Anne Hathaway was clandestinely given the script as director Lone Scherfig wasn't looking at any American actresses for the part of Emma. Hathaway flew to London for a meeting with Scherfig which she described as "the worst meeting of my life.. I was just inarticulate". However, on leaving the director, she handed her a list of songs that she felt represented how she would interpret the character. It was this list that landed her the part.
There were some conversations about why cast an American actress to play Dexter's English mother but Lone Scherfig really liked the sense of experience, worldliness and flirtatiousness that Patricia Clarkson brought to the part.