Miley Cyrus is a one woman media machine. For the past few years she’s been at the forefront of one of the most popular kid’s shows of all time, Disney’s “Hannah Montana“, but at the young age of 17 she’s ready to make a change. “Montana” is wrapping up its successful four season run and its star is ready to tackle more mature projects, enter The Last Song.
Cyrus takes on her first dramatic role in the Nicholas Sparks penned film. The author-turned screenwriter is known for his romantic dramas that deal with serious subject matter all in the name of love. For the film, Cyrus had to figure out how to play a good girl gone bad named Ronnie Miller, an 18 year old with a chip on her shoulder and a criminal record. She’s a long way from the Disney channel, and she’s ready to throw away the blond wig to become an older, more serious actress. The question is, can she pull it off?
After the release of The Last Song, a lot of Cyrus’ viewers will see her in a different light. There’s nothing overtly racy or X-rated in the film, but by Disney standards she does push the envelope a bit (she even says ‘bitch’ in the movie). But her decision to do the film is all part of her grand scheme to transition into more adult roles that don’t hinge on her image as a child star.
I’ve gone these last five years of doing “Hannah Montana” with everyone telling me what to do and now it’s kind of up to me and what I think is right in my career. I have to be careful in a sense to not lose who I am. I still want them to know who I am, I just kind of want to extend my audience and continue to do what I love but also give myself new challenges and not be the same person over and over.
With those new challenges in mind, her character Veronica Miller aka Ronnie is a rebel in every sense of the word. Therefore, Cyrus had to make a quick adjustment to her usual behavior while in front of the camera.
I just got to drop the guard for a little while. I got to throw all the fits that I wanted to in the last year kind of on screen and it was fun to not have to go to work and be exactly what was on the page. I felt Julianne [the director] gave us a lot of freedom to add of our own things. If something didn’t feel comfortable or if we would say “I don’t think that’s right” or even with anything that was going on, with the set or what we were wearing or the way we looked. I felt really involved so I think that made it easier to not always look at the page and do exactly what was there.
Both Cyrus and her character are young adults trying to figure out what to do with their lives when they’re being pulled in several directions. The actress discussed the similarities she found between herself and Ronnie.
I was glad I got to have some part in music in the film. It wasn’t necessarily singing, which is what everyone always wants to put me in, you know “let’s give her a singing role.” 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 again the animals were really cool. Just things that were a little bit of me and you know, the character also was really different. But I think the music was probably the main thing that I related to.
The actress learned a lot about the technique of acting from her director Julie Anne Robinson who helped her realize that acting was more than just surface work. She helped Cyrus through her emotional scenes (she had a lot of them) in the movie that required tears and tantrums, because she didn’t want them to come off as fake or over the top.
Because this was my first film, the first thing I do, you know, there’s a sad scene, I just, I’m like OK my character would cry that’s what I would do and she was like “No” the whole end of the film, the next, you know 40 minutes of it can’t just be crying, there has to be some type of dimension to it and I think that was the biggest thing that I learned. You’ve got to go deeper than that and you’ve got to realize what it’s going to be like when you are watching an hour and a half film. You don’t want to just see one type of emotion you want to see her getting through it, trying to put up her guards, trying to have strength so that was kind of the biggest thing. I think that was probably why Nicholas [Sparks] could have feared having me come on board because I wasn’t experienced but Julianne kind of helped me do that.
Besides sadness, Cyrus had to embark on an intense onscreen relationship with co-star Liam Hemsworth. The young Australian actor will make his leading man debut in the film alongside her and she spoke about the many contradictions between the two that worked for the chemistry of the characters.
I got a little bit nervous about how big he was like this way [signaling his height] because I was like I might have to stand on apple boxes or something and it made me a little bit intimidated, even though I’m usually the one that’s intimidating someone else. Julianne was like “You know, he works a lot in Australia, its going to be awesome, we’re going to like…” I’m like great. So, he’s going to be really good, this is my first film he’s worked before so I was a little bit nervous just with everything. He opened the door, and I was like “He opened the door for me that was good. He’s got the part” and Julianne’s over there going “Lets read with him first.” Well, he’s got it, I don’t care. But everyone else was kind of, I didn’t want to be the one that made the final decision because if it did end up being kind of crazy, I didn’t want to be the one that ruined the whole thing, but he ended up being awesome.
Throughout The Last Song, Ronnie has to deal with the evolution and disintegration of several relationships including her parents, her boyfriend, and her best friend. At the end of the day Cyrus thinks her character eventually finds happiness and a way to work through her problems because she still manages to anchor herself with those she loves despite the status of their relationship.
Having something to lean on, that’s what she didn’t have and I think the reason she was so kind of sad before, if you’re living like a lonely life that’s how you feel, you feel like you can’t accomplish anything, you’re not good enough. I think just by having something to lean on which was Will and was her dad and finally new friendships, I think that was kind of what faith is, its just having someone to lean on.
Besides acting, music is a big part of Cyrus’ career. Coincidentally it also plays a huge role in this movie, hence the title. Even though Cyrus sings and performs professionally she had to take lessons to learn the piano like everybody else, but she was able to pick up the ivory keys a lot quicker than she thought she would.
With Julianne, her favorite thing was, “It’s so hard, I had to take two whole lessons” and she was like “You picked that up in two lessons?” and I’m like “I know, it was so difficult” and she was like “Wow, it takes most people a really long time.” I guess I’m just used to playing instruments and I’m not really scared to sound like crap in the beginning. I got better and better, by the end of the movie I think I finally had the song down so it took me awhile. It was Greg [Kinnear] that really, he didn’t keep up with lessons, he didn’t practice. It was really bad.
As for her other career as a full time musician…
Right now I’m just finishing up my record. My record will be towards the end of the summer and I’m real excited about that because I just feel, you know after doing this film it was kind of the test for me to decide what I really wanted to do. I love making movies and that’s what I want to kind of pursue. It’s not that I don’t love music, I love music, if every film could have a part in music, I would but I feel like I need to get away from that for a little while. Again, its just another thing that’s my security blanket and I don’t want to always fall back on that and I just feel like, the music industry is so contrived and so political right now. I feel like if people stepped away and said we’re not going to work like this and its more about our art than the politics, I feel like it would go back to being respected again.
As for the ending of the show that started it all, Cyrus wants “Hannah Montana” to go out with a bang that the fans will appreciate and enjoy. She’s knows how dedicated they are and she stressed that the finale won’t be rushed but a fitting end to the character.
It’s interesting to be leaving kind of my security blanket behind but also its exciting to me, you know by getting involved more in this movie, making me want to just continue to work and make more films. And yeah, there’s going to be…you know the season needed like a complete ending for season three and now, we think our show deserves that too. It’s such a huge, big deal in so many kids lives that I think, you know, they don’t want to see re-runs forever they want a really, respectful ending and that’s what it really deserves because it’s been such an amazing journey. It definitely had a beginning and it needs an end.
But what about the wig? Will we ever see her sport the Hannah Montana wig again?
No. “Hannah Montana” the wig is out. I’m not wearing that. In that last episode, it’s like, one will be in a museum, one will be burned or something because I can’t put it on again.
The Last Song debuts in theaters on Wednesday, March 31st.