Avril Gets Acting Tips From Richard Gere, Remains Mum On LP

Singer will appear with him in crime thriller 'The Flock,' due in September.

Avril Lavigne’s piercing-dagger stares and snotty sneer have helped deliver the 21-year-old to the top of the charts, and, as she muscles her way into Hollywood, Lavigne continues to keep her smiles as rare as a “please” or “thank you.”

In the midst of her transformation into an angst-ridden possum for the animated flick “Over the Hedge,” Lavigne recently revealed — as monosyllabically as possible — that she doesn’t play dead for anybody.

Asked about the “Hedge” directors awarding her the part after watching a “TRL” interview, Lavigne feigned surprise: “Really?” Told that the filmmakers preferred to hear her speak rather than sing, she responded, “That’s cool.” And asked if she had any influence on the final look of her character, the songstress responded with a pause lengthy enough to be followed up by a question about the film’s sequel.

“No,” she eventually coughed up.

While her fans may be thrilled with the confirmation that the now-blond Lavigne is keeping things real, once the Q&(very little)A was steered toward upcoming projects, she went and made things less complicated.

“Since this film I’ve worked in two other films: ‘Fast Food Nation’ and I have a scene in ‘The Flock,’ ” she allowed, sitting up in her chair. “It’s exciting.”

The two disparate projects are closer than “Hedge” to Lavigne’s ultimate goal of breaking free from the shackles of pop-music superstardom. This is particularly true for “Nation,” based on a controversial indictment of the fast-food industry that hits home for any rebellion-minded vegan.

“It’s very good,” she said of the bestselling nonfiction book that “School of Rock” director Richard Linklater recently dramatized (see “Lou Pucci Delivers A Taste Of Mysterious ‘Fast Food Nation’ “ ). “The book is just facts and stuff, and then [Linklater] made it into more like a story. It’s got the corporate side of business, and the slaughterhouse, and kids working in the restaurants. I’m a college activist, and we have our meetings. We go try to save cows.

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“It’s amazing,” she added with …well, relative enthusiasm.

“It’s a really great movie to be a part of,” she said of “Nation,” which also stars Greg Kinnear, Ethan Hawke and Wilmer Valderrama. “I’m looking forward to [doing press for that movie] just because it stands for so much. It brings awareness to everything that’s going on in the slaughterhouses and all that stuff.”

“Nation” is expected in theaters near the end of 2006, but Lavigne’s first live-action appearance will likely come via “The Flock,” due in September. “I have one scene in it,” she admitted. “It’s with Claire Danes and Richard Gere, and Richard Gere was, like, really cool.”

The thriller teams Danes and Gere as federal agents investigating a possible link between a sex offender and a missing child. “In between takes he was like, ‘Hey,’ like totally giving me pointers,” Lavigne remembered. “It was so crazy; I’ve known of him since I was so little. My parents thought that was so cool.”

When she hasn’t been getting chummy with her parents’ screen idols or conspiring to take down McDonald’s, Lavigne has made time to lay down tracks for a new album that will reflect the various life changes (including an engagement to Sum 41′s Deryck Whibley) that have taken place since 2004′s Under My Skin.

“I’m working on my third record; I’m in the writing process right now,” she reported. “It’ll be different. Of course it will sound like me, but I’m evolving.”

“I don’t want to say too much about it, because I’m still writing it,” Lavigne explained. “I don’t want to say it’s going to be like this, and then it’s not. It’s just going to be a really fun record and, um, maybe a little more positive.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Over the Hedge,” “The Flock” and “Fast Food Nation.”

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