LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Long after her “High School” days are over, Vanessa Hudgens remains a teenage dream who is in no hurry to grow up — at least in her career.
The 22-year-old who found fame as a teen sweetheart in “High School Musical” relishes playing young characters, as she did in 2009 movie “Bandslam.” And on Friday, she’s back in school for “Beastly” as the quiet and unassuming Lindy, who falls for a disfigured 17-year-old, played by Alex Pettyfer.
“High school is such a complex time,” Hudgens told Reuters. “You go through so much and you learn so much about yourself that I don’t get bored. I want to stay young as long as I can and take advantage of being able to play high school characters, rather than snubbing it off and trying to grow up too fast.”
Based on Alex Flinn’s young adult novel of the same name, “Beastly” puts a contemporary twist on the classic tale of “Beauty and the Beast,” about a woman who can look beyond the physical appearance of a man to see inner beauty.
Lindy doesn’t know the ‘beast’ of “Beastly” happens to be the school’s most popular boy, a shallow kid who previously never gave her the time of day.
A motherless girl whose father has addiction issues, Lindy has a “meek, sensitive side” that Hudgens said she liked exploring as an actress.
Hudgens never suffered through normal, American high school issues because she was educated at home during some of her formative years. Then, it was off to the Disney channel and on set tutors with “High School Musical,” a trilogy of TV and theatrical films released in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
“I got to miss all the drama, and I’m okay with that,” said Hudgens. “I got to have my prom and graduation through ‘High School Musical,’ and made some friend that I’ll always have.”
She did have her own, Hollywood-style drama, however, when private, nude pictures of her surfaced on the Web. Moreover, her long relationship with “HSM” co-star Zac Efron was splashed nearly daily across tabloid pages.
After meeting in 2005, the duo became an item two years later, stayed that way throughout the popularity of “HSM” and only broke up this past December. Now, Hudgens is forging ahead solo, and her schedule looks busy.
On March 25th, she stars in “Sucker Punch,” an epic action fantasy about five girls fighting for their lives and freedom as they escape an insane asylum in the 1950s.
Hudgens says her character represents the girls’ fear “and when you’re doing things out of fear, they’re not necessarily the smartest, which is why my character’s name is Blondie.”
She is now making the 3D family adventure “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” a sequel to 2008’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” based on the Jules Verne novel.
Hudgens plays Kailani, one half of a father-daughter tour guide team who end up getting stranded on a mysterious island with a group of others. Her father is Latin actor Luis Guzman.
The actress’s heritage stems from many cultures, Filipino, Chinese, Spanish, American Indian, Irish and French. And she sees that as positive despite being told as a younger actress “I wasn’t Latin enough, or Asian enough or Caucasian enough.”
“I’m never going to be anything enough because I’m different things,” Hudgens said. “The one thing I’m really blessed with is my various ethnic backgrounds. I’m a complete chameleon and can change from one look to another.”
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte