Hayden Panettiere is ready for the next step towards Hollywood fame and she’s not wasting any time, writes Elle Halliwell
The former TV superhero spreads her wings.
WITH dozens of film and television roles to her credit and a clean-cut image, you’d think Hayden Panettiere would be satisfied with her lot.
Perhaps it’s her self-confessed case of ‘‘ little-man syndrome’’, but the 21-yearold feels she has much more to prove.
She’s smack-bang in the middle of making the transition from child star to adult actor and with that comes plenty of decisions.
This year, Panettiere, pictured, appears as everything from the target of a serial killer in Scream 4 and convicted teen murderer Amanda Knox to a fun, butt-kicking fairytale heroine in animated CGI film Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs Evil 3D.
Surprisingly, it’s the fictional character Red in Hoodwinked which the former Heroes star can relate to most.
‘‘ She has so much to prove and live up to,’’ she says of the Red Riding Hoodinspired character, who joins the Happily Ever After Agency to help rescue a host of kidnapped fairytale creatures.
‘‘ If you call her ‘ little girl’ she turns stone-cold and ends up falling into these traps of putting up a fight, because it obviously strikes such a chord,’’ she says.
The 155cm-tall blonde, who began her acting career before her first birthday, is now enjoying the extra freedom which comes with turning 21 in the US.
Unlike many other of her young Hollywood counterparts, Panettiere has largely managed to avoid being caught up in the party scene which has seen the downfall of so many teen actors, including Lindsay Lohan and Taylor Momsen.
Panettiere has been dating boyfriend Wladimir Klitschko, a 35-year-old Ukranian boxing champion, for more than a year.
While the pair largely manages to skirt the paparazzi’s interest, it’s their height difference that has caused the most attention.
‘‘ He is quite a bit bigger than me,’’ Panettiere admitted to talkshow host Ellen Degeneres.
Despite the fact she’s now a fullyfledged adult, the star said moving away from the teenage superhero character she played in television series Heroes hasn’t been easy.
‘‘ With my look, my size and my age, I’ve always fought an uphill battle to prove to myself that I can be something else besides just how people saw me for those four years on the show,’’ she says.
Panettiere knows more about working on CGI animated films than many actors twice her age, having starred in the second Disney/ Pixar film ever made A Bug’s Life.
‘‘ To see that as a sevenyear-old come to life and become a character which, as an ant, was as close as it could possibly resemble me,’’ she says.
‘‘ They really tried to make it look like me. They put 10 freckles on its nose.’’
Since then she’s played a lemur, a wolf and now the feisty Red.
‘‘ It’s a very different kind of art and it’s amazing to be able to transform into a completely different character,’’ she says.
As for what’s next, the petite star says she’s up for another challenge similar to that of playing character Amanda Knox in the telemovie Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy, which aired in February. ‘‘ The best-case scenario for me would be to play gritty roles like that,’’ she says.
‘‘ I’ve always been drawn to those roles – the grittier, the darker the better.’’