Shy, frizzy-haired Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) is struggling through teendom in San Francisco when her grandmother (Julie Andrews) shows up and spills a family secret: Mia is the princess of a tiny country named Genovia. ("Shut up!" cries Mia.) Should she inherit the throne or stay in school? Mia's happy being a nothingburger, and she's not sure she's ready for royalty. "I'm still waiting for normal body parts to arrive," she moans.
Hathaway, the buoyant star of "The Princess Diaries," felt Mia's pain. Growing up in New Jersey, the 18-year-old didn't exactly tear through adolescence. "It wasn't quite so dramatic for me, but it was definitely a low point," she says, laughing. At 16, Hathaway landed a part on Fox's short-lived series "Get Real." "If you watch that show, I go through so many physical changes it's ridiculous." Now an assured college student, Hathaway hardly says hello before zooming into opinions on early American Gothicism (love it) and her state's environmental record (hate it).
After reading the "Princess Diaries" script (really loved it), Hathaway snagged the lead with a single audition. The movie, directed by Garry Marshall, is a genial, G-rated "Pretty Woman"--it's got the obligatory makeover montage and fork-related faux pas--but Hathaway makes it fly with her gawky, witty performance. "It gave me the chance to relive my adolescence, and I did it right the second time." Brave girl. For the rest of us, once was more than enough.