Ever since she's started talking about The
Intern, it's been asked many times of actress Anne Hathaway what
it was like to be Robert De Niro's boss. Even attending a press
conference with acting legend De Niro is a rare thing, so when the
32 year-old Oscar winner was told that De Niro would play her
intern, it was no surprise that she was not only a little excited
but also more than a bit intimidated.
After all he had not only won an Oscar, but had
been nominated for awards many times over, worked with the world's best
directors such as Martin Scorsese, co-created a world class film
festival (Tribeca) and become a major player in the development of
Okay, so De Niro wasn't actually Hathaway's intern. In
the film, he plays 70-year-old widower/retiree Ben Whitaker who becomes
the intern to Hathaway's character, tech entrepreneur Jules Ostin.
However, any time you have this Oscar winner,
so potent for his performances (his Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver
is a benchmark for acting aficionados everywhere) taking orders from
you, it causes you to take pause. Even when you're playing an online
retailing superstar in director Nancy Meyer's The Intern.
The 65-year-old Meyers makes films that find
clever, engaging ways to address various social issues, particularly
gaps in gender relations. Over her long career as a writer, producer and
director, she's applied witty and fresh turns to such matters in various
big-screen successes as 1998's The Parent Trap, 2003's
Something's Gotta Give, 2006's The Holiday, and 2009's
It's Complicated. Along the way, this Philly native surpassed Penny
Marshall as the highest-grossing female director of all time.
When the siren call goes out – that you're
invited to question these three – you hope that the questions cover the
concerns the film addresses: gender bias, ageism, tech ignorance, micro
management, and the emotional baggage engaged when you become a business
star at a young age.
That's just a few of the issues that The
Intern tackles. For some, this comedy about a young female founder
of a cool fashion e-commerce company who agrees to a program where
seniors intern at her firm seems regressive in retrospect. However,
whatever conclusions the film addresses, this Q&A held at the Crosby
Hotel enlightened with tales of the film's backstory.
it's all done and about to be out there, what do you think of the issues
addressed in the film, and how they were approached here?
it's about the concept of retirement and that it might happen to you
whether or not you are ready. This film is also about somebody's desire
to stay part of things and not be pushed aside. I enormously enjoyed
doing all the research I did about startups; I found that whole culture
so interesting. And the fact that Annie plays a woman who's the founder
of a company. I was saying to somebody that when I wrote Baby Boom,
it wouldn't have occurred to me to make her the boss. Now, it wouldn't
have occurred to me when I was writing Annie's character to make her an
I think the world has changed enough. I've been
able to make movies over such a long period of time where I've examined
the lives of these women who have families and children. Then I got a
chance to look at the stay-at-home dad, [and] the mom who's running a
company, and all that that entails. The primary thing is that I wanted
to write about a friendship between two people that's, in its own way, a
love story, but not a romantic one.
Obviously, [it's about] age and gender. One of the things that Nancy's
done in this movie, and that she has done throughout her career, is find
things that we relate to via humor and emotion throughout our lives. She
usually has a knack for getting there first, and making [such]
observations. In this case, she's really got her finger on the pulse in
the observations she's made about generations, and gotten there before a
lot of other people.
I love that it's a movie that I feel like I can
go to see with any of my friends. I have friends who are 20 years old,
and friends who are 83. I can go to see [this one] with any of them. I'd
love to see this movie with my parents. I don't know that we've had a
movie like that in a long time, that can sort of appeal to everyone
specifically, of every age, and they can find humor in it. This isn't so
much of an issue in the movie, but it's just something I love about it.
I was honored and flattered that Nancy asked me to be in the movie, and
I knew that it would be... She gave me the script, I read it, liked it a
lot, but I think everybody has said that... She deals with what's going
on today, and the whole flipped part of it – of me being the intern –
and that's what makes it more interesting and fun. I mean, she dealt
with the issues at hand. I suppose that's what I have to say, right? (laughs)
value of having Ben in her life. There's a boy for her in her life.
see this movie as a love letter to baby boomers, that it says, "You're
not so old and irrelevant, you can use your wisdom and discipline to
help another generation?"
It's her love letter to us, to our generation, [especially] to us guys
of our generation. And, it's fun.
I hope the movie is seen by a lot of people because it is this kind of
movie. We do tend to feel that when you're a certain age, when you get
older, you're less relevant in some ways, and [this movie shows] that's
just not the case. Either people who are just aware and sensitive to
that when they're younger realize that, and when you get there, you
certainly know it. Sometimes you don't know until you get there. There's
a lot of people who are there, so hopefully they'll see the movie.
years ago, actress Bette Davis called her autobiography, The
Lonely Life. Was this something [that you see as] particular to
successful women, wherever they are in society? Do you see it as lonely
at the top for women?
would've thought of that, but when you said it, I thought, "That's
interesting..." But I don't know about you. Anne, but it didn't strike
me as any kind of loneliness as much as... I can only write what I know,
so I can also imagine that any man who would have this company would
need Ben. I don't necessarily think it's because she's female. When
you're taking on a big thing like that, it's [all on] you; you're a
one-man or one-woman band, so I didn't [necessarily] see it as lonely.
But I don't know if you felt that, [in] playing her.
I'm so relieved to hear you say that, because I don't know how to answer
that – that never occurred to me, or am I a bad actor? Did I not ask the
right questions? I thought it was not because of a gender issue, but
just because I think Jules is a private person, and that she's so
dedicated to her company. She dreads the idea that anything in her
personal life could impact on her ability to do her job and keep the
company going. She doesn't really have anyone to confide in.
Then she meets Ben and their friendship
develops organically. She winds up opening up to him and taking his
advice because she really, really, respects him and [he gives] really
sound, excellent advice. Like I said, that's not forced, it happens
organically, so I just thought, like what Nancy said, she was more
isolated because of her position. One of the things I love about the
movie is that Jules has so much heart and she builds an incredible
structure [which has] bones, but there's no connective tissue to it.
Nobody at the company knows how to build connective tissue, and that's
when Ben comes in. He figures out how to get everybody to connect to
In this day and age, we have the tools for
communication at our disposal, but we're using them in such a way that
sometimes [we aren't] taking full advantage of them... Or maybe, that's
taking full advantage of them, but that's just not as effective as
having a one-on-one conversation. So I thought it was a great that Nancy
made observations about how old school meets the new world, and each is
made better because of the other.
as technically challenged with computers as Ben is?
I'm a little less technically challenged, but I'm not far behind.
such a great mentor to Anne's character in this movie. Was there a
mentor in your life who really made an impact on you?
No, I never had a mentor like that. I don't envy, but I do think that's
a great thing if you are lucky enough, especially if you are in a
certain untenable situation, and you have a mentor who'll change your
life. They can do that. I mentored myself, in a lot of ways. It's a
great thing, you know. I like to give advice to younger people if they
ask me. I have at times asked people who were further on in their
careers, like [director/writer] Elia Kazan or certain actors who were a
generation ahead of me.
I asked them what to look out for, blah blah,
because I wanted to take a shortcut in some things. I don't want to have
to experience something if I don't want to – [especially] if it's going
to be a negative one. So I would just get some words of advice. I do
that with people if they ask me. I don't volunteer it, but I'm certainly there if
somebody [asks]. I have some young friends who sometimes ask me stuff
and I give it to them, my opinion of what the situation is.
the advice you tell young actors?
Oh, it's personal stuff, so I can't really say. But I just enjoy doing
flip side, you've had interns when doing Tribeca Film Festival and with
your production company, so what experience did you have with some of
your interns? Has doing this movie made any of you appreciate your
interns differently and change how you will look at them and treat them
Well, I have some interns who I now work for.
do they tell you to do?
No, they're just very respectful, and they never forgot where they were
working, so it's nice. I'm very proud of them. It's great. You know,
with Tribeca, through all these years, it's a great thing.
thoughts on how they're going to treat their interns?
of my interns is in the movie. The kind of scruffy kid that sits to
Bob's right, he was my intern on It's Complicated. I think
unconsciously I was writing [the character with] him in mind. I wasn't
fully aware of it until I emailed him one day. He said the email said,
"Can you act?" just in the subject line. I didn't actually write
anything in the email.
He was pretty
good, right? He's never acted before!
I don't have an intern... because I'm not them. [referring the De
Niro and Meyers] I'm not that impressive. But I was on a photo shoot
recently, and I was greeted by an intern, at the top of the day when I
arrived. Because of our movie, I think I went out of my way to pay her a
little extra attention, ask her questions about who she was, why she was
doing this, and where she wanted to go. I thought I was doing something
nice, so I was like, "Um, hey, I've got a playlist ready to go, can you
do me a favor? You'll be on the music, and we'll like, be in [sync],
and, when I want you to play this song, you play this song, and this
song," and she's like, "Of course."
But I didn't realize the sound system was like,
impossible to work. Every time she was trying to it, she would like,
leap from iPod to iPod – for some reason she had to do that – and every
time she had to do that, it would create the most horrible screech
throughout the entire sound system. Everybody hated it. So I was trying
to do a nice thing for the intern, and I wound up just making everybody
kind of annoyed at the sounds she was making.
you need to do a website for music, a peer-to-peer program.
I totally get that you want me to make a website, but that's not going
to happen. At least I know we have one customer. (laughs)
Anne, you are now inspired to do your own e-commerce site like some of
your contemporaries as Jessica Alba have done?
No! Not yet.
both speak about collaborating with Nancy and can you share what you
admire about her?
Well, I'm used to doing movies that took as much time as our movie did.
I'm from that generation. It just stopped at a certain point, except
certain types of big-type science fiction or those types of movies. But
Nancy was very specific, as far as telling – we did things in a lot of
takes at times, but for good reason. She was very specific about what
she wanted [us to do], and I totally got them and understand it. It was
These days, movies are done – they don't have
the luxury of extremely long schedules or [high] budgets, unless you
kind of just find yourself there, because you're in it and you have to
finish it, and it's going to take longer than everybody hoped it would.
But anyway, she was terrific, bottom line.
the shooting schedule? Bob said it was a long schedule – 14 weeks?
I have no
We shot for 15 weeks. About.
half of what I'm used to, but twice as much as a lot of movies get
[these days]. So for me, I was racing on rollerblades the entire time.
If you look at Nancy, you see this tiny, adorable woman with awesome
hair. That's at least, at first glance. So I had no idea of the
tenacious, uncompromising, inexhaustible powerhouse that she is. I'm so
lucky that I got to work with her on this, in terms of collaboration –
it's true, though. I had admired you, and now that I've made a movie
with you, it's beyond [that]. When we started, we saw the character in
two different ways. I wanted her to be wearing her stress more on her
sleeve. Nancy wanted Jules to have it a little more together. I had this
moment where I was like, "Okay, we see it different ways; am I going to
feel so uncomfortable the entire time if I'm not following my
Then I just thought to myself, "Idiot, who
knows a Nancy Meyers character better than Nancy Meyers? These
characters are beloved; they're beloved by you, so trust her!" It became
this wonderful exercise in being guided through a character, which is
very new for me. I felt like it was a true collaboration, and Nancy is
the funniest person I've ever met. I think she's probably the smartest
person in any room she's ever been in. I imagine that having been a
woman in this industry for the last 30 years, that it's not easy being
the smartest, funniest person in the room – and being a woman – but
she's handled it with tremendous grace. I think she's underrated...
I don't know, I hope this movie is such a global hit because she
the nicest thing anyone's ever said about me. Thank you so much. What
makes it easy though, I have to say, is that these two actors are great
people. So when you're surrounded by great people, they make you better,
and allow you to express yourself all the time. They're open and, like I
was saying with Bob earlier, they're safe, you know? That's all you
want... That's what we all want when we make a movie, to feel safe to be
ourselves and get what we need. They allowed me to do my work in a way
so that it's up on the screen. The result's on the screen, what we all
did every single day for that short amount of 14 weeks, that barely was
there, as far as I'm concerned.
would you say that you enhanced each other and changed each other's
lives as characters?
How did the characters influence each other in the story? Um, well, it's
what it is. I mean, she learns from him, even though he's older and all
that. We tend to – not disregard – but just... People [as they] are
getting older, they're kind of sidelined, in a way. The point is that
he's someone very important. If you stop, look and listen, he has advice
that only somebody who'd been on the planet a lot longer can give. It's
really that simple, so she gets that from me, and my character, and I
get certain things from her. I wish I had said it more eloquently, but I
guess that's it.
you say that this film speaks, perhaps differently, to the two
audiences, the younger and the older audience?
I don't know, that's a good question. I just don't know.
Can I pick that one up?
So there's a joke that unfortunately got cut from the movie, but it's my
favorite joke in the movie...
(Laughs) It's a scene where a character's over at Ben's house,
and they're talking, and he puts his beer on the coffee table, and Ben
looks down and he goes, "Why would you put your beer next to the
coaster?" I just feel like my generation laughs because we're really bad
about using coasters, and Boomers laugh because it's a legit question.
That's an example. So many of the jokes work both ways. They're so
satisfying. So in terms of what Jules gets from Ben... you know, it took
me a long time to kind of crack Jules, because I kept looking for her
deep, dark secret. It turns out she's just a really wonderful person on
the inside. That's actually the secret, her strength. That's what makes
her a good boss, that she's a deeply decent and nice person.
The reason the story is being told about her in
this moment, is that she's in a moment of unbelievable stress. She had
everything she needs to navigate this moment except space and a
compassionate ear. That's what Ben brings into her life, a tremendous
amount of compassion. I don't know if that's a generational thing or
what, but I feel like there's a lot of judgment in the world,
particularly when people are in a more visible position, like Jules
would be, as the CEO of a startup, where her business has grown so
There's a lot of judgment for people who are in
those kinds of positions, and Ben doesn't judge her, he just observes
her and opens her, gives her a safe space, [one] full of compassionate
understanding. And she thrives on it. Actually, [Ben] does that to a lot
of people around him. They all thrive as a result of it. It's a simple
thing, but it's not something we see very often in our world. It's
something that I think, if we could see more of or perhaps contribute
to, we'd see a lot of really positive results.
characters were complex and real. They have an inner life. If you sat
down with them and got to know them, what questions would you like to
ask them? What advice would you give them?
If I had an actual model of somebody, say hypothetically this person was
a real person she was basing him on, I would just ask him a lot of
questions about their everyday habits. What they think about things,
just on and on. That's what I would do.
would you want to know about your role?
It's so hard to – honestly, because I asked all the questions. I created
what she's interested in, along with Nancy, so I don't feel like I have
that many questions left of her.
advice would you give her to be happier?
Oh, God. We're the same age, I don't know that I have any authority to
give her advice, necessarily. Honestly, by the end of the movie, I'm on
her side. In the beginning, you would [tell her to] make more time for
[herself], but by the end of it, Jules really is doing the best she can.
She's being authentic to herself and her feelings. I don't think she's a
dramatic person who craves confrontation, and she's honoring that aspect
of herself. By the end, she's treated herself and everyone around her
with respect. Oh, I know what advice I would give her. Value your
assistant more. But Ben gives her that advice so she doesn't need to
hear it from me.
ways, this movie is both a two-way mirror and a rearview mirror; you can
see the front and backside view of characters. Is there a particular
time that gave you angst, that now today you look back on it and say,
"Why was I so worried? Why was I so fearful?"
have so much angst at this age. So, let me try to rewind... Doing what I
do and putting yourself out there, making a movie, this is what I want
to make a movie about, and wrangling all these brilliant people to go
along with you, there's a lot of angst. Am I doing the right thing? Am I
serving them correctly? Is the audience going to want to go see it? Then
the movie comes out and it does well and I think, "What was I so worried
about?" I go through that a lot. I'm trying to teach myself to just calm
down about it all a little bit as I get older.
Anxiety is always there. As long as you're alive, you're going to have
anxiety about something. The things that were important 15, or 20 years
ago are less important today because I know that I can get the same
results with certain things. It doesn't warrant as much angst or anxiety
about that, how to solve that problem as I thought then, now.
really, kind of zen guy. You know? But like, on the set.
He's a Jedi.
like, a gazillion people running around, and he's just sitting in a
chair, having a little tuna sandwich, on a phone, and it's just – the
world can be going by, he's got it down. He's just got it down. He's
always there when you need him. By the way, I think that really helped
everybody in the movie, seeing that. Because, you know, [he was] just
right there, calm.
cast Jules' assistant as the younger version of Ben? Because I think
that that character's going to become Ben.
Andrew Rannell's character [Cameron]? Oh, that's interesting. I hadn't
thought of that. Hopefully we can all become Ben.
and Anne, what did you do to prepare for your dynamic in the film to
establish this deep friendship?
Bob and I did some extreme bonding at the Century 21 Mall. No...
(laughs) You know, that's the funny thing. I just trusted everything
was going to be okay. We didn't do anything special. Bob's an easy guy
to get along with... He is, as Nancy said, incredibly zen, calm and
approachable. Once I could get over the fact that I couldn't talk around
him for the first three weeks, I just felt like an idiot with everything
I said, once I calmed down about that, I just trusted the words.
It didn't matter how I felt, because Jules
feels comfortable around Ben, and I just trusted that that was going to
carry us. And Ben feels comfortable around Jules. Nancy was going to
guide us, and it worked. Also, I just had a lot of film history on my
side. Bob's good at having chemistry with people, so I assumed that as
long as I didn't mess it up, we'd be okay.
She just said it.
why was it important for you to explore this dynamic?
zen that is? One sentence says it all. I had never written anything like
that before, and so it grew as I wrote it. It grew, and became more
clear to me as I was writing it. It's what really was the engine that
was driving me, this relationship. I was wishing I had somebody like
this, because I've been asked a couple times who mentored me. I didn't
have that person.
I know people say I write "wishful filming" –
well this is kind
of "wishful filming." A different kind of wishful filming – wouldn't it
be great to have somebody on your side at really stressful times of your
life who doesn't say, "Your 45 minutes are up," you know? Like, who's
really there for you.
Your 45 minutes are up, and by the way, it cost you this.
That's the fun thing about being a writer. You get to create scenarios
that you maybe don't have in your own life.
once said, "As you define your art, your art defines you." What, if
anything, did each of you learn about yourself in the process of making
I don't know if I learned anything about myself that I didn't know
already. I had a very good time doing the film. It was just a really
was different for me. The making of this film was different. I'd never
been on practical sets before; I'd always been on sound stages and had
walls that move, and that kind of stuff. So it was actually fun. I was
scared in the beginning, but it turned out to be... There would be times
where directors sit in front of a monitor, but with those Brooklyn
houses, I was under the stairs, wasn't I?
You were. You were like, in Frodo's house.
I'd get up and stay hunched over as I walked. So for me, I learned...
There were new challenges, not just performance challenges, but in the
way we made the movie. It was interesting. I know you want a deeper,
better answer, but I learned about another way of making a movie.
I can't explain why it happened for me on this movie, if it was my
character or the dynamic or just being around Bob's zen or what, but up
until now I've made a lot of my movies from a place of insecurity and
neuroses and self-doubt. I just got really tired of it and decided to
make one from a more positive place. To feel good about what I was
doing. Embrace the unknown and not necessarily assume that if I didn't
have a clear idea of how things went, that it necessarily meant it was
bad. I could actually trust that the unknown could be good.
I actually had a wonderful time making this movie, and it
yielded a more relaxed performance [from me]. I'm really proud of the
work we all did out there – what we created. It turns out that you can
make a movie without having nonstop sleepless nights.
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