It's a tale as old as time, so says one version of the classic Beauty and the Beast story, but with Beastly things have been updated quite a bit for a younger audience. Vanessa Hudgens (of the High School Musical franchise) and Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four) are both beauties in real life, but Beastly finds Pettyfer playing Kyle Kingson, a vain high school student so caught up in looks that he fails to see the inner beauty of those around him. After a particularly ugly verbal exchange with a witch (Mary-Kate Olsen), Kyle is cursed to spend his life as a disfigured, tattooed recluse. The only way to break the curse is to find someone who will say they love him by the end of one year, and because he hates himself this isn't an easy task. Enter Lindy (Hudgens), a pretty but shy fellow student who winds up being forced into living with Kyle because her father's in trouble with ruthless drug dealers. But will the 'Beast' be able to win over the his reluctant house guest before time runs out? I won't spoil the ending in case you've been hiding under a rock all these years and haven't heard the story before.
Together for a roundtable interview with journalists in Los Angeles to promote the romantic drama from CBS Films, Hudgens and Pettyfer talked about the moral of the story, working together, and the horrendous makeup process necessary to turn Pettyfer into a beast.
On getting into her character:
Vanessa Hudgens: "It's really important to stand for what you believe in, and this message is definitely something that's very strong and close to my heart. But I think the main thing always is to develop the character, develop a real person with depth and emotions, and to have it come from a personal place."
On their initial interactions and working together on Beastly:
Vanessa Hudgens: "We met when we did a chemistry read, so it was for the movie. And it was really exciting because we both came in, we did a few scenes, and it was very creative. We kind of just played; it was a lot of fun. We talked about music."
Alex Pettyfer: "I was very excited to see what Vanessa would do in this part. She's done amazing."
Would Kyle have eventually seen the error of his ways without the witch's curse?
Alex Pettyfer: "I always believe what goes around comes around, so maybe. I mean different people have to learn different ways. Kyle just had to have all the ugliness inside fall outside to have him notice what was wrong."
On being self-conscious as a teenager:
Vanessa Hudgens: "I grew up dancing a lot so I was very self-conscious of my, as I always called them, 'tree trunk legs' because I'm very muscular. When you're dancing a lot every day, you become very muscular and I did not appreciate that at the time. But now I've learned to love them."
Alex Pettyfer: "I think we're all self-conscious at some point or another. I think it's about growing up and becoming secure in yourself, and kind of pushing forward."
Kyle tries to win Lindy over with gifts. What's the best gift to get while being wooed?
Vanessa Hudgens: "Material things are fun, of course, but I love being outside. My friend took me on a camping trip and I thought that was just a lot of fun, creating new memories and being outside."
On what traits she looks for in a man:
Vanessa Hudgens: "I think one really attractive thing to me is being present, not really worrying too much about the past or the future. Of course you can have dreams, but to just try to make the best out of each moment that you have."
On comparisons between high school and the entertainment industry:
Vanessa Hudgens: "There are positive and negative experiences with everything that you endeavor, whether it's the business or being in fashion. But it's definitely...everything always has its cliques. I feel like there's certain groups of people who hang out with other. But, I mean, it's very exciting. The world is a lot bigger, it's definitely a lot more cut-throat, but it's really exciting. I think it's just surrounding yourself with creative people and just staying true to what you are passionate about."
On her own high school experiences:
Vanessa Hudgens: "I was home-schooled, so [I had] the comfort of my home and a lot of time with my mom. I had a really great time. Actually when I was going to home-school I was not too far away from Disneyland, so I would do a few hours of school and then go with my mom and my sister to Disneyland almost every day, which was a lot of fun."
On which was more fun: doing the stunts or playing vulnerable:
Alex Pettyfer: "I think you just look to be challenged as an actor. I think that's the most important thing. I mean, I guess I had fun doing both. It's always fun to run around and blow up sh-t, as they say. But it's also great to have this intimacy."
On the biggest challenge of working on Beastly:
Alex Pettyfer: "I think the five and a half hours sitting in the chair every day. I find it hard enough to sit down for 20 minutes let alone that amount of time. So, yeah, the makeup."
On why this Beast isn't covered with fur:
Alex Pettyfer: "I think the thing with it, what I was explained was with fur it gets hot but you still have your skin. Whereas as I had this rubber mask...literally there was about 75 pieces that were put on and then they had to spray paint it, and then they had to like paint over it. So, basically, you've got a whole layer of glue. I shaved my head for the movie, so you basically have a whole layer of glue all over your head. It gets very claustrophobic because you touch yourself and you're touching, essentially, silicon so you can't feel your face. When you need to itch, you can't itch. It's a very disturbing feeling. I know it doesn't sound that bad now, but when you have an itch underneath and you can't scratch and you go like this [touching his face] and you can't feel anything, it's weird."
On getting the right look for the Beast:
Alex Pettyfer: "We kind of went into Tony Goodwin's shop. I sat there for like 16 hours and we went through it all and we decided, 'I wish we had more tattoos,' or 'more of this and more of that.' And we basically came up with this concept that everything that he thought was ugly on a person would come out in him. And so like in the beginning of the movie he sees Kendra has this tattoo on her face. He's like, 'Oh, you're ugly. You have this tattoo.' And then the pieces of glass in his cuts, because he's a vain guy, you know, all the shards of the mirror that he smashes when he's angry would be inserted into his skull. I found it very fascinating, the design of him."
On relating to Lindy:
Vanessa Hudgens: "Me and Lindy are kind of different. Lindy is a girl who thinks it's easier to go through life under the radar and slowly blossoms into her own person, which is really beautiful because she finds it kind of through love and helps him see the beauty within himself as well. But, yeah, I feel like we both end up as strong people who are, I guess, hopeless romantics."
Do looks count?
Vanessa Hudgens: "To a certain extent. I think that true beauty is on the inside. It's the way that someone carries themselves and what they're passionate about and what they are like. I feel like if you can relate to someone and just have fun with them, that's what really matters."
On working with Mary-Kate Olsen:
Vanessa Hudgens: "I love her. I've loved her ever since I was a little girl, too. I was kind of intimidated by her because she's been in this business for so long and she's very, very smart with all the choices she's made. I've just been such a big fan and she just was a really cool, laid-back chick. I was very pleasantly surprised."
Alex Pettyfer: "I remember being 11 years of age, 12 years of age and then like, 'Who's your crush?' 'The Olsen twins,' or something like that. And then you grow up and you're 18 or 19, and you have this petite little lady come up and she's so wise beyond her years. She is a presence, and so it was a great experience to work with her."
Is it more difficult to play a jerk or vulnerable?
Alex Pettyfer: "I think it was harder to play vulnerable. I think anyone can have like a jerk easy. But I think to undergo that...I call it a surgery, because it was practically a surgery every day...and become someone else and look different - you feel the eyes on you - is a hard process."
On acting underneath all that rubber and makeup:
Alex Pettyfer: "You know what was great is that all the prosthetics that were attached to my face all moved with my face. It was still me. But, I guess there were certain things. I had teeth in that restrained me from talking. It's like I remember Heath Ledger said when he was doing Brokeback Mountain, he said he wanted to close his mouth. Like his mouth was like a fist because he had been through so much hurt. So it's like little stuff like my mouth doesn't open as much because he's pained by how he looks."
* * * * * * *Beastly hits theaters on March 4, 2011.