Vanessa Hud­gens

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“There is noth­ing more at­trac­tive than a strong woman.”

Vanes­saVa Hud­gen­sHu has turned­tur in her clean-cut­cle Dis­neyDis im­age for some deeper,de darker char­ac­ters.ch

Vanessa Hud­gens was in dan­ger of be­ing type­cast as a perky high school teen when she played Gabriella Mon­tez in High School Mu­si­cal. She has, how­ever, grown into her own, and been on a steady roll with pick­ing con­tro­ver­sial, ground­break­ing char­ac­ters that defy her sugar-andspice Dis­ney up­bring­ing. There was her role as hard­par­ty­ing col­lege girl Candy on Spring Break­ers along­side James Franco and Selena Gomez, then her sexy cameo on Ma­chete Kills. The films that stood out the most were The Frozen Ground with John Cu­sack, where she plays a drug­gie pros­ti­tute-pole dancer, who es­capes a se­rial killer; and Gimme Shel­ter with Rosario Daw­son and Bren­dan Fraser, in which she por­trays the life of Agnes “Ap­ple” Bai­ley, a preg­nant, home­less teenager who flees her abu­sive mother. The 26-year old actress, who is dat­ing The Car­rie Di­aries ac­tor Austin But­ler, ex­plained that her char­ac­ter choices are made based on the want and need to grow and chal­lenge her­self as an actress. For Gimme Shel­ter, Hud­gens im­mersed her­self in Ap­ple. “I knew I could bring this char­ac­ter to life,” said Hud­gens. To pre­pare for the role, Hud­gens lived for weeks in shel­ters in­ter­act­ing with the young, home­less moth­ers there who also ap­pear in the film. She also al­tered her ap­pear­ance for what turned out be a stunning per­for­mance.

You did a lot of dif­fi­cult hands-on re­search for this role. How was your ex­pe­ri­ence in the shel­ter for teen moms, to get into char­ac­ter?

In the be­gin­ning, it was a com­plete shock be­cause I had never been around girls that young who are preg­nant, but it was in­ter­est­ing be­cause I got to look into their lives, and see that they are still girls who have the same needs as ev­ery other 16-year-old. They re­ally opened up to me and I got to wit­ness how strong th­ese young women are. It was nice to be able to see the hu­man­ity, and the love that th­ese girls have, and their strug­gle. Also, I got to be re­ally close to the girl my char­ac­ter Ap­ple is based on. And she’s amaz­ing. I mean, she is grow­ing so much. It’s so in­cred­i­ble to see her and her son who I adore, grow.

How old is her son now?

I be­lieve he’s three and a half, or four. He’s adorable. He’s in the movie! He’s the one crawl­ing on the bed, at the end. And he’s so cute.

Did you ever know any­body like this freaked out run­away girl you play?

I had a friend that I grew up with, and I think she was 15 when she ran away from home. But she is gen­uinely still the big­gest burst of sun­shine that I have ever met in my life. You know, it shows us that some­times even in dark­ness, you con­trol your own des­tiny; the way that you look at life is your own choice.

This was a gru­elling role for you. What got you ex­cited about it?

It was just an­other script that was float­ing around. I read it and I felt it was one of those roles that I dreamt about since I was a lit­tle girl.

How so?

I think above all first and fore­most, was that this char­ac­ter was the strong­est per­son I have ever read about. And there is noth­ing more at­trac­tive to a fe­male than be­ing a strong woman – that re­ally pulled me in. It’s fear­less, and it’s rare that you get to

read scripts like this, that deal with a lot of con­tent that can be very eas­ily brushed over.

What about glam­ming down for this char­ac­ter Ap­ple?

That was fun! There’s noth­ing cooler than look­ing in the mir­ror and not see­ing your­self. It was re­ally neat, and I had the most amaz­ing time. It was a lot of work but I was chal­leng­ing my­self ev­ery day, it was so lib­er­at­ing and thrilling. How about play­ing a real life per­son? I love it. I think it was im­por­tant for me to see what ef­fect ev­ery­thing would have on a young woman. Just be­ing at the shel­ter showed me what it would re­ally be like. I could be there right now if I didn’t have my par­ents or the up­bring­ing that I had.

What went through your mind?

I knew that it would take a trans­for­ma­tion, and I’ve al­ways been so fas­ci­nated with that ever since I saw Char­l­ize Theron in Mon­ster. It’s just kind of the dream.

What about the emo­tional chal­lenges?

What else went into this for you?

It was a lot, ob­vi­ously, but it was some­thing that I was will­ing to just dive into be­cause I was so pas­sion­ate about the char­ac­ter and the project. This was my one shot and you’ve got to give it your all, even if it’s painful – that’s what ac­tors do. They run into pain when oth­ers run away from it. I re­ally just al­lowed my­self to feel. Ap­ple is so good at run­ning away and stay­ing on the move, or run­ning in to­wards some­thing. She’s just con­stantly mov­ing, and I think that’s some­thing that a lot of peo­ple don’t re­alise they’re good at. It’s hard to ac­tu­ally sit and to feel emo­tions. Hon­estly, the movie makes you grow as a per­son be­cause it brings all that up, and it al­lows you to re­ally feel, and by do­ing so, it brings heal­ing. It also shows that some­times our dark­est, deep­est mo­ments that we feel we can never get out of are some­times the mo­ments that we’re meant to have. And then, once you get past that, you find hope. That’s re­ally im­por­tant to re­mind peo­ple, so that some­times when they’re go­ing through those things they know that there will be a light at the end of the tun­nel.

What about hav­ing Rosario as your scary mother in this movie?

That woman, I just can­not get enough of her. She is se­ri­ously such a bril­liant woman to look up to, I think. She’s so pas­sion­ate, and so ded­i­cated to ev­ery­thing that she does. I mean, she blew me away. Not only is she an amaz­ing actress, she’s a com­plete ac­tivist, a fem­i­nist, and just so smart and in­tel­li­gent.

Talk about James Earl Jones’ char­ac­ter as the priest.

I’m ly­ing in a hos­pi­tal bed, and I have this man who has such an author­ity in his voice and in his pres­ence, and that’s some­thing that my char­ac­ter didn’t want to hear. She wanted to sit in­side of her pain and just revel in it, but with his strength and through the power of the word of God, he got her out of that.

Do you find roles rooted in re­al­ity more ap­peal­ing?

Def­i­nitely! I think that it’s more ap­peal­ing to hu­man­ity in gen­eral. If you’re go­ing to go into a movie and spend US$12, you ei­ther want to get away and have it be so far from re­al­ity like Twi­light, or you want to find heal­ing. You want to have com­pas­sion and you want to be able to grow. Re­cently, all the roles that I’ve done have showed me that I’m will­ing to go the ex­tra mile and ac­tu­ally put the work in. It showed me that I’m very ded­i­cated to what I do, which is nice to re­mind my­self of. I’ve lived a pretty shel­tered life grow­ing up and then was in the in­dus­try when I was very young. So cer­tain as­pects of th­ese girls’ lives that I’ve been play­ing, I’ve never re­ally wit­nessed. The more I know, the more I’m a fuller per­son. It made me grow, for sure.

Your char­ac­ter Cindy Paul­son in The Frozen

Ground re­sem­bled Joan Jett with the black liner and straight black hair. Was that how the real Cindy looked at the time?

It was all very in­ten­tional. We had a cou­ple pic­tures of Cindy, but noth­ing too sig­nif­i­cant that we could re­ally cre­ate a look for. I had an amaz­ing cos­tume designer, whom I col­lab­o­rated with, to put it all to­gether. I tried to grunge my­self up as much as pos­si­ble.

What im­pressed you the most about her?

Just how brave she was re­ally to open up to me and Scott (Walker) the way that she did. She told us stuff she’s never told any­one else be­fore. It was a bit of an emo­tional roller-coaster. I kind of held my breath through a lot of her sto­ries. She’s a fighter and a sur­vivor, and just very strong over­all. There’s also this child­like as­pect about her that she had as well; a sense of won­der­ment of the world. It was re­fresh­ing and beau­ti­ful to see that. I look up to her so much so in that sense.

What was the most emo­tion­ally chal­leng­ing part about mak­ingThe Frozen Ground?

I think the thing that shook me up the most was the flash­back rape scene with John. You only see a lit­tle tiny snip­pet of it in the movie and Scott kind of told us to go ahead and do what­ever we thought was right. John made sure that if I ever felt un­com­fort­able to let him know and we would call it off. It was dark and emo­tion­ally tax­ing, but

Film has al­ways been my main pri­or­ity. Act­ing comes first and singing, sec­ond.

it was also kind of ex­cit­ing just to be able to put my­self in that sit­u­a­tion with such an amaz­ing ac­tor, and re­ally just feed off each other. Scott didn’t call cut for a few good min­utes so we re­ally got to take it some­where. Af­ter­wards, I was like, “Okay, I have to go home and watch car­toons or some­thing,” be­cause I was shaken up. John was very kind though, and both him and Scott made me feel so com­fort­able that I knew I was safe.

50 Cent plays your pimp. Did you know him be­fore this and did guys talk about pos­si­bly col­lab­o­rat­ing mu­si­cally?

No, I didn’t know him be­fore this but af­ter work­ing with him, I ab­so­lutely adore him. He’s such a hard worker; very kind, and su­per funny. He was just crack­ing jokes right and left on set. His in­volve­ment was amaz­ing be­cause he’s a pro­ducer (on the movie) as well. He went for it. He com­pletely changed the way he looked. He’s great. I adore him. But no fu­ture col­lab­o­ra­tions planned.

Where are you now with your mu­sic ca­reer?

Mu­sic has taken a back seat for a bit. I feel that’s where it’s go­ing to stay for a lit­tle bit longer. Maybe some­where down the line I’ll re­visit it, but film has al­ways been my main pri­or­ity. Act­ing comes first and singing, sec­ond.

You’ve been act­ing since you were eight. Is there a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge to act­ing in your early 20s and find­ing meaty roles?

You face chal­lenges in any pro­fes­sion. There are dif­fer­ent hur­dles to get over. This is just one of them. No mat­ter what, it’s about evo­lu­tion and growth. As long as you’re grow­ing, you’re over­com­ing your own hur­dles and do­ing new things, and I think that’s what it’s about.

What turns you on about be­ing a movie star?

Things that are go­ing to chal­lenge me, things that are go­ing to push me out of my com­fort zone. And things that make me grow as an ac­tor. And what­ever feels right in my heart, that’s what I lis­ten to first.

Are there any dream roles on your wish list?

I re­ally want to play a fairy. And a princess! I’d play any of them right now.

A princess in a movie or the theatre?

I want to do it on film, but I do love theatre. Be­cause that’s where as an ac­tor, you’re put to the test. And that’s what I grew up do­ing, too. My start was in theatre. Also, I’ve been read­ing a bunch of Ten­nessee Wil­liams.

Any Ten­nessee Wil­liams play you’d like to be in?

Yeah, A Street­car Named De­sire! All of his sto­ries are re­ally just in­cred­i­ble, and the char­ac­ters are deep, amaz­ing and tragic at once, all at the same time. I’m a very open per­son, so I’ll do what­ever is meant to be. If it’s fun­nelled my way, then I take it.

What’s next for you work-wise?

Va­ri­ety! That is what it’s al­ways been. I love mix­ing it up and push­ing my­self be­yond my com­fort zone be­cause that’s how you grow. When your com­fort zone gets big­ger, you keep push­ing your­self more and more from there. I’ve said be­fore that I’m not re­ally into fan­tasy, but I did Sucker Punch, which is kind of a fan­tasy. There are so many dif­fer­ent things to play, and I live a life where I love see­ing all the dif­fer­ent as­pects of life and sto­ry­telling and fan­tasies and thrills. There’s so much, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are lim­it­less. Un­til the day I die, I know that I won’t be able to do enough.

2013 Hud­gens wows au­di­ences as Ap­ple in Gimme Shel­ter.

2006 Hud­gens as Gabriella Mon­tez in High School Mu­si­cal.

2012 Sex­ing it up as

Candy in

Spring Break­ers.

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