Say goodbye, Lizzie McGuire, say hello, Eastern European pop tart. Yep, Hilary Duff is all grown up now, a beautiful 20-year-old, and in her latest film, War, Inc., she makes a big career move. Co-starring with John Cusack and Marisa Tomei, Duff plays Yonica Babyyeah, a foul-mouthed, oversexed and underdressed Central Asian pop singer so outrageous she makes Madonna look like a nun. It's a role that might shock her clean-as-driven-snow, teeny-bop fan base, but could also jump-start Duff's mature movie career. Duff talked about her role at the TriBeCa Film Festival, where War, Inc. had its New York premiere.
You drop a major expletive quite a few times in this film. That's quite a change for you. What were you thinking?
Not only am I doing that, but I'm smoking, letting boys put their hands ... . The character was a bit vulgar. I don't think using the ... word would have bothered me if I had said it once or twice, but it's throughout the whole movie. But I'm just acting.
Are you worried how your longtime fans will react to a role like this?
I think that's the risk that I take. But I'm growing up, and my fans are going to grow up with me. I think there will be a mixed emotion about it. But if I lose fans, well, I don't want to limit myself in my career.
Is that the reason you chose this part?
A lot of people didn't want to give me a chance for a long time, because I was doing movies where I was nice, and I was still a kid. But that put me in a box, and people didn't want to take a chance on me. When I got this script, I flipped over it. I felt, "I need this, I want this." It was great just getting to play a character that was so out there and crazy.
You were 13 years old when you first appeared in the hit Disney Channel show Lizzie McGuire. What's it like growing up in public?
It's all I know, really. There are things that were hard, because I was thinking things like, "If I say this, someone could take it this way or that way." I also went through a period where I felt awkward with my body. There were times I would have a meltdown, because you're working hard like an adult. But my mom treated me completely normal. She never ... said, "Oh, Hilary's famous." I would get put in my place really fast.
It seems with this movie you have some sort of career plan, a way to move from teen star to adult. Do you?
I do have those conversations, but things change. Every day I think, "Hmm, it might be interesting if I did that." I'm taking a break for a while, and reading scripts. But I'd love to do a big movie, an action movie.
Your mom and dad separated two years ago after being married more than 20 years. You wrote about the pain of this in your hit songs "Stranger" and "Gypsy Woman." How has the breakup affected you personally? Has it also affected your career?
I don't think it has affected my career. I knew people would find out about it, because when I was making that album, it was on my mind. It has changed my life forever, and I wanted my fans to know about it. I was 18 when it happened, and I think growing up in my business, I grew up a little faster. You just never think it will happen to you when you're that age, when your parents have been together for so long. It was a shock, it's tough, and it's still tough every day.
Lewis Beale writes for Newsday.