Stargirl leading lady Grace VanderWaal says she is “obsessed” with Guy Ritchie’s live-action remake of Aladdin and has already watched it half a dozen times on Disney+.
VanderWaal, who is making her movie debut after touring alongside Imagine Dragons and Florence and the Machine, said she has only had eyes for one movie on the studio’s new platform.
“I don’t know what it is with Aladdin,” the 16-year-old star told Yahoo Movies UK.
She added: “I don’t know if it’s because of the beauty of the actor who plays Aladdin. I don’t know if it’s because of the amazing music. I don’t know anything.
“All I know is that I watched this movie one night, then the second night I watched it again and the third night. I have watched it almost six nights in a row.
“I just love it so much. I love Abu, and I want to be Aladdin’s sidekick so badly.”
VanderWaal plays the title role in Stargirl, as the unusual new kid at school who catches the eye of Leo (Graham Verchere) due to her upbeat attitude.
The film is an adaptation of Jerry Spinelli’s YA novel, published in 2000, and is directed by Fast Color filmmaker Julia Hart.
VanderWaal, who has performed in front of thousands of fans at venues like Madison Square Garden, said she found it equally scary to make her movie debut.
The film preaches a message of individuality and the need to be yourself, which is something VanderWaal believes the world “really needs” today.
She said: “It’s easier said than done to say ‘be yourself, be yourself’, but we really need to pull the trigger and have to understand that this isn’t just some parent being like ‘be yourself and make friends’.
“No girl, be yourself and do your thing. Be weird. Let people make fun of you. Grow thick skin. Walk with pride. Do whatever you want to do.“
Read the full interview with Grace VanderWaal, in which she reveals the initial awkwardness with her co-star and the reason why even the film’s musical numbers were out of her comfort zone...
Yahoo Movies UK: What was the biggest challenge for you in making the move into films?
Grace VanderWaal: I think the biggest challenge was being able to be vulnerable on screen. In the end, I signed up for the movie and I was already there, so there was kind of no turning back. I just needed to put on my brave face, put on some ChapStick and try my best to be okay with it.
Was it scarier to do a movie than to perform on stage in front of thousands of people?
Oh yeah, definitely! For different reasons. I think they were probably equal actually, for different reasons.
And how helpful were your co-stars and your director in helping you get over that fear?
Oh my gosh, I couldn’t imagine a better crew and team, honestly. I think I really hit the jackpot with the director, Julia Hart, and of course my co-star Graham Verchere. Both of them made the experience so easy and comfortable.
Obviously, so much of the film relies on your chemistry with Graham? Tell me a little bit about when you first met him and how you were able to get that chemistry with him.
When I first met Graham, it was actually for the screen test. Julia is just the most talented woman in the world because I don’t think anyone would have ever seen chemistry between us. We were so awkward and I think we both were just dying for it to be over.
But we got to New Mexico and, you know, you just get to know someone when you’re doing something like that and you’re working with someone every single day. We actually became really good friends and, I think, the better friends we became, the easier and ultimately better the scenes ended up being.
Read more: Disney+ reveals UK launch day content
One of the things that really comes through in the film is the message about individuality and about being yourself. How important was that to you?
It was really important to me. That’s a message I’m really, really passionate about. I know that everyone has been pushing this message since forever, but I don’t know man, I really feel like this is the time. I feel like people really need this. This isn’t something to be blown over. It’s easier said than done to say “be yourself, be yourself”, but we really need to pull the trigger and have to understand that this isn’t just some parent being like “be yourself and make friends”. No girl, be yourself and do your thing. Be weird. Let people make fun of you. Grow thick skin. Walk with pride. Do whatever you want to do.
Is that something you have had to learn yourself as you have become more famous?
That’s definitely something I have had to learn and rely on. I wouldn’t say I’m famous, but I definitely have more eyes on me than the average teenager, and you have to learn that no one is ever going to be satisfied. I hear so many things that get quite repetitive, like “How do you still look 12 after like five years?” and also “Why do you look 23? This is not okay” or “I hate your singing, please quit” and “I love your singing, never give up”. It’s always the opposite, because there are too many people.
At the end of the day, what I have grown to learn, is that no one really cares. People who are making comments, even you yourself, think about comments you’ve made — because we’ve all made comments about other people, it’s natural. You don’t keep thinking that. You say something and then forget about it like six seconds later. Everyone is so in their own worlds and we’re all just as vain as the person sitting next to it. You’re not as important to others as you think you are in your mind.
One of the really fun bits of this movie is the musical numbers, and obviously that is very much your background. Did you enjoy the musical numbers and how much input did you have in them?
I had very little input actually in the musical numbers of the film. Some of them, I enjoyed doing. Some parts of them were definitely out of my comfort zone — the dancing, for example. I am definitely not a dancer.
This movie is coming to Disney+. Are you excited to be among the first wave of original movies coming out on the platform?
I am excited, but super nervous. I’m trying not to think about it most of the time, honestly.
Finally, what were the first things you wanted to watch on Disney+ when you signed up?
Aladdin — the live-action movie. I love this movie so much, and it’s not even the type of movie that I usually love. Disney live-action movies are great, but I am never obsessed with them. But I don’t know what it is with Aladdin. I don’t know if it’s because of the beauty of the actor who plays Aladdin. I don’t know if it’s because of the amazing music. I don’t know anything.
Read more: Aladdin stars on Genie backlash
All I know is that I watched this movie one night, then the second night I watched it again and the third night. I have watched it almost six nights in a row. I just love it so much. I love Abu, and I want to be Aladdin’s sidekick so badly.
Well maybe for Aladdin 2, they can get you involved!
Stargirl is streaming on Disney+ in the USA now and will be available when the service launches in the UK on 24 March.
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