Anne Hathaway's makeover in The Witches set her screaming
Star of The Witches, in cinemas here on Nov 5, revels in first all-out evil role
The Covid-19 pandemic may have shuttered substantial cinemas around the world and pushed The Witches from a theatrical release to being made available on HBO Max in the US.
But its star Anne Hathaway is just glad the fantasy-comedy, which is still opening in Singapore cinemas on Nov 5 and is based on Roald Dahl's children's book, is getting seen at all.
She plays the powerful, diabolical Grand High Witch, who rules over all witches in the world.
In a Zoom interview from London, where she is currently filming the pandemic-set heist thriller Lockdown, the 37-year-old American actress told The New Paper: "I've always made family movies, but I was just thinking about how happy I am to be a part of something in this particular moment that families can watch together, and what a gift that feels like.
"I'm hoping this film is a bright spot and becomes a happy memory (for families) in a really trying, difficult year."
Directed by Robert Zemeckis and co-written by Zemeckis and Guillermo del Toro, The Witches is set in late 1967, when a young orphaned boy (Jahzir Kadeem Bruno) and his loving grandma (Octavia Spencer) visit a seaside resort for a holiday.
But they arrive at precisely the same time that the Grand High Witch (Hathaway) has gathered her fellow cronies from around the globe to carry out her nefarious plans.
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Like the 1990 film adaptation of the same name headlined by Anjelica Huston, The Witches is targeted at a young audience.
Yet, Hathaway's version of the iconic character is far from kid-friendly, especially when her mouth distorts into a frightening Pennywise the Killer Clown-esque grin thanks to some nifty special effects.
She said of her makeover: "I screamed when Bob (Zemeckis) showed me the picture. And then the first time I saw myself with the whole witch's grin was in the making-of featurette; I knew that part was coming, but I still screamed.
"It's good, it's a scary look."
Transforming into the "full kit" of the Grand High Witch took up to five hours in the make-up chair every morning, and she only recently revealed to the media that she was secretly pregnant with her second son during filming.
She said: "You have to keep as chill and positive as you can, so I listened to a lot of Oprah's (Winfrey) SuperSoul Sunday podcasts."
Hathaway also credited reality TV drag queen show RuPaul's Drag Race - which she is a huge fan of - for helping her bring the campy, over-the-top villainess who sports a creepy-yet-funny Norse accent to life.
"I took every single thing I'd ever learnt from Drag Race, in terms of how to make that kind of fabulous entrance, and to the overall performance."
On playing her first all-out evil role, she added: "It feels pretty good! The thing I enjoyed the most was her brazenness, because it's a bit of a departure from the book, where witches try very hard to live amongst people and pass off as seemingly nice women.
"But also one of the themes that emerged for me, and from our goal in telling this story, is to really empower kids.
"Yes, evil is scary, but it's ultimately really ridiculous, and while it's dangerous, the best thing you can do is stand up to it and laugh at it.
"Bad people will be as bad as they can be and wind up taking over everything, until someone has the courage to stand up to them."
As for the inevitable comparisons to Huston's performance, which Hathaway calls "memorable and flawless", she said: "Whenever I get nervous about that, I keep reminding myself there have been, in the past 30 years, six Batmen and four Jokers, three James Bonds, and if we include the multiverse, there have been a lot of Spider-Men too.
"We do have the capacity to hold multiple interpretations for the same part, we do it all the time. So I'm just hoping that people remember to afford other characters this possibility."