In the TV series Heroes Hayden Panettiere plays a cheerleader who discovers she has exceptional powers, in her new movie I Love You, Beth Cooper she portrays a cheerleader who feels she’s not exceptional at all. She is embarrassed by a superlative but dorky student, Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust), who has been harboring a secret for six years, and decides to let the whole school know when he announces during their high school graduation speech, ‘I love you, Beth Cooper.’ This begins a night that neither of them will ever forget.
Was it hard for you to get into the mindset of this person as you’ve been successful and you know you have a future?
I might not be going through the same exact thing, and I might not have the same exact insecurities as her, but I still have my own insecurities and I’m unsure about the future. Even though I couldn’t relate specifically, I can still relate to that feeling of being insecure and knowing that people act out and behave a certain way because of sometimes anger or sadness or just genuine insecurity about who they are, and the fear of who they are. So it was relatable to me in that sense.
Did you see any sort of comparison between Beth Cooper being the most popular person, and everybody has an image of her, and you as a celebrity – people see your image, whether they’re a fan of Heroes or your movies, that they have a different idea than the real you?
Maybe. [she laughs] Yes, they do. I don’t know how you can think that you know somebody if you’ve never even had a conversation with them. It’s a very odd concept. But absolutely, I am an image; frankly I am what they want to make me. It’s an idea, they don’t really know me, they don’t know who I am, they don’t know what I’m like, but they have this idea of who I am and what I’m like. It’s the same thing as Beth, she’s this image, popular, perfect, head cheerleader-kind-of-girl, yet when Denis gets to know her he realizes that that’s not her at all. And she’s this very spunky, full-of-life girl.
What’s the biggest misconception about you?
Is there something that’s not a misconception about me? Where do you start? No matter what you do, someone is always going to have a problem with it, always, it’s just how it works. So at the end of the day the only person you can please is yourself, but the idea that anyone would think that they know me, or anyone who would say something bad about me, ‘Oh, I don’t like her,’ you don’t know that you don’t like me, you’ve never hung out with me.’
What was it like working with director Chris Columbus, did you have any expectations of him?
He’s incredible, he’s just one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, and he’s so talented with no ego. It was just great to go in with somebody who had so much experience the way he does, and is so talented and good at what he does, but still allows collaboration, I mean, no ego. So it was nothing less than wonderful and great, and I hope this is not our last film together.
You do a shower scene in the movie – how important was it to get that scene in and get it right?
Oh, I don’t know if it was very important, maybe some high school boys would disagree. It just [represented] that it’s high school, that we’re young, that we’re reckless, this need for control and just the fact that she has the control right now in this situation, and where she is in her life. But ultimately she winds up looking up to Denis and going, ‘These four years have been the best years of my life, my life is not going to amount to anything, I’m going to be in a completely ordinary life after high school. High school might not have been great for you, but the rest of your life you’re going to do great things.’ And so it’s a role reversal, she goes from being the picture of perfection, this idea of perfection, and he realizes this girl who is everything he might have wanted to be in high school, meaning popular, isn’t perfect, is anything but perfect, and doubts herself and is full of insecurities and that he has the upper hand, just because who he is in life.