The Last Song will show whether or not audiences are ready to take Miley Cyrus serious as a viable leading lady.

Miley's Next Step

on March 30, 2010 by Kirsten Acuna

Miley Cyrus wants to be taken seriously.


She's left behind her popular Disney alias, Hannah Montana, to take on the lead role in the Nicholas Sparks-penned film, The Last Song, distributed by none other than ... Disney. However, if Cyrus wants to be remembered as more than another washed-up Mickey Mouse star, she needs to deviate from previous teen singers for her transformation to serious actress to take root .

The majority of teenage singers don't make it as actors. Britney Spears in Crossroads. N*SYNC's Lance Bass and Joey Fatone in On the Line. Both of those movies bombed despite star power because the singers couldn't act. It's a simple fact: some people were born to sing, others to act.

Yet other teen stars made the transition from singer to actor with semi-success.

Zac Efron left the High School Musical franchise behind to take on roles in Hairspray and 17 Again. He already has other acting projects lined up such as Charlie St. Cloud at Universal.

Teen sensation Mandy Moore started her acting career in a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, A Walk to Remember. While the film posted a modest $41 million domestically and became a fan favorite on DVD, critics were not kind to Moore. With the standout exception of Roger Ebert, many notable critics didn't see a future in acting for Moore.

Moore's popularity began to decline with each subsequent film she starred in.
Combined, her films How to Deal and Chasing Liberty grossed only $26.3 million domestically.

The problem was Moore never gained the momentum to succeed as a serious actress. Most critics never saw her deviating from the same role of the sweet, religious girl from A Walk to Remember. In Saved!, Moore again took on the role of the prim and proper girl at a Christian school.

Moore began lending her voice to kid films such as Racing Stripes and Brother Bear 2. She then returned to the recording studio releasing "Wild Hope" in 2007 and "Amanda Leigh" in 2009. Although still doing voice-overs and acting gigs, such as License to Wed, as a leading lady she hasn't surpassed the gross of her first film.

Jenelle Riley, Back Stage magazine's television and film editor, thinks The Last Song is a good idea for Cyrus to pursue as a breakout role. "It's interesting she's following the Mandy Moore path by going with a Nicholas Sparks adaptation," says Riley. "That's a smart move."

In a few short years, Sparks has become the go-to guy to churn out material that helps create successful breakout roles for young stars. The Last Song is the second movie this year based on a Nicholas Sparks book. In February, Dear John helped boost the careers of Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum.

Yet, Cyrus isn't straying too far. Disney, who airs and supports the popular Hannah Montana show that propelled Cyrus into the limelight and also release two Hannah Montana movies, is distributing The Last Song. If Cyrus really wanted to break into the scene as a serious actress, wouldn't she try to ditch the Mouse House?

Riley doesn't have a problem with Disney creating the project for her. "I don't think it's a reflection on her acting, just corporate synergy," says Riley.

Tracy Barker, administrator of, agrees. "It's a stepping stone for other TV shows, movies etc. with a more mature role," says Barker. "Just because Disney is distributing it doesn't mean it's not a breakout role. It's not Hannah Montana and it will have a different age group of fans. We get to see Miley grow up a bit and take on a different role."

Cyrus seems to have the formula for breakout role in acting down. Film based off best-selling author-check. Continuing to let Disney manage your career-check. But even with a great start, Cyrus may trickle out of the spotlight like Moore.

Unlike Moore, Cyrus will continue her singing career while acting to help bolster her image. "She (Cyrus) is releasing a new record after The Last Song and then taking a break from music to concentrate on acting," says Barker. "It doesn't mean she is giving up on singing."

Barker says it's a good choice to not leave singing completely since she reaches such a large demographic through her music. "She was able to make the transition from Hannah Montana the singer into Miley Cyrus the singer," says Barker. "She is an international star and her songs are loved by millions."

Maybe Cyrus has the right idea. To break free of the Disney franchise, she needs to use it as a foundation to further her career.

Regardless of whether this move initially helps or hurts Cyrus, it will be interesting to see where she is two or three years from now.


Tags: Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana, The Last Song, Nicholas Sparks, Greg Kinnear, acting, career, demographic

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