You look a lot more conservative compared to your character.
HALEY BENNETT: “Yep, this is me… you’ve met Cora, now I’m channeling my other half.”
Is this your first professional job?
HALEY: “Yes. I moved to L.A. last summer with my mother from Naples, Florida, and I immediately got into acting classes and took singing lessons. ‘Music & Lyrics’ was actually one of the first auditions that I went out on.”
How intimidating was it when you first looked at the role of Cora?
HALEY: “You know, it wasn’t as intimidating as when I got to New York and I was like, ‘Oh, crap, what did I get myself into?’" [laughs]
Did you base your character off of any pop stars in particular?
HALEY: “I think that there are certain characteristics that pop stars have, and I sort of put them all together and picked out the things that stood out.”
What pop stars did you listen to growing up?
HALEY: “You know, I was a Britney fan, I’m not going to lie…. She’s a very talented lady, and I’m waiting for her comeback. [Also] Madonna… I’m a singer/songwriter myself in real life, and I really aspire to be like Jewel, and people like her.”
Do you think that the movie will help you with your music career?
HALEY: “I hope that it helps me because I’m so different [from the character], and I hope that people can see past that and see how I am in real life, because it was so much a role… so much a character.”
What are you like in real life as a singer/songwriter compared to the Cora character?
HALEY: “Cora did a lot of dancing, and I think my music is more sort of ballad-y. I have some things that I rock out to, but I don’t have all of the gyrating moves and ‘humping the monk’.” [laughs]
How did you get through the scenes where you’re basically crawling across the floor?
HALEY: “Actually my mother and my stepfather were there, and I had to tell them to leave. I was just looking around at everyone like ‘This isn’t really happening right now, is it?’ I was apologizing for everything that Cora does, because I was so embarrassed for myself. But, I just had to put myself into a certain mind state, and tell myself that it wasn’t me. I had many, many talks with the choreographer, who would say ‘Just put yourself in another place… it isn’t you… but to pull this off you have to go all out, and go for it.” I practiced it so much… let me tell you, it is so strange practicing that dance alone in your bedroom. I was like ‘Whoa, I’m losing it right now!’”
That sounds like something your character would’ve done, though.
HALEY: “Oh yeah, she was totally into watching herself, I’m sure. I think that deep down she had a bit of insecurity though.”
How tough was the choreography?
HALEY: “I worked every single day. If it wasn’t with the dancers, it was by myself in my room, or I worked out in Gold’s Gym. They have the rooms with the mirrors, and I would go and literally work my tush off.”
Would you accept a role like this one again?
HALEY: “Yeah, you know I think that’s what acting is all about, to do something that’s totally different from yourself, and to stretch yourself beyond your limits. When I watch the movie, I really don’t see myself, which is strange, because I read a lot of interviews and see a lot of people saying that it’s hard to not see themselves.”
The outfits you wore got smaller and smaller as the movie progressed. How did you handle revealing so much of yourself?
HALEY: “I think they inched me up to it. ‘Here you go, this is your last outfit… nothing!’ [laughs] I think I got more comfortable, especially because I had to lose weight for this role. I think to be in those outfits you have to feel like you’re in shape, and healthy, and feel good about yourself, so as time progressed I got more comfortable in my own skin, I think. It was somewhat of a growing experience.”
Why did you have to lose weight?
HALEY: “You know, you see all of those girls, and they’re rail-thin and muscular from dancing every single day.”
Did you have any input on the design of the outfits?
HALEY: “I didn’t even go there. I just went to my fittings, and I was just so grateful that I was in this movie so I wasn’t going to complain about what I had to wear. I mean, obviously I wouldn’t get nude or anything, but I didn’t object to anything.”
How do you think you looked in the movie?
HALEY: “I don’t think I have the greatest self-image… watching it was really weird… I just kind of looked away." [laughs]
Do you have a CD that you’re working on?
HALEY: “Actually I’m negotiating with record labels right now. I have seventeen songs that I’ve done… I wrote all of the lyrics and my friend wrote the melodies. I have an album ready, so I’d love to get picked up by a record label. Hopefully this movie is sort of a catalyst for that. But there is a soundtrack for the movie, and I have three songs on it I think.”
What was your favorite song in the movie?
HALEY: “My favorite song? They’re all a little zany. I think that they’re catchy…. I love the duet with Hugh. I don’t know if you’ve heard it yet, but there is a song called ‘Entering Bootytown,’ and it is just priceless. It is so funny.”
Will you be focusing more on a film or music career now?
HALEY: “I think that I’m passionate about both, and if you go about it the right way I think it’s possible to incorporate both of them into a very successful career.”
Whose career path would you like to follow?
HALEY: “I can’t pick one person’s career that I’d like to emulate, but Drew Barrymore has a fantastic career… I’m obsessed with Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Angelina Jolie. I really like the path they’ve taken… they think outside of the box. I think it’s great what Angelina Jolie is doing, using her celebrity power to do good things and bring awareness.”
What was it like working with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore?
HALEY: “Oh my goodness… I can’t even put into words how grateful I am that they gave me this opportunity. I think that they were really inspiring, and they also taught me a lot…. To have worked with such amazing actors that I have looked up to was groundbreaking for me. It was so surreal.”
What kind of advice did they give you?
HALEY: “Well, Drew was actually sort of a mentor for me… when I was on set and like ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t feel well’ or ‘I hate that I can’t eat that much, I want a piece of pizza right now!’ she was like ‘Girl, I know exactly how you feel! It’s gonna be worth it though… you look great, terrific… it’s just a part of the role and it’ll pay off.’”
What was it like doing the scene on stage with Hugh?
HALEY: “There was like 5,000 people, they CGI it to look like 20,000 people, but that’s still the most people that I’ve ever performed in front of in my life, so I was having a panic attack backstage… [laughs] Hugh and I were both like ‘Oh my god, this is so nerve-racking…. But we’re going into this together, so that’s good.’ I actually felt more comfortable going on stage with him, because I knew he was nervous as well, so we sort of channeled the energy from each other. I looked over and thought ‘Oh gosh, I’m doing a movie with Hugh Grant!’ That was actually one of the last scenes that we did [in the movie], so it was really a great moment.”
Did you give Hugh any singing pointers?
HALEY: “Yeah, he would always ask me for advice, but I would be like ‘You are doing it… you’re nailing it!’ I do think that he nailed this role. I think he really is so believable, and he really was up for the challenge and nailed it.”
Are you auditioning for other films now?
HALEY: “Yes I am. I’m actually supposed to do an independent film in May called The Night Wedding… there’s some things in the works. I’ve just been so incredibly busy, and there are these amazing scripts that I’ve been reading.”
Are you looking for roles where you can showcase more of your acting talents rather than singing?
HALEY: “Yes… but I’m still training, and I know that I have so much to learn, and so much catching up to do. I always want to be one step ahead, so I realize that I need to do everything now in order to be one step ahead. I really just want to gain as much knowledge as I possibly can, so I can bring that into certain roles and challenge myself.”