Anne Hathaway Thinks The Media Got One Thing Wrong About Rebekah Neumann
“People felt almost compelled to judge her harshly.”
If you were on the internet at all in 2019, you likely read the copious headlines about the collapse of WeWork, the shared workspace start-up that was forced to cancel its planned IPO after accusations about a toxic work culture and questions about its profitability prompted investors to pull out. But Anne Hathaway saw none of them. “It's just not where my interest has been up to this point,” the actor tells Bustle over Zoom.
In fact, Hathaway had never even heard of the company before being cast as Rebekah Neumann — the wife and “spiritual thought partner” of WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann — in the Apple TV+ series WeCrashed, a dramatization of WeWork’s rise and fall. This allowed Hathaway, who’s also an executive producer, to approach the role without any preconceptions. To prepare, she researched the Kabbalah Centre (a spiritual guidepost for Rebekah) and found inspiration in one particular teaching: “Judge all persons favorably.”
“That became sort of my north star to play her,” Hathaway says. “I appreciate that the world has kind of made up their minds about [Rebekah] and that she's received a certain amount of judgment. But what if I can come to this experience with fresh eyes? What if I judge her favorably? The end result is still the same, but what if I [embrace] her good intentions? That opened up the character for me in a way that felt very honest and authentic.”
WeWork was founded in 2010 by serial entrepreneur Adam Neumann (played by Jared Leto in WeCrashed) and Miguel McKelvey (played by Kyle Marvin). According to filings from the company, Rebekah, a former yoga instructor and actor, was never paid a salary. But she had outsize influence on WeWork’s culture and later served as its chief brand and impact officer. In a 2020 Bustle profile, one former employee called her “a spoiled baby” who ousted workers for random or nonexistent reasons; another said it seemed like she’d “never left the bubble of that Upper East Side existence where all your friends are socialites.” (Rebekah was raised by wealthy parents in Bedford, New York, and is the cousin of actor Gwyneth Paltrow).
Hathaway admits that there are moments in Rebekah’s life that she probably “wishes she could redo,” but in consulting with the people who knew her, she learned that the businesswoman was generally thought of as pretty kind. “The word that came up in every single interview was how sweet she was,” Hathaway says. “And based on what I read about her in the media, that was not a word that ever came up.”
Another surprising takeaway for Hathaway? The fact that despite WeWork’s epic failings, she thinks Rebekah actually doled out some sound advice. In WeCrashed’s first episode, she both encourages Adam to chase after what he loves and pushes him to stop “pouting” and press forward after a business blow. “Based on the media angle on her, people felt almost compelled to judge her harshly,” Hathaway says. “But then when you actually look at the things that she was saying, a lot of them make sense.” Still, she concedes: “That doesn't mean that the practice of them was perfect.”