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Nearly a decade after a successful theatrical release, Brokeback Mountain remains a groundbreaking drama in the public consciousness in several aspects. Certainly, one of its unique dramatic elements was brought by Anne Hathaway’s character, the scorned wife, Lureen Newsome. Interestingly enough, Hathaway’s audition for the role was apparently not particularly inspiring.
In an interview with Variety reflecting on the historical status of Brokeback Mountain, director, Ang Lee discusses the rather awkward audition that nevertheless landed Anne Hathaway with her crucial role. According to Lee:
On the Universal lot for auditions, the casting director told me the next actress coming in to read was going to apologize for her clothes and makeup, but to just let her do that and go into the reading. Then Anne came in, wearing heavy makeup and dressed as a princess, because she was shooting a parade scene for ‘The Princess Diaries 2’ on the Universal lot. She used her lunch hour to audition for the part.
The image of Hathaway rushing into an audtion, decked out in a set of fancy digs from 2004’s The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement is actually rife with hilarity and is even ironic in a certain sense. (Take a look at the picture below to get an idea of the parade outfit she was allegedly wearing.) While the well-known premise of Brokeback Mountain’s secretive same sex romance between cowboys Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) portrayed a tragic fatalism, it was also an examination of how the "normal" lives they each constructed with wives and children disintegrated. Consequently, the roles for which a princess-decked Hathaway auditioned was anything but jovial and majestic.
The depiction of Hathway’s character, Lurleen, was one of the rather unsung tragedies of the film. We first met her as a strong-willed, liberated young woman who was unafraid to grab the things she wanted in her career and personal life. In this case, it was the affections of rodeo enthusiast Jack Twist. However, as we saw their relationship evolve from courtship to years of marriage, the true nature of Jack’s affections eventually left her a broken, cynical, middle-aged woman, who seemed rather unsurprised or indifferent to the vague circumstances of her husband’s demise. To put this in perspective, Anne Hathaway auditioned for THAT role, dressed as a princess.
Perhaps, the anecdote also proves itself to be apropos regarding the dramatic turn that Hathaway’s career was soon to take. Her role as Lurleen in Brokeback Mountain, despite its supporting nature, was an example of emotional turmoil that depicted the dramatic descent of a woman who once showed herself to the world as a formidable force. With Hathaway coming into the audition dressed as the very princess with which most audiences still associated her with, it was as if the transition from teenage comedy star to serious dramatic actress occurred quite literally in that very room in front of Ang Lee. In that sense, the Oscar-winning actress she is today came about from that insanely awkward audition.