Hayden Panettiere, best known as a cheerleader-turned-superhero on "Heroes," took on yet another high school role in "I Love You, Beth Cooper," in theaters Friday. In the movie, based on a novel by the same name, dorky Buffalo Grove High School valedictorian Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) proclaims his love for Beth Cooper during his speech at graduation and manages to get the attention of both Beth and her vindictive boyfriend in the process.
MTV News caught up with Panettiere to talk about the Chris Columbus-directed teen flick, her work as an animal-rights activist and whether she really was like Beth Cooper herself back in high school.
MTV: I'm guessing you were a fan of the book the movie's based on from the get-go?
Hayden Panettiere: I actually had never read the book.
MTV: What was it like working with author Larry Doyle, who did the screenplay as well?
Panettiere: Larry was great. He was on set all the time, and we all had fun. We were a big happy family. It's more the collaboration of him and Chris and everyone. I had less interaction with Larry when it came to the process of creating the film than others did.
MTV: Did you have a lot of input into the character Beth Cooper? Was there room for improv?
Panettiere: We definitely, definitely had fun with it and put our spins on it. There wasn't a massive amount of improv or changing of dialogue or anything like that, but it was pretty great right off the bat anyway. There was not much changing that needed to be done.
MTV: Did you relate to it? How close was this to your high school experience?
Panettiere: In ways, it was very close. I had a great high school experience. I had a lot of fun, and I was wild and went crazy and was reckless, but I didn't have the traditional high school experience. I was going through home schooling. But I went to prom, and I went to homecoming, and I was in the yearbook. No crashing of cars. I went to games and all that good stuff.
MTV: What's next for you after this?
Panettiere: I'm in the fourth season of "Heroes." We just started filming, and we'll be filming for the next seven months, so that's what we're up to right now.
MTV: What can we expect in the next season of "Heroes"?
Panettiere: There's something called the Carnival that's coming in that's sort of the opposite of what the Company was. There's a lot of new cool characters.
MTV: Do you have a dream project or role that you can't wait to play?
Panettiere: I mean, there's a lot of them. I've never wanted to slot myself in just one category, one certain kind of character, genre, film, so there's a lot that I'm still wanting to do and still excited to do, but I've never really tried to plan it out. I've always been more of the spontaneous type, like, I just can't wait to see what comes my way.
MTV: I've always admired your animal-rights activism [working to end commercial whaling]. What is it like having the forum to communicate with people and get this message out there?
Panettiere: It's great. There's ups and downs to being in this industry and being in the public eye, and one of the great things is we get to speak out on behalf of things that we're passionate about. We're just chipping away at it, so it's going to take some time. We're going to keep on keeping on.
MTV: Do you ever see yourself going to the other side of the camera? Do you ever want to write or direct?
Panettiere: Definitely, maybe someday. Someday, when I get my fill of acting for a bit. There's a lot more to learn when it comes to becoming a director, but you have the experience of being an actor working with directors and getting to work with brilliant ones, and you get to take a lot from them.
Check out everything we've got on "I Love You, Beth Cooper."
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