She became a star thanks to the High School Musical series and then went onto break out of the Disney mold by taking on more serious roles in films like The Frozen Ground and Spring Breakers. However, nothing will prepare you for how far Vanessa Hudgens goes to portray Apple Bailey in Gimme Shelter.
Written and directed by Ronald Krauss, the film follows Apple as she escapes from her abusive mother June (Rosario Dawson) and searches for her father, Tom Fitzpatrick (Brendan Fraser), who is now a Wall Street banker with a family of his own. But when April discovers she is pregnant, she ends up running away from Tom and later finds a place to stay at a shelter for pregnant young women.
Hudgens completely disappears into this role to the point where you can’t even recognize her at all. She gained 15 pounds, cut off most of her hair, got some fake tattoos and completely deglamorized herself in the process. As Apple, she gives an astonishing performance, filled with raw emotional power and really proves herself as a serious dramatic actress.
Recently, at the Gimme Shelter press day, which was held at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, we had the chance to catch up with Vanessa. While there, she talked about what drew her to the project, what it was like working with James Earl Jones and Brendan Fraser, why roles that are based on real life people are becoming more appealing to her, and described what it was like living in one of those shelters while preparing to play this role.
Check it out below and enjoy!
With this role you cut your hair, you messed yourself up, you gained weight, you transformed, and you lived with these girls. What was it about this role that made you want to do all that?
Vanessa Hudgens: I think above all, first and foremost, this character was the strongest person I’ve ever read about, and I think there’s nothing more attractive on a female than being a strong, strong woman. That really pulled me in. I knew that it would take a transformation and I have always been so fascinated with that ever since I saw Charlize Theron in Monster. It’s just kind of the dream, you know? I think that you dream of having that opportunity, but it rarely ever comes around. Ron took a chance on me. They gave me a leap of faith and trusted me with this character, and together I think that we really felt that we could accomplish anything. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him by my side.
How much trepidation did you have in terms of the emotional depths you had to achieve as Apple?
Vanessa Hudgens: It was a lot obviously, but it was something that I was willing to just dive into because I was so passionate about the character and the project. I mean, this was my one shot and you gotta give it your all even if it’s painful, but that’s what actors do; they run into pain when others run away from it, so I really just allowed myself to feel. But at the same time Apple’s so good at running away and staying on the move. She’s just constantly moving, and I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t realize they’re good at. It’s hard to actually sit and to feel emotions. It’s easy to be distracted, but I welcomed the pain that I had to put myself through (laughs).
What made Gimme Shelter the story you really wanted to tell? Why did you want to share this with your audience?
Vanessa Hudgens: Because it’s very relevant to what’s going on around us and I think that it’s easy to block it out because it’s uncomfortable. It’s something that we don’t want to discuss, but the fact is it’s happening all around us. Young people are becoming homeless and don’t have anywhere to go. Young mothers who have no support and no love and no place to call their own… just so much. I mean, abuse and homelessness, it’s all happening around us way more than we are allowing ourselves to see.
I think this just opens you up to that. It allows you to see that world and build compassion. I think it makes you grow as a person too because it brings all that up and it allows you to really feel. By doing so, it brings healing and it also shows that sometimes our darkest, deepest moments, moments that we feel we can never get out of, are sometimes the moments that we’re meant to have, and once you get past that you find hope. I think that that’s really important to remind people so that sometimes when they are going through those things, they know that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.
On a lighter note, how do you get beyond George of the Jungle (Brendan Fraser) and the voice of Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) standing there?
Vanessa Hudgens: Circumstance (laughs).
Vanessa Hudgens: Well that’s what it’s was. I’m lying in a hospital bed and I have this man (James Earl Jones) who has such an authority in his voice and in his presence, and that’s something that my character didn’t want to hear, you know? She wanted to sit inside of her pain and just revel in it. But he, with his strength, got her out of that, and through the power of the word of God, you know? I think that it is completely all about circumstance with everything and being an actor (laughs).