Beautiful and confident Hayden Panettiere has quickly established herself as one of Hollywood’s newest and brightest young stars, thanks to “Heroes” which started it all. Hayden Leslie Panettiere was born on 21st August 1989 in Palisades, New York. Her mom got her started in the business by doing commercials when she was just 11 months old.
Then, at only 4 1/2, she was cast on the soap opera “One Life to Live” (1968), where she remained until 1997. Since then, she has gone on to appear in many feature films and TV movies. But she is probably best known in the United States for her role as “Claire” on the hit TV show “Heroes” (2006).
As for movies, Hayden starred in Remember the Titans (2000) with Denzel Washington and Joe Somebody (2001) with Tim Allen. Last time we met was when she was promoting “Racing Stripes” in 2005, she has changed somewhat.
For our interview she wore a loose fitting top, shorts and flip flops, charting about her starring role in the comedy “I Love You Beth Cooper”, based on the popular novel about a geeky senior high schooler who declares his love for the seemingly unattainable cheerleader Beth Cooper during the former’s commencement speech.
The actress spoke to Paul Fischer in a Santa Monica hotel room:
Question: I was curious about the costume and character from the movie. Did you demand a bonus for putting on a cheerleader outfit, or being a cheerleader?
Panettiere: I wish! I think I’m just going to start putting in my contract that I refuse to wear a cheerleading outfit for the rest of my career (laughs). In this film I only had to put it on once for a picture, but that was it
Question: And then you do a cheer in street clothes, you should cash in on this, cause that’s a big selling point for them
Panettiere: I know. I don’t know why I always manage to find my way back to the cheerleading outfit
Question: Did you like your character? Was this a girl you could relate to?
Panettiere: I think so absolutely, it’s a very much, it’s kind of like a metaphor, even though specifically I haven’t gone through exactly what she’s going through, it still stems from these insecurities and not believing in yourself and I think we all have our own insecurities and I know I have plenty
Question: Like what?
Panettiere: Like body image insecurities. The older I get the more comfortable I get with it, but I still have my days where I don’t feel great, and I don’t like this outfit or that outfit and I’m having my fat ay where I have to put something baggy on and sweatpants or just, just with the way that people perceive me, I have plenty of insecurities I can go on and on
Question: You look completely brilliant, I can’t believe that you have insecurities do you work out a lot?
Panettiere: You know I’ve never been one of those people whose been obsessed with working out or being super skinny cause I’m just not, I’m not that. I have the body that I have and that’s not going to change as long as I try to stay as healthy as I can, and all that stuff. It’s a little hard when someone is standing behind you with a camera on the beach, takes a picture of your rear end, and points out all your bumps or whatever, buts some shading in, I mean it’s tough when you’re… .you become much more critical of yourself because, you’re in the position of just such extreme judgment and scrutiny and you know, people love to point out flaws and love to build people up and let them down again
Question: There were recent photos of you on Elton John’s yacht, what were you doing there? How did you end up there?
Panettiere: Oh I was just on vacation and I was just friends were going, so I decided to come along and it was quite an experience
Question: On vacation on Elton John’s yacht, not an every day thing?
Panettiere: No its not. It’s actually a very interesting and very strange world and I was glad that I had the experience because I realized that even though it’s so… I mean it’s so, it just shows you how out of balance the world is. You go to these places during the film festival and just, these people have work, money and wealth and all of that, and it’s just imbalanced knowing what a lot of the world looks like, and it’s crazy, but I would never want it, I would never want it, it’s great to have a friend with a boat, and a friend with a plane and a friend with houses all over the world, you know what I mean, it’s a responsibility but it was quite the experience
Question: Apparently you have a misspelled tattoo?
Panettiere: Are we talking about the movie or are we talking about personal rumors? And it is misspelled, whatever, Vivere senza rimipiantic (means live without regret in Italian) put my own spin to it
Question: You can laugh and live with it?
Panettiere: Yeah, I mean I’m not, I’m not rushing to in the direction and chances are I’ll probably get it fixed, but that’s why, you know I love having it on my back because I don’t get bored of it, I don’t have to stare at it all the time, but then you have it on your back and you don’t realize that it’s misspelled either
Question: Did you do many of the stunts in the movie?
Panettiere: I did as many as they would allow me to do. I was always an athlete growing up and I love sports but, I now can’t participate on a team like I could in high school, so stunts are kind of my sport. I do it as often as I can, as many as they’ll let me, it was fun though, it was a great experience, it was a fun film, its full of action and its funny and Chris Columbus is the nicest man I’ve ever worked with
Question: Which stunts did you do?
Panettiere: They allowed me to do some of the driving. I think that was most of the stunts, were her reckless driving. Other than that, it wasn’t really a stunt to fall in his lap – that was more him – he has to fall in my lap he has to find his way into my, ‘Hello!’ (laughs)
Question: What about the shirt, in the locker room, is that you, did you actually have to get naked?
Question: Yeah right, really?
Panettiere: Dude! Yeah! I yeah, it didn’t bother me, it didn’t bother me, I think when the people, person who is doing it gets all uncomfortable and shy then its other people around who get more uncomfortable because they’re uncomfortable but I was, I was fine, everyone was really professional,
Question: But is that not hugely embarrassing?
Panettiere: If I can’t flaunt it at 20, come on! I mean I might as well show it now! (laughs). No, just on set, just on set
Question: Did you get to drive through anything?
Panettiere: Through anything? No, I didn’t get to drive through the house, but I got to pull out of the house, back out of the house and that was very cool because I took half the house with me?
Question: What about the theme of this movie in that the fantasy and reality don’t necessarily go together? Do you identify with that aspect of this movie? and guys falling in love, because there’s a lot of this film where you say, ” guys fall in love with me everyday” have you ever experienced that I your own life that people, that guys might fall in love with you for the wrong reasons?
Panettiere: Well I mean, I think people might at this point only fall in love with me for the wrong reason. I mean, its most of the time if somebody is doing a confession or something like that, its, it’s a fan, or someone who watches what I do, and how can you really say, I love you, which is kind of the theme in the film, he says ” I love you Beth Cooper” and Beth Cooper is this image of perfection to him, but he really doesn’t know it at all
Question: How do you know when someone is being real with you or when someone just likes you because of your celebrity?
Panettiere: I think after a while there are certain tell tale signs that become really good at reading people, but could you ever really, really be sure? People surprise you sometimes, and most of the time when it’s a surprise it’s generally for the worst. But I just surround myself with good people and I have really great friends and people that I trust, and I trust my instincts, but I mean there’s no specific telltale sign that someone is interested in you for any other reason.
Question: Do you have a certain type that you go for?
Panettiere: Type? I’m a big personality person so you need to be cool with who you are. You need to be confident with who you are, because in order to be with someone like me in the industry that I’m in and have to you know, we go out and have to mingle at parties and you have to, you know our job… . That line is blurred between our jobs and our personal life and it goes beyond just standing on set and acting. I mean it takes a secure person that I like somebody who gets my sense of humor, I can have a very dry sense of humor sometimes
Question: I was thinking there might be a little bit of uproar when the movie comes out over some of the reckless behavior, do you think some recklessness is part of the growing up process?
Panettiere: Absolutely. All the kids I grew up with were the same. I think people are being a little naive if they don’t know that that’s going on, and they don’t want to come to terms with it and it is and it’s a film, it’s a funny film, but you can’t be too nervous to speak the truth, because you know what, your kids, probably chances are your kids aren’t off in college or high school drinking juice boxes. It’s probably not likely, but I mean I’ve always, this is a character, you know it’s not me, it’s a character that we’ve created and tried to stay true to with the book and the story and if they want to uproar they can do it all the want.
Question: When you were a bit younger, who was your idol in terms of actors or music, did you have a massive pin up that you idolized from afar?
Panettiere: Not really. I have a lot of people that I look up to as an actor, like Meryl Streep is obviously one of if not the best actor of all time. I think she’s brilliant, I mean there’s a million, there’s a million people and I think in my position, the people I wind up looking up to now are people who, people who have their shit together, people who know who they are and are confident in who they are, people who I look up to personality wise, and go, ” Gosh I just want to be like you because you’re so likable, and you’re so smart and you’re so together and so with it.” And everyone has their flaws but just people, it’s more of the genuinely cool people are now that I look up to and go, ” Oh wow”
Question: In the movie dating is very problematic. How does high school compare with Hollywood? Would you rather be dating in high school or would you rather be dating in Hollywood?
Panettiere: God, I don’t know, both of them are terrible. In Hollywood its either you’re single or you’re not, there is no in between. There is no dating, no one allows you the ability to have fun and be young and hang out with people and just, they give you the ability to just say, ” Hey, I’m just enjoying someone for who they are. Just because it’s a guy doesn’t necessarily mean I’m dating them, you know every girl I walk down the street with doesn’t mean I’m dating them.
Panettiere: Well, not every girl (jokes)
Question: What about Steve Jones? There’s all this speculation
Panettiere: He lives in London , the distance is a bit too… ..I have a lot of good friends.
Question: How surprised are you by this whole celebrity thing since Heroes took off? How have you coped with it for the last four, three years?
Panettiere: Yeah, three or four years now and I don’t think you can ever prepare yourself for it. There’s no amount of preparation, no amount of anyone telling you, ” Oh keep your head on straight!” it just, I was a really really lucky, because I was fortunate enough to have a great family, great upbringing and I think I was really fortunate to have gotten to this point of ” celebrity.” I hate that word, but being in the public eye and the age I did, because I think if I was older and if I was on my own and on my own terms and didn’t have, wasn’t as receptive to people telling me, ” No, that’s not okay” and still didn’t have parents that I had to listen to, I don’t know if it would have gone quite as smoothly. You get to the point, where you’re on your own for a certain period of time, and you go and no one’s told me what to do for a couple years now, that’s not, no I’m not used to it, ” No you can’t tell me what to do, I’m an adult” but at 16 years old I still had parents who said, ” No,” still had parents that said, ” You’re going to be home at this time” still lived at home, still had the ability to hear No and knew that I needed to listen. I also was fortunate enough to come to this place with a group of really really grounded strong people which were my cast, because if I had gone there by myself, whether it had been a film, and I had hit that level of success by myself without these older people that I really looked up to, I got to see how they handled it, how they interacted with people and just the way they dealt with it, I don’t know if it would have gone quite as, I’d like to think it would have gone the same, but it really was great to have people to look up to
Question: How much more Heroes will there be?
Panettiere: We’re in the fourth season now, so I have no idea, we signed on for six years
Question: What’s coming up for Claire?
Panettiere: She’s at college now, she’s in college and she’s got a great roommate, who’s… . I really don’t know about her in the beginning. There’s this new group of people called The Carnival, and they are kind of the opposite of the company
Question: Just to follow up on Heroes how hard was it when Brian Fuller left again? And do you want to go to college?
Panettiere: You know, since I haven’t read all the scripts and haven’t been involved in the writing process like obviously the writers are. We work hard, we work hard and everyone’s bright and we have a blast together. He’s growing up and he’s doing some great stuff, so we’re all just really proud of him, but college, I do very much believe in education. I’ve got 15 alumni on my mother’s side from Duke University and my grandpa was valedictorian, and grandparents met there, my great uncle was the Dean of the Law school, yeah I have a huge side of my family that is very well educated. So genetically I’m well educated, but my thought of college has always been, that it’s not only continuing your education, but it’s also a social experience, it’s your first time on your own. It’s your first time not having someone sit there and go, ” You need to go to bed at this time, you need to do your homework, you need to get up at this time to go to class.” You’re on your own terms and most of what I saw from my friends that came back from their freshman year, they’re all hanging from their fingernails, going, ” I almost just failed out of school. I almost just flunked,’ because there’s no, they have to juggle these new responsibilities that they didn’t have before and you generally learn the hard way. You learn from mistakes and doing it over and over again. And that social experience, because I’ve been on my own, because I know so clearly, hopefully what I am going to do for the rest of my life, it, I wouldn’t get that social aspect the same, not to mention it is a really big thing that you want to go and you want to have the social experience, and you want go out to the bars like the other kids are going to. Everyone does that, they do, whether you like it or not, and you have to deal with the fear of somebody taking a picture of you with a drink in your hand, a fear of going and getting placed all over the place. We can’t do… I find it hard to do normal things that most people my age are doing because of the criticism, because you know doing what’s normal isn’t right, because we’re the ones that are completely corrupt which is so not true. I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world and see beautiful countries, I’ve talked to incredibly intelligent well educated people, I’ve been involved with politics, I’ve been involved with environmental studies and work and have gotten a great education on the things that I’m curious and passionate about whether it be the ocean, I’m really well educated on the ocean just from spending time with really smart, smart people and this is their field and this is what they know and you learn so much from them. If I want to take up on… also I’m very interested in history and I have a bunch of history books at home and I sit there all day and I watch the history channel for 12 hours straight about Chris Columbus, and the ocean blue, and the layers of the ozone. Science has always been a big thing and I’ve really been educated having not gone to college, would I have liked to? Yeah, but it didn’t quite pan out that way
Question: How was it to work with Chris Columbus?
Panettiere: Incredible, one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever worked with, so talented with no ego and with someone like him with a background that he was to come in with no ego and completely open to collaboration, just open-minded and fun, but somebody that you could trust and you know is going to pull you and lead you in the right direction it’s great. It’s nothing less than great?
Question: What’s next for you? What are your dreams and goals?
Panettiere: I you know, I’ve never been somebody who has said, ” this is where I want my career to go, this is the kind of film I want to do.” I just love everything I love what I do, I love creating characters and I love doing it all and I’m just excited to see what my career will be
Question: You might receive the cheerleader school scripts. what kind of things do you get offered?
Panettiere: Frankly it has fallen in my lap, that’s about it. It’s literally just been, it just has happened that way. It was not planned it was not something that I had sought out, it was just the way things… the way the cards fell and I’m just really excited to see what comes, I have no idea I’m not going to try and guess I’m just going to be excited.
Question: What’s next?
Panettiere: I’m just doing the 4th season of Heroes, there are things in works, I have been very involved with pitching projects and going to the studios and
Question: Your own development?
Panettiere: Yes, developing it either from a book or just an idea, we’ve developed tv shows
Question: As a producer or do you want to direct?
Panettiere: I would love to direct at some point. Directing is something I would very definitely want to take a major break from acting to do because you have to live with the project for so long afterward. I would want to dedicate I wouldn’t want to spend myself too thin I want to dedicate my time and my energy to that, and eventually maybe down the road that will happen
Question: Are you tired of your character? You’ve been with her for four years and the show has gone up and down? Would you like to let go of the character?
Panettiere: Letting go of the character? Well it’s all different -t its movies, its film, television and theater. There are great aspects and bad aspects of both, movies are great because you get to play all these different characters, you never get tired of one thing and you get travel and it’s a much bigger world. TV I’ve gotten to spend almost 4 years in a character and really gotten to know her and develop her myself and grew up with her in the beginning and yeah, I’m excited to do other things but I also do love what I do and then theatre is great because you have the same layout every single night doing it but you get to perfect and live with it every single time, and try to make it fresh and new every time just the different aspects.
Question: How much fun is acting? Is it exciting? You’ve been doing it for so long?
Panettiere: Absolutely I would not put myself in this if it wasn’t. I didn’t mean this, (interviews) I didn’t mean this, I mean the misspelled tattoos and the can’t walk down the street to get a cup of coffee without 5 you know 10 cameras in your face. It really is a very invasive industry, very invasive industry and the line between your work and work and play, is so blurred if not, nonexistent that it’s tough, it does, I’m not going to lie, it makes it hard to live, and I’m not sitting there going, ” oh woe is me, my life is terrible” but people get this idea in their head that what we do isn’t hard and it is. It’s work and do I want to get up every morning and go to set? No, there are sometimes I’m like, I don’t want to go to work today, but I love what I do
Question: What was the most fun part of making this film?
Panettiere: The most fun part – I always enjoy the traveling, the working with new people and the eventually down the road what you wind up learning from those people that you might not realize right off the bat but every time I work with somebody and travel to a different place your experiences make up who you are and I may not be able to tell you right now who I am, but down the road I’ll get to look back and go, ” Oh that’s who I was” and I was that because of ” x, y and z” I was that because of all the wonderful experiences and roles that I’ve played, and the people I’ve gotten to work with and the places I’ve traveled, it’s not too shabby.
Question: Why do you think Heroes has struggled with the fans?
Panettiere: I don’t know. I think it had a very high – it set a very high mark for itself and I think it’s very scrutinized now because of the demand of – it’s not an easy crowd to please all the time but I still enjoy watching the show.