Vanessa Hudgens: Punching Beauty

Graduating from her High School Musical era with grown-up roles in Beastly and Sucker Punch, Vanessa Hudgens forgives gay haters for being jealous and wanting her ex.

BY Brandon Voss

March 04 2011 10:55 AM ET

VANESSA HUDGENS X390 (CBS FILMS) | ADVOCATE.COMYou met your Rent director, Neil Patrick Harris, while doing Beastly together, right?
Yes, that’s where we met. It was so funny, because when he texted me, “Do you like Rent?” I thought he wanted to go see it with me or something. Little did I know he was directing it at the Hollywood Bowl. He’s just an all-around awesome guy. He’s so smart, so witty, and I adore him in every way. I haven’t met his babies yet, but he showed me pictures of them at the Beastly premiere. I’m so happy for him and David. They deserve the world, and I’m glad they have those little ones to share their love with.

The only problem I had with Beastly is that even when Alex Pettyfer is supposed to be hideous, he’s still kind of hot in a rough-trade kind of way. Well, I guess that’s not really a problem.
Yeah, I guess everyone has a type. Socially, though, it’s not really that acceptable to have tattoos on your face. I mean, that character’s a furry creature in the original Beauty and the Beast, so this is our own spin on it. We wanted it to feel somewhat realistic.

Beastly’s message is obviously one of inner beauty trumping outward appearance. Considering you dated Zac Efron, one of the most beautiful guys in the world, the irony of your playing the lead can’t be lost on you.
[Laughs] Yeah. But I think I was lucky in that sense because he was actually a very good person on the inside as well. You can be an extremely beautiful person, but if you don’t have the personality to match, it just makes you ugly.

How important are looks to you?
They’re somewhat important, I guess, but not necessarily. I tend to always find the beauty in a lot of things, whether it’s a person or just something that I walk past on the street.

Beastly’s writer-director, Daniel Barnz, is openly gay, and he’s spoken to The Advocate about the reflection of his outsider experience in his work. Did his outsider perspective help to inspire your performance?
It totally did. He really took the time to sit down with me and Alex to try to make these characters as real as we could. He helped me create the way that I talked, the way that I carried myself — little things like pulling my sleeves over my hands and things that made me feel like more of an outsider. He was there every step of the way, making sure I was good with everything. He really took care of me. I adore him.

As a pretty, popular young lady, is it hard to get into that outsider mind-set?
Well, I wasn’t always popular. When I was younger, I was a complete loner. I had, like, one or two friends. One of my friends was friends with the popular girls, and they didn’t even want me in their crowd. I was that girl.

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