'The Witches': Anne Hathaway on how she played the child-hating Grand High Witch while secretly pregnant

Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY
·4 min read

A strong argument could be made that Anne Hathaway spent a lifetime building up to her role as the most evil Grand High Witch in the new adaptation of Roald Dahl's "The Witches."

The Oscar-winning actress, 37, posted pictures of her adorable youngster self throwing a spell as a rainbow-wigged witch on Instagram with the caption, "How it started." Decades later, stepping into the role of a saucy sorceress with diabolical plans to turn all kids to mice, Hathaway found out she was pregnant with her second child Jack (now 11 months old) with husband Adam Shulman.

Beyond rich irony, that actually helped her performance.

"I was really happy on the days when my hormones were raging," Hathaway says. "There was no acting involved whatsoever."

Chatting with USA TODAY, Hathaway explains keeping her pregnancy secret on the set and how her "Witches" role (now streaming on HBO Max) is going down at home with Jack and Jonathan, 4.

Anne Hathaway brings grand fashion: Her five most enchanting 'The Witches' looks

Anne Hathaway was not all evil the Grand High Witch in "The Witches." Her real son Jonathan, 4, named her snake ornament, Snix the Snake. "Now it's my all-time favorite outfit," she says.
Anne Hathaway was not all evil the Grand High Witch in "The Witches." Her real son Jonathan, 4, named her snake ornament, Snix the Snake. "Now it's my all-time favorite outfit," she says.

Question: Your young Anne Hathaway witch posted on Instagram was divine, what did you bring to that as a child?

Anne Hathaway: I brought imagination, a sense of adventure and I hope a cackle. But I'm going to have to double-check with my parents on the cackle. I just loved the way my mom's turtleneck puddled on me, because my understanding of the Wicked Witch of the West was that she puddled fabulously.

Q: I love that wicked description ...

Hathaway: I actually can't claim credit to that; that image came by way of Rufus Wainwright in concert.

Q: What about Halloween this year? What's your family of four dressing as? Did you snag a witch outfit?

Hathaway: I'm dressing Jack up as a monkey and I'm going to be the tree. Jonathan and Adam are going to be characters from "Cars." That's a family-favorite movie, in that anything Jonathan loves becomes a family favorite. That's the way it goes with a 4-year-old. We're not going trick-or-treating. It just doesn't feel right this year. We're bringing a small group of kids together and hiding candy for a backyard scavenger hunt.

Hero Boy (Jahzir Bruno) is turned into a mouse (far right) by the Grand High Witch, joining fellow cursed creatures Bruno Jenkins (far left, voiced by Codie-Lei Eastick) and Daisy (Kristin Chenoweth).
Hero Boy (Jahzir Bruno) is turned into a mouse (far right) by the Grand High Witch, joining fellow cursed creatures Bruno Jenkins (far left, voiced by Codie-Lei Eastick) and Daisy (Kristin Chenoweth).

Q: At home, you could legit threaten your kids with, 'I'm going to turn you into a mouse.' Have you thought about that parenting technique?

Hathaway: As effective as it might be, the risk of traumatizing Jonathan with that and (my character's) huge, horrible smile, it's not worth it. The hardest part was figuring out how to FaceTime with (my kids) while I was on set, because I thought that the whole bald look might be a bit much. So I wrapped towels around my head and we played peek-a-boo. I would only lift the napkin so high.

Q: It's pretty incredible you were covertly pregnant while playing a child-hating witch. Really, no one knew?

Hathaway: No one. It was special. I had this gorgeous secret and my little pal with me and we were making something that felt so fun. Even costume designer Joanna Johnston swore she had no idea. Maybe she was being discreet. I didn't tell a soul until I knew I was out of the first trimester and then I told as few people as possible – the stunt coordinator, Bob (director Robert Zemeckis) and the producer.

Stanly Tucci was quite surprised to find out his "Devil Wears Prada" co-star was pregnant.
Stanly Tucci was quite surprised to find out his "Devil Wears Prada" co-star was pregnant.

Q: What about your "The Devil Wears Prada" co-star Stanley Tucci, who plays the hotel manager?

Hathaway: My first scene when I was about nine weeks pregnant was with Stanley. And then I filmed my last scene with him. It was so funny, his eyes when he came in and saw me 16 weeks pregnant were like, "Oh!" I was like (shrugs), "Yeah."

Hathaway had wig input for her Grand High Witch.
Hathaway had wig input for her Grand High Witch.

Q: Did you have input on those amazing Grand High Witch wigs?

Hathaway: We all brought ideas to the table. I asked for two wigs, one of them to be shaped like a water buffalo and the other one would be shaped like a ram. Nobody blinked when I said it. And they pulled it off. So I was very, very happy about that.

Q: The witch-in-repose turban look is my pick. What's your favorite Grand High Witch fashion moment?

Hathaway: I love that purple gown with the snake. First, because it's fabulous. But also for sentimental reasons. When I told my son I was wearing a snake dress at work and that the snake needed a name, he named it Snix the Snake. Snix the Snake was just the best. So that's now my all-time favorite costume.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'The Witches': Anne Hathaway played evil while secretly pregnant