It may only be August, but Mandy Moore has already packed in a year's worth of material with two big studio releases — "Because I Said So" and "License to Wed" — as well as an album and accompanying tour that just kicked off. She's also journeying back to indie-film territory (remember her turn in "Saved!"?) with actor Justin Theroux's directorial debut, "Dedication," which hits theaters Friday. Playing opposite Billy Crudup ("Almost Famous," the upcoming "Watchmen"), Moore plays a children's-book artist who is forced to team up with a nihilistic author (Crudup) grieving over the death of his previous collaborator.
We caught up with the always-peppy Moore about her latest flick, her upcoming turn as a tattooed rock and roll chick and what musical she's dying to do.
MTV: Tell me about that first meeting with Justin where you talked about potentially doing the film.
Mandy Moore: I was very nervous to meet him. I read [the script] and I was like, "Wow, this is very well-written, and Billy [Crudup]'s attached and Tom [Wilkinson]'s attached. They would never consider someone like me to be a part of this movie." I think I met with Justin just kind of thinking, "Congratulations, man. Good luck with this!"
MTV: Are you always so pessimistic?
Moore: It's not pessimism! If anything, I was just being realistic and setting myself up to not be disappointed.
MTV: How did your character, Lucy, strike you on the page?
Moore: I definitely related to her in the sense that we're both patient people and ambitious and determined. She's a lot stronger than I am, especially with what she's faced with. She has this insanely overbearing mother, and then she's put in this work situation with this guy who's just this misogynist and he doesn't want to work with her and he puts her down. And yet, she's resilient. She's a lot tougher a cookie than I think I ever would be.
MTV: At this point do you get intimidated by actors like Billy?
Moore: It's absolutely intimidating to work with somebody like Billy. He raises your game. You sort of have to step up to the plate and go, "This is the time to rise to the occasion." But he doesn't take himself seriously. And he's super-humble and very gracious and kind. He and Justin are very good friends, so they joked around a lot and that put me at ease. But when it was time to work, I was like, "Cool, let's do it!" I left work every day feeling, "God, that felt really good to stretch those muscles and challenge myself a bit."
MTV: Billy's character has some pretty odd quirks, including a need to place heavy objects on himself to feel safe. Do you have any quirks in the same league?
Moore: [She laughs.] Not even remotely comparable. Before I go onstage to sing, I like a mug of green tea with honey. I'm very particular about it though. I have to have it. I have to have my green tea and honey or else I'm just not going to sing. There you have it.
MTV: Earlier this year you were in two big studio comedies. Where's your head at now in terms of the types of films you want to do?
Moore: I think I'd like to concentrate on doing more indie stuff. I think it gives you the mobility and freedom to be creative and not necessarily have you answer to any studio and suits standing behind and millions of producers and just a bunch of cooks in the kitchen. It's so much easier. And you know that people are there for the right reasons when you're doing an indie film.
MTV: I heard you're appearing in the season premiere of "How I Met Your Mother."
Moore: I just did that last week! I had so much fun! First of all, I'm so obsessed with the show now. I had seen a couple episodes and thought it was very, very funny, but it is so well-written and everybody on the show is just the best. I was like, "Please have me back!" I get to play this tattooed, crazy rebel.
MTV: Is that fun for you, to play against your image?
Moore: [She laughs.] I'm playing slightly against type. I had to have this crazy rock and roll hair and miniskirt and fishnets. I'm making out with a guy. I was just like, "Whoa! This is so atypical for me!" But yeah, that's the fun of doing stuff like that.
MTV: Do you know what's going on with "Southland Tales"? (See "Timberlake A Disfigured Iraq War Vet, Gellar A Porn Star In 'Tales.' ")
Moore: I know nothing about it! I've never seen the movie. I don't even know if I'm still in the movie.
MTV: The director, Richard Kelly, has reportedly said you're still in it.
Moore: Oh, he did, did he? [She laughs.] Thank you, Richard. I'm anxious to see it. I think he's a genius. He's such a cool guy. And the script was so beyond me I couldn't even begin to tell you what the movie is about, but I had fun. I played the Rock's wife. I literally shot for four days.
MTV: Was the shoot chaotic?
Moore: Yes, it was chaotic. [Kelly] asked me to do the film a week before they started shooting. I was like, "Oh, um, yeah, OK, what is it about?" I just sort of decided to jump in headfirst. It was a great experience, but I still couldn't tell you what I did.
MTV: Are you interested in doing a movie musical?
Moore: I am unbelievably intrigued by it. I am a huge musical-theater fan. I would love to do a musical. It just has to be the right one.
MTV: Is there one that's close to your heart?
Moore: I would love to do "Guys and Dolls." When they do "Guys and Dolls" one day I will be first in line. I have to play Adelaide. I have to. That's a dream project for me.
Check out everything we've got on "Dedication."
Visit Movies on MTV.com for more from Hollywood, including news, reviews, interviews and more. For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com. Want trailers? Visit the Trailer Park for the newest, scariest and funniest coming attractions anywhere.