oscar’s the hero in his own story.
JS: 100 percent.
AH: Very rarely do you play a character that knows they’re in misery. Most of the time people are fighting against it, or in Oscar’s case he would probably tell you there’s nothing wrong.
JS: And that’s one of the reasons why alternative facts and fake news can exist in this day and age. For both sides. It’s on the left, on the right, and the inability to argue or, more importantly, empathize, with the other side is a devolution.
For me the film is really about how two men are trying to control Gloria and how she asserts herself. Was there something about that dynamic that resonated with you?
AH: Not consciously. One of the things I love about this movie is the way the exact same circumstances feel different as the movie goes on. When you first meet her, you meet her boyfriend, you find him so sympathetic and you can’t believe he has to deal with this nightmare of a human being. And then the more you get to know Gloria, and then when he comes back into the picture, you don’t know exactly when it happened or how it happened, but the landscape’s changed. And suddenly he’s the aggressor and you’re sympathetic to her. I don’t know if it’s a thing that we do now or if we’ve always done it and maybe just the turnover rate is so remarkable now, but we do tend to sum people up and we do tend to decide who other people are rather than actually listen to what they’re telling you. I find that we need to punctuate things very quickly now. We need to know what they are. We need to sum them up and then Colosseum them — thumbs up or thumbs down. And this movie plays with those ideas. Part of the reason why Jason’s performance is so effective is because you think you know him from the beginning. You’ve met that guy. And part of the reason it becomes sickening is because you realize that you know that guy.
What do you think it is about that sort of nice, toxic guy that’s so resonant in pop culture right now? There was a recent iteration on SNL with “feminist” guys hitting on a woman at a bar.
AH: I think it’s got to be a weak sense of identity. Someone who knew me when I was younger pointed out to me about myself recently and said, “When you were younger, you were really insecure and you would patch up your holes and your fear with ego. And so you were simultaneously insecure and egotistical.” And I was. And I think that can be said of a lot of young people, and I think the hope is that you grow out of it. And I don’t think that’s a male or a female thing. I think it’s a human thing, and I think it’s probably very much an American thing.
But then the hope is that you wake up out of that and you stop. Because all that you can hope for, if you’re that level of insecure and that level of egotistical, all you’re ever going to see is yourself. And the hope is that you grow out of it, so that way you can take in other people and start making your life about other people and get out of your own way. I think what you’re seeing with that nice guy is he’s still very much only seeing himself.
JS: And anybody’s guilty of being that, and Oscar’s a version of that. I do feel that, while I am a fella playing a guy and Anne’s a gal playing a gal, these exist within both genders.
JS: And I’m not saying that you’re not saying that. But I do feel like I’ve had instances where a girl that in a different time in my life I would have been completely enamored with would come up to me and introduce herself and ask for a picture. And then for me to say, “Oh no, not right now,” and then they become a completely different person on the other side. I’m just like, “Oh, alright.” And this day and age I don’t know where that mentality or that tweet goes, but they didn’t get what they wanted from me and so now am I a bad guy? Should I have said yes? Do you say yes to everybody? My friend, Michael Che, just dealt with this in a very public way with rebuffing someone on a dating app. And my heart goes out for those people. Because it is, at the end of the day and in the big picture, someone expecting something from someone, not getting their expectations met, and then that contempt becomes only one side.
AH: And there is the reality, which is women are harassed by men more than men are harassed by women.
JS: 100 percent.
I get that you can see it in all people, but I do think it’s more particular to male culture.
JS: Oh, absolutely.
AH: It takes a level of entitlement that the world has given men. 150 years ago, even more recently and, in some parts of the world, today, I am property. I am your property. And I’m not. To put a profound point on it.
JS: The sentiment is true. Yeah, I don’t mean to be an apologist for it. That’s how interesting the movies and the themes are. They exist in the big picture.
AH: And it’s a monster movie.
Monsters are great metaphors. What do you think the monster represented for your characters?
JS: With mine I think it is power. But entitlement. Like you guys were just saying, it is the idea of male entitlement. It’s like an external version of his self-worth. If you felt like shit and then you went and got a good haircut and you felt good, you only feel good until your hair grows. Which is going to be tomorrow. It’s not real. You’re reacting to your external situation. Getting high on your own supply is what Oscar is doing.
AH: For Gloria, it’s that we’re all monsters and heroes under different contexts. She has a monstrous amount of self-absorption, which is not a gendered thing. And she becomes a hero when she begins to put others before herself, which is also not a gendered thing. The fact that this film resonates because she’s a woman and because he’s a man speaks more to our current reality than any deeper truth about who we must be. I think it’s just pointing out who we’ve chosen to be and how it’s going to be not impossible [to be different], but if we’re going to pull ourselves out of this, it’s going to take everybody.
I love how with its first appearance, people thought that the monster was a villain. And then the narrative kept changing.
JS: There’s so many themes going on in the movie. It’s really remarkable, what [Nacho] pulled off. Even if he wasn’t even aware of it. But just being open to what the world, and himself, and the things that he’s gone through and would go through if he was in a different place in time. It’s really neat. I don’t know if it’s possible to be proud of someone that you don’t know that well.
AH: I told Nacho at the end of filming, I said, “I’m so proud of your mother.” And granted, I was pregnant so I had that on my mind. But I just said, “You’re such a cool and a rare bird, and you clearly were never stepped on.” Because he’s just this wonderful grown-up child, in the way that the purity of his imagination and the way he believes in possibility, and how open he is. And, I mean, we were all that at some point. And then something happened.
JS: Some doors get slammed in your head and heart.
AH: Some voices got raised. And whatever happened, he either fought through it or was protected. I don’t know what it was. But it’s a beautiful thing. It’s really inspiring and gives me a lot of hope.
What was your relationship with your wig like?
AH: I think, “Just get it off me.” I was pregnant. I just wanted that shit off.