The star of Heroes has one last spin in a cheerleading outfit in this weekends I Love You Beth Cooper.
She’s almost 20 but Hayden Panettiere couldn’t leave her teens without one last spin in that cheerleader outfit. Only this time, the baton-twirling star isn’t saving the world but the reputation of the school nerd in new movie ‘I Love You, Beth Cooper’.
While the book-based movie sees Hayden back in high school she’s far from the indestructible force she is in hit show ‘Heroes’.
In fact the prom night in which the whole movie is set shows Hayden going for laughs as the most sensitive of prom queens. The teen star plays the title role of Beth Cooper who on prom night is stunned by an announcement of undying ove from class nerd Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust).
What follows sees the most popular girl in school show the boy at the bottom of the class the night of his life, with more than a few surprises.
This could well be the last we see of Hayden the child star, as she fully intends to make the transition to leading lady despite the pitfalls suffered by so many of her peers.
Q: What is it about you and cheerleaders? HP: “I don’t know (laughs). I just find myself playing them for some reason and sometimes they’re not even characters that are like ‘cheerleaderesque’. They’re just cheerleaders.”
Q: Did it take a big effort to pull on that outfit again? HP: “Well, they got me in the outfit and they took a still picture and that’s pretty much the amount I’m in the cheerleading outfit. It’s in one picture. But I really wanted to do a comedy, especially coming from a show like Heroes. It’s just nice to spread your wings a little bit. You get categorised quite a bit and you are your last film all the time, so if you stick to just comedies or just dramas, it’s very hard for people to see you in any other light. So coming from a drama in ‘Heroes’, it was way up on my priority list to do a comedy. And this one has heart.”
Q: This movie all takes place over one night. How was that to shoot? HP: “Well, I had to wear the same dress every day for three months. That was tough. “It’s actually my graduation dress, so it was for the party at which we spend the entire night attempting to get to and all hell breaks loose. I wanted to burn that dress by the end of it. I used to like it. My friends actually made fun of me. In the beginning I was like, ‘Look at my dress. Isn’t it pretty?’ And then I’m like ‘I want to burn it. I hate it’.”
Q: How was turning your hand to comedy after something like Heroes? HP: “Well I’m kind of the straight man in with the comedians, but, at the same time, there’s a lot of funny stuff that goes on. I think it’s kind of in-between. It was really great. I think comedy is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, form of acting and it always mind-boggles me to see the Academy Awards and the fact that comedies are never nominated or actors. I’d like to say (to a dramatic actor) ‘Yeah, you can cry and you can play mental, but I’d like to see you do comedy’.” Q: Were you able to have a regular school experience yourself? HP: “I made a lot of sacrifices which is great for me now. I worked really hard but, for being gone as much as I was, I actually had a relatively normal high school life. I home schooled because my Freshman year I went over to South Africa and did a film there [Stripes] and lived there for about six months so I finished my Freshman year there. You never know if and when you’re going to work again so I just decided to continue to do high school in a home schooling program but I did it at home where I was raised and with all of my friends so I was still going to high school. I was even in the yearbook. I went to homecoming. I went to prom. I participated in school sports. I just didn’t go to class with them. Really, as much as it was abnormal, it was normal.”
Q: Were you anything like Beth Cooper at school? HP: “No, I was never the popular girl. I actually thought the worst, worst, worst was middle school, because in high school you could walk away for lunch, do this, do that. You were much more open. You had a much broader group of friends and in middle school it was all about where you sat in the lunchroom. And it was one of the most traumatizing experiences for me. I was absolutely tortured. I remember going to sit with the popular kids for the first time because one girl like invited me over. I was like, ‘oh my gosh’ and went to sit and one of the guys pulled the chair out from underneath me before I sat down and everyone started laughing. So, I was never the popular girl. Never, never, never.” Q: Is that how Beth Cooper, your character is? HP: “What you wind up finding out about her is that she’s actually a genuinely nice person but this is all she has and she needs to shine. This is her moment to shine in high school because she feels the rest of her life is going to be completely ordinary. You know, she even makes a comment about the fact that she’s going to get fat and ‘you should see my mom’. It’s very funny but it’s very endearing and sweet and it’s very human.”
Q: Do you feel that pressure to look good now as a young actress in Hollywood? HP: “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thanked God and my parents for raising me in a place that was so humbling and so outside any of that stuff. I mean I live criticism every day. I’d go walk my dogs and I used to walk them in my PJ’s and now I have to make sure I look half decent or else I’ll get trashed. Or like having cellulite on the back of your legs. ‘I’m sorry, I’m a woman. I don’t know what you want me to tell you. I’m sorry. It’s not going to go away. I can’t do anything about it. I apologise if I offended you’.”
Q: But you seem to be surviving the pressure… HP: “I think I came into it when Paris and Lindsay and all these girls were at their height of what they were doing and I would say it’s guilt by association. If you are a young female in Hollywood, you are guilty of everything that people say. People feel that they have a right to judge you and they haven’t even had a conversation with you and it’s scary. I have a body that girls can look at and go, ‘Oh she’s not anorexically skinny. She looks healthy and she’s got cellulite, yeah!'”
Q: Have you got used to the attention from fans now? HP: “You get used to the fascination people have in you but you never really get used to people stalking you. That’s not something you are ever going to get used to. You just get more and more annoyed with it.”
Q: Would you say having pushy parents launched your acting career? HP: “My parents have never pushed me into something I didn’t want to do. I have my heart and soul in this business. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to do it.”
Q: When did you know you wanted to do it? HP: “I was eight months old (laughs). I did a photo shoot because my mom thought she would get some nice baby pictures out of it. Then I did my first commercial when I was 11 months old and had a role on a soap opera when I was four. I did two soap operas for seven or eight years and it was so exciting. I just loved it and still do.”
I LOVE YOU BETH COOPER is at Irish cinemas from August 21st