At the age of 17, Miley Cyrus is a multi-platinum recording artist, the star of her own successful television series, a best-selling author, a clothing designer, philanthropist and now dramatic film actress.
In The Last Song, the latest book-turned-film from literary superstar Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook), for which the lead character was specifically written for Cyrus, the triple threat plays Veronica “Ronnie” Miller, a troubled teen sent to spend the summer with her estranged father (Greg Kinnear) in a small Southern beach town. As he tries to reconnect with her through the only thing they have in common, their musical inclination with the piano, she meets a boy (Liam Hemsworth) with whom she begins to let her emotional guard down. Much like Nicholas Sparks’ other work, The Last Song is a story of family, friendship and salvation, along with first love and second chances.
During a press conference held to promote the film, co-stars and real-life loves Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth spoke to the press about making this romantic drama together. Check out what they had to say after the jump:
Miley: It was cool because everything that I’ve done [has been a version of me], even “Hannah Montana,” which is a character and not me, there’s still elements that are very much like me, personally. It made it easier to go into something new, in a film that wasn’t based on “Hannah Montana” and wasn’t such a comfort zone, to make it a little bit more like me.
This is a change for your career, especially with “Hannah Montana” ending now. How do you feel about that progression?
Miley: It’s interesting to be doing press for this type of movie when, right now on the Disney Channel, it’s airing one of the last episodes of Season 3 and we’re finishing up Season 4. As a new chapter is beginning, one that has also been my life for the last five years is ending. It’s interesting to be leaving my security blanket behind, but it’s also exciting to get involved more with this movie. It makes me want to just continue to work and do more films. The show needed a complete ending for Season 3, and our show deserves that, too. With it being such a huge, big deal in so many kids’ lives that they don’t want to see reruns forever. They want a really respectful ending. It really deserves that. It’s been such an amazing journey. It definitely had a beginning, and it needs an end.
Do you think you’d do another “Hannah Montana” film?
Miley: No. The Hannah Montana wig is out, as soon as we finish that last episode. One will be in a museum and one will be burned, or something. I can’t put it on again. It’s just too much.
This is your first romantic drama. What did you learn that you can take with you for the rest of your career?
Miley: There are always things that you’re going to pick yourself apart about. You just have to go into each day doing your best and not get too attached to anything. Everyone has their job. Everyone else is doing the best they can with what they do, and I’ll do the best that I can. I’ll just always keep that in mind and keep it day-by-day. At the end, you have to realize there will be an edit. That was the hardest thing, for me. When I did “Hannah Montana,” it was something that I was so familiar with. It was interesting to watch the edit for this because I was like, “I could have done that better.” You just have to not criticize yourself.
Making this transition to more adult roles now, do you have to be really careful with your choices?
Miley: When we were planning when the transition would take place, and when I would leave the show behind and do something else, everyone was like, “Well, this is what we think you should do.” I’ve gone these last five years, with “Hannah Montana,” with everyone telling me what to do. Now, it’s up to me and what I think is right in my career, so I’m just going in my own direction. I have to be careful, in a sense, to not lose who I am or the Miley Cyrus factor, by going to do other characters. I still want them to know who I am, but I want to extend my audience. I want to continue to do what I love, but also give myself new challenges and not just be the same person, over and over.
Does it help to have such a good looking co-star, in Liam Hemsworth?
Miley: With Nicholas Sparks writing this, I said, “I like animals. I like music. I like hot Australians.” That’s why I tried to make him write into the book, so it was interesting. It was a good choice. It worked out fine, and I owe Nicholas, big time.
Liam, what was it like to work with someone who’s as big a star as Miley?
Liam: From the first day we met, it was good. When I came in, I didn’t know how big a star she really was. I had seen the show a few times, but I had no idea how big Miley Cyrus was. I guess that was good because I didn’t get nervous about how big she was. So, I went in and read with her, and it was really good. She was amazing to work with.
Miley: I got a little bit nervous about how big he was, in height. I was like, “I’m going to have to stand on apple boxes or something.” It made me a little bit intimidated, even though I’m usually the one that’s intimidating someone else. (Director) Julie Ann [Robinson] was like, “He works a lot in Australia. It’s going to be awesome. We’re going to break him out here.” So, I was like, “Great, he’s going to be really good. This is my first film, but he’s worked before.” I was a little bit nervous with everything. But then, he opened the door for me and I was like, “That was good! He’s got the part!” Julie Ann was like, “Let’s read with him first,” and I was like, “He’s got it! I don’t care!” I didn’t want to be the one that made the final decision because, if he did end up being crazy, I didn’t want to be the one to ruin the whole thing. But, he ended up being awesome and it was so fun. I was a little bit intimidated, and it’s hard for someone to do that to me.
Miley, how difficult was it for you to channel your inner rebel?
Miley: I just got to drop the guard for a little while and throw all the fits that I wanted to for the past year, on screen. It was fun to be able to not have to go into work and necessarily do what was on the page. I felt like Julie Ann gave us the freedom to add our own things and, if something didn’t feel comfortable, I would say, “Oh, I don’t think that’s right.” With anything that was going on, with the set or with what we were wearing or the way that we looked, I felt really involved. I think it made it easier, to not just have to look at the page and do exactly what was there, but have the space to be able to grow and add our own personal thing to the character.
In what way were you most able to identify with this character?
Miley: I was glad I got to have some music in the film. It wasn’t necessarily singing, which is what everyone always wants to put me into. It’s always, “Let’s give her a singing role,” and I didn’t necessarily want to do that. I don’t want that to always be the thing that I lean on. But, I definitely relate to the music, and the animals were really cool. There were things that were a little bit of me within the character, but it was also really different. I think the music was probably the main thing that I related to.
You had to learn piano for this, right?
Miley: Yes. I said to Julie Ann, “It’s so hard. I had to take two whole lessons.” And, she was like, “You picked it up in two lessons?” And, I was like, “I know! It was so difficult!” She was like, “Wow, it takes most people a really long time.” But, I guess ’cause I’m just used to playing instruments and I’m not really scared to sound like crap, at the beginning. It started out kind of messy, but I got better and better. By the end of the movie, I think I actually had the song down. It took me awhile. I did okay. It was Greg [Kinnear] that didn’t keep up with his lessons. He never practiced and it was really bad.
Liam, you’ve made the transition from soap operas to films, and you had to learn to scuba dive and play volleyball for this. What was the biggest challenge for you, in making this film?
Liam: Volleyball was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Before we started shooting, they asked me, “Do you play volleyball?,” and I said, “Yeah, no problem.” And, I turned up for the first day of volleyball practice and I was honestly really scared to shoot the volleyball part because it takes a lot of skills to play that game and I didn’t have them, at all. I said to Julie Ann, “I think we’re going to need a double,” but it’s hard to find someone as big as me. We had days where it was just us, and we were playing pretty good against extras who hadn’t played before. We looked okay then. But, we had a day where we had 300 extras there, watching us play against professional volleyball players, and they made us look stupid.
Miley, your character finds happiness through faith, love and friendship. What does faith mean to you?
Miley: I think faith can be anything. It can be believing in yourself, or if you believe there’s a higher being that’s watching over you. It can be anything, but it’s just having something to lean on and that’s what Ronnie didn’t have. I think that’s the reason she was so sad before. If you’re living a lonely life, that’s how you’re going to feel. You’re going to feel like you can’t accomplish anything and you’re not good enough. Just by having someone to lean on, with Will (Liam Hemsworth) and her dad (Greg Kinnear), and new friendships, that was the biggest thing. Faith is just having someone to lean on.
What did you like about filming on Tybee Island?
Miley: I would move to Tybee Island, just to eat there all the time. I definitely put on a little weight when I got there. It was awesome. I definitely want to go back to Tybee. I like being in the South, but near the beach. There was definitely a lot of food. I would probably just move there to eat, and then have my other location be L.A.
How did you keep from making this performance too melodramatic?
Miley: (Director) Julie Ann [Robinson] helped me with that the most. Because this was my first film, the first thing I did, when I saw a sad scene was think, “Oh, my character would cry.” And, she was like, “No, the whole end of the film can’t just be crying. There has to be some type of dimension to it.” That was the biggest thing that I learned. You have to go deeper than that and realize what it’s going to be like, when you are watching an hour and a half film. You don’t just want to see one type of emotion. You want to see her getting through it, putting up her guard and trying to have strength. That was the biggest thing. Nicholas [Sparks] could have feared having me come on board because I wasn’t as experienced, but Julie Ann helped me do that. The crying scenes were easy. When she was torn up and sad, it was easy to bring tears and cry, but it’s a little bit harder to find something beyond that, and be able to see it in your eyes and your body language, and not necessarily just the obvious.
Why did you decide to stop posting on Twitter?
Miley: I was just tired of telling everyone what I’m doing. I hate when I read things and celebrities are complaining, “I have no personal life!” I’m like, “Well, that’s because you write about everything that you’re doing.” I was that person that’s like, “I’m so sad. I have no real, normal life. Everyone knows what I’m doing.” But, that was my fault because I was telling everyone. I would Tweet, “I’m here,” and then wonder why a thousand fans were outside of the restaurant. I thought that it didn’t really make much sense and everything that I was saying wasn’t really going with what I was putting on the Internet. It was lame.
How is life for you now, post-Twitter?
Miley: I’m on my phone a lot less. I’m a little bit more social. I have a lot more real friends, than friends that I’m talking to on the Internet. That’s not cool, not safe, not fun and most likely not real. Everything is just better when you’re not so wrapped up in that. I just think it’s lame. I feel like I hang out with my friends and they’re so busy taking pictures of what they’re doing to put on Facebook that they’re not really enjoying what they’re doing. You’re going to look back and have 10 million pictures, but not be in one of them because you weren’t having fun. You were too busy clicking away. You have to just enjoy the moment you’re in for yourself and stop telling people about it.
Do you know that you sound like someone’s mom by saying that?
Miley: Yeah, I do. I’m telling kids not to be on the Internet. It’s dangerous. It’s not fun. It wastes your life. You should just be outside playing sports, instead of sitting in front of any type of screen.
How do each of you know when you’re falling in love, and how do you know when it’s just a crush?
Miley: I get so embarrassed. That’s so awkward. When you’re trying to play it cool and you’re like, “Oh, I won’t text back for the next hour,” that’s when you know it’s actually serious. The games are so stupid. It’s just like, “Oh, he called, but I’m not going to call back until tomorrow.” It’s just so stupid. It gets confusing. When you’re over-thinking it, you must really like somebody.
Liam: When you meet each other’s parents, it must be real.
Miley: My parents are a little loco, so if you love me and my family, which has five kids, my mom, my dad, my grandma and about 10,000 dogs, after you meet my lifestyle, then you’re good. You’re a keeper.
Miley, what’s coming up for you with your music?
Miley: Right now, I’m just finishing up my record, which will come out towards the end of the summer. I’m really excited about that. This film was the test for me, to decide what I really wanted to do, and I love making movies. That’s what I want to pursue. It’s not that I don’t love music. I love music. If every film could have music, I would do that. But, I feel like I just need to get away from that for a little while. It’s my security blanket and I don’t want to always fall back on that. I just feel like the music industry is so contrived and political right now. If people stepped away and said, “We’re not going to work like this. It’s more about our art than the politics,” then maybe it would go back to being respected again. Right now, I just feel like it’s lost a lot of respect. I’d rather be in this industry that I feel like I can be different in, and do things that really inspire me.
What style is your new album?
Miley: It’s kind of like The Killers. That’s my favorite band.
Will you continue to play piano?
Miley: I’d like to continue to play piano. I have a little bit. I’d like to learn different styles, like classical. Getting into that style of music was not something I thought I would be into, so that was cool. The movie did inspire me to do a little bit more piano-based songs.
Do you have your next movie project lined up?
Miley: I do, but I can’t say. I’m zipped tight.