‘The Princess Diaries’: There Were 4 Different Cats Behind Fat Louie and 1 Belonged to Anne Hathaway

The Princess Diaries is one of the most beloved family movies of the millennial generation. When it came out, it was a huge deal and instantly made a star out of Anne Hathaway. Princess Mia Thermopolis seemed so relatable and having Mary Poppins herself (aka, Julie Andrews) play Mia’s grandmother, the Queen of Genovia, was simply too much to handle back in 2001. Even the cat in the movie, Fat Louie, delighted fans … So what’s the story behind Fat Louis, and what is it like to have animal actors on a movie set?

‘The Princess Diaries’ was Anne Hathaway’s big break

People may have come to see The Princess Diaries as fans of her costars, like Andrews and Mandy Moore, but people definitely left the theater as new fans of Hathaway. She truly made the character her own and brought a certain amount of charm, nerdiness, and girl power to Mia that made it easy for people to see themselves in her. 

Later, Hathaway would go on to star in movies like Ella Enchanted, The Devil Wears Prada, and Les Misérables. She even got to host the Oscars back in 2011, something that probably never would have happened if she hadn’t first charmed the world in The Princess Diaries 10 years before that.

Mia’s cat, Fat Louie, stole the show in ‘The Princess Diaries’

Fat Louie from 'The Princess Diaries'
Fat Louie from ‘The Princess Diaries’ | Disney/YouTube

One of the things that makes Mia such a likable character is her eccentric but warm home life in a San Francisco loft with her artist mom and her cat, Fat Louie. As Mia undergoes all the trials and tribulations that go along with finding out you’re a secret princess before you even finish high school, it is Fat Louie to whom she confesses all her secrets and feelings.

Even though it may seem straightforward enough to have an animal in a movie, it can actually be quite a lot of work. In the case of Fat Louie, multiple cats were needed because they only cooperated so much. As Grazia notes, “One of the cats allowed people to carry him, one could sit still, a ‘stunt’ cat was needed for jumps and a different cat altogether was used for the final scene of the film.”

The best part is that one of the cats was Hathaway’s actual cat in real life. We assume this made it easier to show a connection between the cat and the character, and it certainly explains why so many of their scenes together were so sweet. Another fun fact? Fat Louie wasn’t the only Hathaway family member to make the film … Mia’s dad was played by Anne’s real dad, Gerald Hathaway!

Animal characters often require more than one trained animal actor

The Princess Diaries was by no means the first to use multiple animals to play one character; in fact, it is common to need more than one animal to fulfill the needs of a single animal character. Sometimes, this is because the role will be around for many years. For instance, Salem on Sabrina the Teenage Witch was played not only by puppets but also by three real cats. However, the first two, Elvis and Witch, both died before the show had finished its run, meaning a third cat, Warlock, was brought in to play Salem.

Other times, as in the case with The Princess Diaries, multiple animals may be needed simply because it’s hard to work with animals through a long shoot and you sometimes need some lookalikes to pinch-hit. Whatever the case, we’re glad they’re there — what movie isn’t made better by an animal character?

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