When it comes to remaking a movie that features an iconic performance by a beloved actor, it's sometimes hard for the "new" actor to decide how to proceed. Sometimes, as with Richard Dreyfuss in the TV adaptaiton of Fail-Safe, you just straight-up do exactly what the previous actor did, paying homage to them as much as to the screenplay itself. Other times, like Anne Hathaway in the new adaptation of The Witches, you make the conscious choice to diverge from the previous performer. Either way, you're bound to get some criticism, and to raise some questions about their intent and reasoning.
For Hathaway, it's simple: it wouldn't be respectful to approximate the performance Anjelica Huston gave in the 1990 movie. It also meant crafting a new take on the character of the Grand High Witch that would resonate with audiences who may not have a connection to the original movie or the source material, a novel by Roald Dahl.
"I wanted to give a performance that felt as memorable to the children of today as her performance felt to me," Hathaway recently told ET. "It felt like it would've been, in a way, disrespectful to crib her performance. Hers is hers and it was for Nick Roeg's brilliant movie, and mine was mine and it was for Robert Zemeckis."
The actress admitted that it was at first a little daunting to take on the role, given how much cultural cache the Roeg version and Huston's performance have, but said she figured out pretty quickly that she was overthinking it.
"Any moments that I felt, like, a little nervous about, 'Are people going to let there be two Grand High Witches in film history?'" she told EW. "I just went, 'you know what? In the last 30 years, there have been four Jokers. There have been six Batmen. There have been I don't know how many James Bonds.' Like, people can do this. We're just not used to doing it with actresses."
The original film, directed by Roeg and produced by Jim Henson, has become a favorite among audiences, even though Dahl himself reportedly hated the movie when he was alive. Besides Huston, it starred Rowan Atkinson, long before his Mr. Bean character had made its way to the United States. The original version of the movie is available to stream on Netflix, while the new movie, starring Hathaway along with Octavia Spencer and Jahzir Bruno, is available on HBO Max.