Vanessa Hudgens likes us!
Vanessa Hudgens is in flux. At 22, she's no longer the perky teen from the High School Musical franchise. That role, and Zac Efron — the long-term boyfriend that came with it — are in the past (though rumours abound she and Efron may reconcile). And yet, she doesn't seem quite like an adult yet, either. She' at a point where one month she may be shooting a teen romance aimed at 16-year-old girls, and the next month kicking ass in a hard-edged thriller aimed at, well, an older audience.
To be specific, those months were August and September of 2009, between which Hudgens made the move from the Montreal set of Beastly, a teen-aimed retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, to Vancouver, where she zipped into a black leather bodysuit and picked up a machine gun to play Blondie (a brunette) in director Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch. As luck would have it, both are coming out this month.Despite the fact both films were shot in Canada, the experiences of making them could not have been more different. Beastly was filmed in and around Montreal, taking advantage of the city's architecture and natural beauty, and Sucker Punch? “That was all inside on a sound stage every single day,” says Hudgens on the phone from L.A.
Snyder, the man behind such fantasy fare as 300 and Watchmen, also co-wrote Sucker Punch, which takes place largely in an alternate reality concocted by an abused young woman named Babydoll (Emily Browning). After Babydoll is committed to a psychiatric hospital she escapes into a complex dreamscape and invites a bunch of her fellow patients, including Hudgens’ Blondie, to come along.
"She's kind of a follower in the real world but once we go into the fight sequences she turns into an extreme badass," Hudgens says of her character.
Together the girls have to complete a quest in order to earn their freedom.
"It's really interesting and extremely hard to put into words," says Hudgens. "But it’s basically six movies all put together in one and with different settings, and it takes place in the Fifties and it's super kick-ass. It's classy, it's empowering and it's very moving."
And really intense. So when Hudgens had a bit of time off she was anxious to get out into Vancouver's fresh air and clear her head. "Oh my God, it's so gorgeous," she says. "During the summer it was so lush and green." The Grouse Grind, a steep hiking trail going up Grouse Mountain, made for a good break. "I remember doing that and hating it and loving it at the same time, you know what I mean? Going up to the top when it was snowing was so beautiful. Me and my sister and my mom went up and made snowmen," Hudgens recalls.
Hudgens as good girl Lindy is Beastly (Courtesy of Alliance)
Based on the 2007 novel by Alex Finn, the film stars Alex Pettyfer as Kyle, a shallow high school student whose nasty attitude and obsession with physical beauty motivates a witch (Mary-Kate Olsen) to transform him into a monster. Kyle has one year to make a girl fall in love with his "ugly" self in order to lift the curse and Hudgens' character, Lindy, is his best bet.
Despite the fact that the Beauty and the Beast story has been around, in one form or another, for hundreds of years, Hudgens admits that, initially, she thought it started with Disney’s 1991 animated feature. "I did, until I really looked into it," she says with a laugh. "And it fascinates me that people still have not caught onto [the message]…. Now more than ever kids are extremely fascinated with the Hollywood glamour and it's not how it is, but that's all that you see."
While parts of Beastly were shot on a sound stage, other parts were filmed on location around Montreal, which stood in for New York. "We found this amazing Victorian house that we shot in; that was [Kyle's] house that he was hidden away in," says Hudgens. "It had beautiful Victorian borders on the edges. It was just gorgeous. And then we also shot in this house [where] Leonardo DiCaprio shot Aviator, it was a beautiful countryside house, we spent about two days there."
When she was bored she'd rent a bike and head down by the water, or go to her favourite French restaurant, Le Pied de Cochon, for the fois gras poutine. "Oh my God, probably the best thing I’ve ever had," she says. "I would walk around old Montreal, the cobblestone streets and the French restaurants and the jazz. I was there during the jazz festival and I remember walking out on my balcony and hearing [sings] 'I just called, to say, I love you,' and I’m like, 'Oh my God, is that Stevie Wonder?' And sure enough just down the street on the massive screen he's swaying back and forth, singing a classic."
Happily, Hudgens discovered she could move around Montreal without much hassle. "I’m really good at keeping my head down," she says. "I really had a chance to walk around and do whatever. Me and Mary-Kate were walking around Old Montreal and I think she got recognized once and I didn’t even get recognized [laughs]."
After this month — the first in which Hudgens has had two movies released just weeks apart — it might not be so easy.
Marni Weisz is the editor of Cineplex Magazine.