NEW YORK — Anne Hathaway is tired. Exhausted even. But she’s also far too considerate to allow her weariness to be mistaken for a less-than-professional bearing.

“Sorry, I don’t normally put my shoes on furniture. Do you mind if I do this?” the actress asks as she reclines on a purple loveseat in her Drake Hotel suite, quilted Chanel boots and all. “Honestly, I’m sorry. I’m so tired. I don’t mean to be flippant or strident or anything.”

Not that anyone could tell from her bright-eyed appearance and precociously articulate speech, but Hathaway has been working 75- to 90-hour weeks while filming “The Devil Wears Prada,” the much-gossiped-about adaptation of Lauren Weisberger’s best-selling novel, which also stars Meryl Streep. And starting Friday, the 23-year-old actress will be appearing in her most adult role to date with the debut of Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain.”

Based on a short story of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx, the film melds the Midwestern American landscape with a romance between two cowboys, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal). Hathaway plays Lureen Newsome, a wealthy Texan rodeo star who marries Jack.

Arguably best known up to now for such lighthearted fare as “The Princess Diaries” and “Ella Enchanted,” Hathaway gives a nuanced and devastating performance as Lureen grows older and lonelier over 20 or so years of matrimony while Jack’s affair with Ennis persists.

“I wanted everybody to take her for granted until the end when all of a sudden you realize that just as you had the men pegged wrong, you had her pegged wrong,” she explains. “And she was also a victim of circumstance. You realize that even her husband didn’t understand how deep she went.”

The actress reveals her own maturity in more ways than one, appearing topless for the second time in her career (the first was in this year’s “Havoc”). But Hathaway is typically professional about her choice.

“It’s like anything. It’s like sneezing on cue. It’s just something the script calls for that you need to do to support the story,” she says. “I don’t believe in gratuitous nudity. All of us, the four main leads, had to show a certain part of ourselves. And I think it was important to establish the difference between sex and intimacy.”

This story first appeared in the December 8, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Hathaway did two months of research for the role, including spending quality time in the New York Public Library reading the 1961 town census from Childers, Tex. (Lureen’s hometown) and rigorous riding lessons in Central Park.

Things have been considerably less physically demanding, hours aside, on the New York set of “The Devil Wears Prada.” As Andrea, the tortured and exploited assistant to Streep’s Miranda Priestly, she has found herself immersed in costume designer Patricia Field’s style wonderland. And come premiere time, she’ll certainly have some newfound fashion knowledge on which to draw.

“I used to just go out and wear gowns and look really pretty. And it’s nice, but I wasn’t risky with it at all. And fashion can be really fun and creative,” says Hathaway. “Now I try to work on that a little more. I try to go for things that are more like me.”

Early next year, she will begin filming “Becoming Jane” in which she will play Jane Austen, her favorite author.

“With the success of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I know that people are open to it. And it’s a very different story,” says Hathaway. “I just wish Keira Knightley hadn’t been so damned wonderful in it! I have to bring it even more.”

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