When you burst onto movie screens as a 17-year- old unknown in "The Princess Diaries," a sleeper comedy that goes on to gross a whopping $108 million, the movie — and the part of sweet, clumsy Princess Mia — tends to follow you around.
When you follow it up with another princess role ("Ella Enchanted"), then a "Princess Diaries" sequel, it’s no wonder Anne Hathaway, now a Vassar and New York Universityeducated 23, gets a little skittish about being typecast.
As she likes to say: "Before I was a princess, I was an actress."
In a pair of new films — "Brokeback Mountain," now in theaters, and the recently wrapped "The Devil Wears Prada" — Hathaway is playing off her sweet-faced image in ways that might make the devil blush.
With her "Brokeback" work, Hathaway has repositioned herself as a maturing actress, but when she went up for the role of Lureen, Jack Twist’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) wife, she had some concerns:
First was that she was being stunt-cast — her goodygoody image being used to make the movie’s gay cowboy theme more palatable to the parents of her "Princess" fans.
"Although I don’t have that big a name," she says, "with 13-year-olds, I’m huge."
She was therefore thrilled to find out she had gotten the part based solely on her audition.
"The casting director told (director Ang Lee) I was an unknown theater actress from New York," she said.
Another concern arose once Hathaway got the role. During auditions, she told Lee that she could ride a horse, but that was basically wishful thinking.
"You say yes to everything in the audition, short of one thing," she said.
So in her research time leading up to production, Hathaway learned to ride.
"I impressed cowboys," she says proudly. "But on the day of the shoot, they switched horses on me and put me on a real barrel-racing horse. I pulled on the reins, he stopped . . . and I kept going."
Thrown, in front of 300 extras.
"I was scarlet with embarrassment," she said. "They used the stuntwoman."
As for Lureen, who’s first seen as a vivacious, ravenhaired cowgirl and last seen as a worn- down, life -weary blonde ("As Jack turned to whiskey, Lureen turned to bleach"), Hathaway called the character a "predator at her core."
"I never looked at Lureen as anything other than what happens when you’re not honest in a relationship," she said.
With her "Brokeback" accolades and "Prada" starring role opposite Meryl Streep, Hathaway is on the cusp of crossing over from teen star to movie star. But she’s more concerned about simply being an actress, "scaring the (expletive) out of myself as much as I can."
"I think compared to a lot of young actors, I’m not very good at being a star," she says. "I’m quiet. I haven’t sold any of my relationships to the media. I don’t just show up at places to be photographed.
"As far as being an actress goes, if I can have a few jobs a year for the rest of my life, you won’t find anyone happier than me."