An actress whose first big screen gig also proved to be her breakthrough, Anne Hathaway became a familiar face to millions of moviegoers thanks to her starring role in Garry Marshall’s 2001 hit The Princess Diaries. Cast as a clumsy high school girl who finds out she is the princess of a small country, Hathaway was able to prove her comedic timing opposite no less than Julie Andrews.

Hailing from Brooklyn, where she was born November 12, 1982, Hathaway became involved in the theater at a young age, and as a teenager performed with the Barrow Group, a prestigious New York theatre company. She did her first industry work in the short-lived but critically praised TV series Get Real before auditioning for Marshall, who, according to legend, cast the actress as the accident-prone princess after she fell off a chair during her audition. The success of The Princess Diaries opened a number of doors for Hathaway, but she chose the one that led to Vassar College, where she enrolled in 2000, taking some time off from film.

Though a supporting performance in the 2002 box-office disappointment Nicholas Nickleby offered Hathaway little chance to shine, a lead performance as the eponymous character in thefantasy-themed romantic comedy Ella Enchanted (2004) found her stepping into some big slippers for another Cinderella-style story not unlike the obligatory Princess Diaries 2 that same year. As if to anounce her acendancy out of the teen fantasy ghetto, Hathaway plunged into edgier territory with the gritty teen drama Havoc (also 2004), although the explicit film merited only a video release.

It was her next two roles, however, that would announce the young actor’s arrival into adulthood. As one of the two quietly suffering wives in Ang Lee’s acclaimed Brokeback Mountain, Hathaway exhibited an irrepressible rodeo-girl spirit broken down over the course of a sham marriage. As the co-star of the chick-lit adaptation The Devil Wears Prada in 2006, she entered the world of contemporary, high-fashion power players, suffering the slings and arrows of a deliciously evil (and Oscar-nominated) Meryl Streep. The film played throughout the summer, becoming a bona-fide sleeper hit. Although initially cast in 2007’s runaway summer comedy, Knocked Up, Hathaway backed out of the role that eventually went to Katharine Heigl. She chose instead to follow the period-romance path with Becoming Jane, a Shakespeare in Love-style speculative fiction on the life and one true love of Jane Austen.

2008 turned out to be a banner year for the actress who scored a box office hit starring opposite Steve Carell in the big-screen adaptation of Get Smart, and garnered the best reviews of her career thus far for her work as a recovering addict in Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married. That role earned her a number of year-end critics awards, as well as Best Actress nominations from the Screen Actors Guild and the Academy.