Interview: Emma Roberts in Campy ‘Nancy Drew’ is Nice But Nobody’s Fool

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Rating: 2.5/5CHICAGO – Emma Roberts as “Nancy Drew” is nice but nobody’s fool.

In playing the iconic character from books that span back decades, though, the film sends our teenage generation a confusing message. Designed to be a relatable role model to women in their teens, who’s really that untouchable at 16 years old?

Emma Roberts plays Nancy drew in “Nancy Drew”.
Photo courtesy of Melinda Sue Gordon and Warner Bros.

“She’s sure of herself, proper, determined, real, very intelligent, not afraid to be herself and [basically] perfect,” Roberts, who is the niece of Julia Roberts, said in an interview with Adam Fendelman.

She added: “She shows kids it’s OK to be different. She shrugs off kids making fun of her and she perseveres. She’s determined to solve mysteries while most kids just go to school and try to make good grades. They’re not doing half the things she’s doing. She’s doing everything times 10.”

But isn’t it OK for kids just to go to school and get good grades or must they strive to be a superhero or celebrity Sherlock Holmes? This could portray the message that Nancy Drew is “better” than other teenagers. In trying to be relatable, since when are kids like this?

Where’s all the traditional teenage angst, sexual curiosity, pimples and parental rebellion? In the film, she attends “Hollywood High School,” is picture perfect, prissy and campy to a whole new level. That’s exactly the part Roberts wanted, too.

Emma Roberts with “Nancy Drew” director Andrew Flemming.
Photo courtesy of Melinda Sue Gordon and Warner Bros.

“I don’t know who else auditioned – they wouldn’t tell us – but I really wanted this part. I’ve been on other auditions that I haven’t gotten and I felt like ‘too bad. I’ll just get something else.’ For the first time, I would have been really upset if I didn’t get this one,” she said. Roberts added: “Kids will enjoy seeing this movie and parents will enjoy taking their kids.”

Born on Feb. 10, 1991, Roberts at 16 doesn’t seem to remember that she’s certainly a kid herself. Just as Nancy Drew in the film feels more grown up for her age, Roberts goes to great strides to portray herself as a grown up as well. At this point in time, she says her age works toward her advantage.

“People say I don’t look my age and I look younger,” Roberts said. “It’s good to be 16 [in Hollywood]. You can either play a young woman or can dress down and play a younger ‘tween’.”

In auditioning for the part, Roberts hadn’t read a single Nancy Drew novel.

Nancy Drew can never stop sleuthing.
Photo courtesy of Melinda Sue Gordon and Warner Bros.

“I didn’t read them when I was younger. Nancy Drew wasn’t big at the time when I went through grade school,” she said. “Now I see young girls reading them all the time. When I got the part and started shooting, I read a few of them. I’m trying to read more now but it’s difficult when I don’t have much time.”

As she is an avid reader and says she typically reads a couple books a week, though, you’d think she’d make time to read up more on the character she has become on the big screen. In the books, Nancy Drew is 18 with strawberry blonde hair.

To shape the movie character, Roberts says she didn’t draw inspiration from other actors or books. She added: “The clothing and hair helped me become her.” In terms of a role model, she named Reese Witherspoon and Drew Barrymore because they too have acted since a young age.

Roberts says it was important to her that the kid actors in “Nancy Drew” were actually around the ages they were portraying. She added: “I don’t like when actors in their late 20s try to play teens.”

Emma Roberts appears with her clearly campy clue book.
Photo courtesy of Melinda Sue Gordon and Warner Bros.

In being a movie star but also living in the real world as a teen, Roberts says she has a tutor who works with her three hours a day when she’s filming. She describes it as difficult to switch from film mode to real-life high school girl mode.

In the film, Nancy Drew’s father is fixated on encouraging his teenage-sleuthing daughter to take a break from her investigative ways to be a normal kid. Roberts added: “He wanted her to have a normal teenage experience even though he knew she wouldn’t. It was one of those things parents say that they won’t enforce.”

While her father was concerned about with her sleuthing obsession, he was even more so about the danger that often followed her. Roberts says she didn’t perform any of her own stunts.

“Whenever you saw my face, that’s me. When you didn’t, it’s a stunt double. There’s only one of me,” she said. “None of the driving scenes – even if an adult was driving – were real. The car was attached to a trailer and they pulled us.”

Even adults didn’t really drive the cars in “Nancy Drew”.
Photo courtesy of Melinda Sue Gordon and Warner Bros.

Roberts describes the film character of Nancy Drew as timeless. She says there’s nothing in particular about the young woman that ties her to today, 50 years ago or 50 years from now despite the paradox of how much women have changed dramatically over the years.

She says she liked how the film was set in modern times but still feels like the character in the books. She added: “Had they made her more contemporary with jeans, a shirt and long blonde hair, that would defeat the purpose of making the movie. Nancy Drew fans shouldn’t be disappointed. Girls will either want to be like her or be her friend.”

How cute.

© 2007 Adam Fendelman, editor-in-chief Adam Fendelman


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