Seventeen-year-old Mandy Moore knows she's a rising pop star with an image to maintain -- and she knows how to work that image. Posing for photographs while in San Francisco to promote her first leading role in a movie, she purses her lips slightly and flirts with the camera out of the corner of her eye. She tosses her newly brunette tresses and shifts her feathery weight from one hip to the other, placing her hands on her waist where her asymmetrical top, cut to show a little bit of tummy, almost meets her very short skirt, cut to show a whole lot of leg.
But when the roll of film is exhausted, Moore cozies into the plush couch in her high-rise hotel suite and lets go a long breath, as if to say, "back to being me now." Suddenly there sits an unaffected, radiantly amiable, honest-to-goodness girl next door without a hint of preternaturally sexy, MTV-engineered pretense about her.
In fact, Moore's real-life personality is in many ways closer to that of the character she plays the two-hanky teenage romance "A Walk to Remember." Jamie Sullivan is a willfully virginal, religiously devoted minister's daughter who wins the heart of her high school's biggest bad boy (Shane West) with her plain-Jane sweetness and sincerity. Although the filmmakers had to give Moore a mousy haircut and strip her of makeup to dampen her bright and smiley beauty, the character and the actress share a determined, down-to-earth friendliness that is even more uncommon in showbiz than it is in everyday life.
She playfully refers to her foray into acting as "multi-tasking," since she has no intention of leaving her singing career behind. But as for managing the business enterprise that her professional life has become, Moore admits, "I don't really deal with that side. I have my parents! They deal with all the hubbub. I'm pretty on top of everything that goes on business-wise, I just don't like to think about it."
After some idol chitchat about doing press for movies versus music, she leans forward again from her reclined and relaxed position on the couch when the topic of conversation turns to "A Walk to Remember."
|Q: How closely to do you identify with Jamie's religious side and religious devotion?|
A: I relate it, but obviously I can't comprehend it completely because I didn't grow up in that environment. Jamie's been around it since day one of her life. I'm religious, and I think if anything this movie made me kind of contemplate where I am in that part of my life -- which has been a good thing. Even the books that I've been reading in my spare time have more of a religious connotation.
|Q: So it's heightened your awareness.|
A: It's heightened my awareness. It heightened my need to research a little bit more, I guess, to be a little bit more spiritual.
|Q: Because Jamie's religion is a distinct component of her personality, this movie's probably going to be pretty closely scrutinized by the religious right. Do you have any feelings on that subject?|
A: Actually, we've been doing a lot of Christian media. They're very excited about the movie. I think a lot of mainstream Hollywood is a little bit scared. It's a taboo subject, spirituality and religion. But you know what? It's not really a Christian movie. It's a pro-faith movie. It's not preachy. My character is very comfortable in her own right, and she's very forthright about her religion. But it's not like she's a walking billboard.
|Q: True. It's not like Jamie converts the guy in the film.|
A: If anything Jamie just teaches (him) about life, life lessons, and about having faith. (Shane's) character is in trouble, he doesn't really know who he is or where he's going in life, nor does he care. And I think my character just kind of instills a little bit of her faith in helping him.
|Q: Now, do you really think the bad boys can be reformed by the love of a good girl?|
A: [Nods sincerely] I think so. I think we're attracted to the rebels.
|Q: Well, I know that. But in real life I think many girls hope a change might take place, then end up in a bad marriage.|
A: I don't know if you can automatically assume you can change a person. But I think in the case of Jamie and Landon, being put in these situations I think she found out there was something good in him to begin with. You shouldn't go into a relationship thinking you can change someone. But I do think it's possible to change for the better.
|Q: Where are you in school now?|
A: I'm a senior in high school.
|Q: And you're tutored, I assume.|
A: Mmm hmm. I go through correspondence classes.
|Q: Since we're talking about age in a way -- and I'm not going to start digging into personal lives here -- is Shane West the oldest guy you've ever kissed?|
A: [Blushes] That's very...um...
[At this rather inopportune moment, Mandy Moore's dad walks into the room to drop off a backpack for her. He raises an ironic eyebrow, but doesn't say anything.]
A (continuing): [Slightly embarrassed] Thank you dad. [Turning back toward me and shrugging] Sorry!
|Q: [Suddenly very embarrassed] Feel free to tell me to go to hell on that question.|
A: [Laughing] No, no!... [Thinking] He's definitely the oldest guy I've ever kissed...and surprisingly, the worst kisser, too! [Pausing to look for a reaction, then laughing again] No, I'm just joshin'!
|Q: I'm glad your dad came in and left when he did because my follow-up question would have sounded even worse: Shane West is 23. Does that make you feel like jail bait?|
A: Do I feel like jail bait! [Shakes her head laughing.] I don't feel 17. I don't feel 17, and I don't think I'm necessarily treated as such. Not that I'm treated as an adult, but I think because I'm in an adult world and I'm really working, (my age is) just a number. It's not really who I am.
|Q: Well, I didn't mean to make it a big deal...|
A: Ahhh! Controversy! [Grinning.]
|Q: OK, let's get away from that topic before I make myself look stupid. I saw that one of your earliest "acting" gigs was an episode of "The Andy Dick Show." I assume you were making fun of yourself.|
A: Of course I was making fun of myself! I had so much fun doing that, too. It was all improv. I got there, and they pulled me aside and said, "We just want you to be obsessed with Andy." I was like, "All right, cool." We did like an hour's worth of taping, and it was really funny.
|Q: Was he doing a character?|
A: He did one character (in a skit). I was supposed to be singing a music video, and he was supposed to be Bjork in the background, being crazy.
|Q: [Laughing loudly.]|
A: He is an insane individual.
|Q: So who are your acting roll models?|
A: Acting role models...My favorite actress is Julianne Moore. But probably for a career path in general, I love Bette Midler. She's one of my favorite recording artists and singers, but she's also done Broadway, recording, TV, movies -- everything I'd like to accomplish.
|Q: That would be your...|
A: ...Ultimate career. She's not the biggest megastar in the world, yet she's a household name, people respect her for what she does, and she's had longevity. And she's distinguished, she's respected, and she's not confused with anyone else.
|Q: On that topic, how about a question you're certainly sick of answering? How do you feel about the inevitable comparisons to Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson...|
A: The comparisons don't bother me anymore. I guess in part it's because I've never done an interview without that question coming up. But I think what we're doing in our careers speaks for itself -- where we're going, where our music is going, where we are as people.
|Q: That was not a written down question, I want you to know. It just came up in conversation!|
A: [Laughing] No, no, no. It's OK! It was prompted by the Bette Midler conversation. You're forgiven!