07/10/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT
She made her breakthrough in The Princess Diaries
—and now Anne Hathaway
, as the frumpy-turned-fabulous assistant in The Devil Wears Prada
, is a movie Cinderella in much trendier shoes. So how did Hathaway, 23, handle getting the cold shoulder from Meryl Streep on the set, squeezing into designer duds and gaining—then having to shed—10 lbs.? PEOPLE's Mary Green took dictation.
WORTH THE WEIGHT
To prepare for Prada, Hathaway was given one savory task: Eat! "The director and producers asked me to gain 10 lbs.," says Hathaway, who happily chowed on pizza, beer and ice cream. (A size 6 at a fashion magazine staffed by size zeroes, her character is humiliatingly called the "smart, fat girl" by boss Meryl Streep.) But when costume designer Patricia Field met with Hathaway for a fitting, she told the actress, "This isn't going to work. You have to fit into couture. Lose 10 lbs.," Hathaway says. "It was a nightmare. It took me about a month to gain it and two months to lose it!" Hathaway did occasionally wear some padding: "Pat did some tricky things to make it look like I hadn't lost weight."
HER ACTUAL SIZE?
"I have absolutely no idea," says Hathaway. "It drives my stylist nuts. She knows my jeans, so she'll ask, 'Are the black jeans fitting today?' And when I say yes, she's like, 'Okay, you're a 4.'"
PREPARING FOR BATTLE
Before she transformed into an unbearable boss, Streep took Hathaway aside and said, "I want you to know I think you're going to be great, and I'm so happy to work with you ... and that's the last nice thing I'm going to say to you," recalls Hathaway. "Meryl and I have gotten to know each other better after filming," she says.
Hathaway was crowned a royal talent in '01 with the surprise hit The Princess Diaries
opposite Julie Andrews. But after a string of fairy-tale films such as Ella Enchanted
, the New Jersey-bred actress decided to shatter her glass slipper image and play Jake Gyllenhaal
's brittle rodeo-queen wife in Brokeback Mountain. "I was going straight on a very sweet, nice path. Brokeback was a sharp left," says Hathaway, who had a topless scene in the film. "I surprised people."
SCHOOL'S OUT—FOR NOW
Hathaway put her last two years of studying English at NYU on hold while she takes on new projects (next up? Becoming Jane
, in which she plays a young Jane Austen) and spends time with her beau of two years, Italian real estate developer Raffaello Follieri, 28. "I've been so lucky. I'm still waiting for everyone to find me out and send me back down to the C-list," says Hathaway. "But I'm going to fool them as long as I can."
For more talk from the Devil Wears Prada
star, go to www.people.com/anne