‘I was nervous about how it would be received’: Anne Hathaway on playing a Jewish mother in Armageddon Time

Anne Hathaway has discussed her casting as a Jewish mother in the new film Armageddon Time.

The coming-of-age drama, from writer-director James Gray, follows two boys growing up in the Reagan era who are gradually waking up to the complex adult world around them.

Armageddon Time is semi-autobiographical, and Hathaway plays a version of Gray’s own mother in the movie.

In a new interview, the actor said: “It was not lost on me that I had a lot of responsibility playing a Jewish woman, and that I’m not a Jewish woman. I did what I think we all do, [which was to research]... I learned everything I could about Jewish women, like historical Jewish women.”

Asked whether she felt “trepidation” taking on the role, she said: “Yeah, I was nervous about how it would be received. I took it very seriously. And I hoped I would be graced from an audience the ability to play this part even though I was not born a Jewish woman.

“In terms of trepidations, James was really empowering. Throughout the process, I felt really supported by him.”

The Independent’s Clarisse Loughrey gave Armageddon Time three stars in her review, in which she wrote: “Gray’s latest is a flawed work. But it sees the filmmaker at his most vulnerable, as he twists the camera back on himself and asks: of all the paths that brought me here, how many were carved out by my own privilege?”

Armageddon Time also stars Anthony Hopkins and Jeremy Strong.

‘Armageddon Time’ (© 2022 Focus Features, LLC.)
‘Armageddon Time’ (© 2022 Focus Features, LLC.)

There are many examples of non-Jewish actors playing Jewish roles, from Rachel Brosnahan as Midge in The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in On the Basis of Sex to Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem in Mrs America.

There has been a rise in campaigning for Jewish representation on screen in recent years, with stars such as Maureen Lipman and Miriam Margolyes signing a letter in 2019 accusing the musical Falsettos of “jewface”.

US comic Sarah Silverman also said on her podcast last year: “Lately it’s been happening – if that role is a Jewish woman, but she is courageous, or she deserves love, or has bravery, or is altruistic in any way, she’s played by a non-Jew.”