Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer
Though some of you may be loath to admit it, even if you're not in Disney's target demographic, we doubt you were able to ignore the juggernaut that was the 'High School Musical' franchise, the record-breaking TV-movie series that became a worldwide sensation and made overnight stars of Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens when the first film arrived in 2006. Maybe, like me, you watched one or more of the movies just to see what all the fuss was about (anyone? Bueller?) or maybe you proudly enjoyed the frothy, feel-good flicks for what they were; unpretentious (if silly) entertainment with heart.

The fresh-faced teen stars may be all grown up now, but Vanessa Hudgens has no intention of abandoning her roots -- though she'll be starring in Zack Snyder's action epic 'Sucker Punch' later this month, her newest release is the romantic teen fantasy 'Beastly,' a modern reworking of the 'Beauty and the Beast' story, set against the backdrop of a privileged private school in New York. Like in 'HSM,' she plays a shy but willful wallflower who falls in love with a guy she never could've predicted, but will they live happily ever after?

Moviefone caught up with Hudgens earlier this week to discuss filming a fairy tale, working with Neil Patrick Harris, and, yes, just how much fun she had kicking ass on the set of 'Sucker Punch' -- join us after the jump for more.

Moviefone: What originally attracted you to the role of Lindy in 'Beastly'?
Vanessa Hudgens: I think just the overall message of the story, you know, it's a beautiful, classic tale that I think needs to be repeated, especially for a teen audience. Hopefully they'll be able to take it and truly apply it in their everyday lives.

Neil Patrick HarrisCan you describe your experience of working with the legendary Neil Patrick Harris?
It was so much fun! He is so amazingly and incredibly talented. From what he used to do in 'Doogie Howser, to what he does in 'How I Met Your Mother,' and now with 'Beastly'; he's playing a blind tutor. So, there's probably no stopping him when it comes to his range, and he's just such a great guy.

What was your most memorable moment during filming?
Most memorable moment would probably be ... I don't know, there were several of them, but I love all my scenes that I have with Neil Patrick Harris. He did this thing where he kind of runs himself into the wall with a very bad [improvised] joke, and he'd been wanting to actually verbally rewind himself the entire time and do it over; I had no idea that he was going to be doing it. So, I was trying to be not curled over laughing because he's just so funny, he cracked me up.

Do you find yourself still getting typecast because of your previous roles, or is there more variety in the kind of projects that you're being offered now?
I don't know ... I think it's a little bit of both. I feel like a lot of things that I get offered are not really outside of the box, but I know that I've liked going out and fighting for parts, so that it feels that much better when I'm able to do it.

Your next movie is 'Sucker Punch', and that's obviously a big departure from what you've done in the past; were you specifically looking for something different from the other films you've been in, or did it just kind of work out that way?
Right, it is! It just kind of worked out that way; I mean, I'm a nuts fan of Zack Snyder and what he's done, and I thought that this script was really interesting, so I went in and I just did my all for the part, you know? I'm so excited for everybody to see it. I just recently saw it and was really blown away, honestly. I felt like I just went to a rock concert, you're sitting there with your adrenaline pumping and feeling empowered that you can do anything, it's really great.

What can you tell us about the movie, because it seems very difficult to define from the trailers. I've seen people describe it as '300' with a female cast, is that anywhere close?
Kind of, I mean, it's a big action-adventure-fantasy movie that follows a girl's imagination -- these five girls all work together to escape a dark reality.

Exclusive 'Beastly' Clip

Were there any memorable stunts or moments that took you out of your comfort zone?
Oh my God, everything, just literally everything, the whole movie took me out of my comfort zone. I mean, even as big and flashy as the action sequences are, you get to run around and have tomahawk fighting sequences and, you know, shoot .50 caliber [guns] at dragons -- that's when you actually get green screen. And aside from all the action, it's just a bitter, darker tale, and heavy material and subject matter, so it's new, and it was exciting.

I know that during filming, a number of the lead characters shot a musical sequence in it as well, right?
I'm not sure what the final edit is going to be, because you don't want it to lag on and become the longest movie ever [laughs], you kind of want to keep the ball rolling. So I'm not sure what the finished product is going to be, but [Zack Snyder] did have a musical number at one point, so we'll see if it's in there or not.

It seems like it has a very strong message about female empowerment, and your Vanessa Hudgenscharacter in 'Beastly' is very independent and self-reliant. Do you find yourself consciously gravitating to those kinds of roles more as your career progresses?
Yeah, definitely. I think that I was given a great opportunity with 'High School Musical' to play a really smart young woman, and girls look up to that, and I really love that I got to do that for them. So I think, in a sense, I do want to be able to continue to play strong, independent women, so that girls can feel empowered and know that they can do the same thing as well.

I know that your next role is in 'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island' [sequel to 'Journey to the Center of the Earth']. Can you share any details about that?
Yeah -- it was a lot of fun. We shot about two months in Hawaii, which was unbelievable, and I did a month in North Carolina, which was completely different. It actually snowed the first day that I was there. It's a fun, big, family 3D adventure-action flick that takes you to a bunch of places actually in the Jules Verne novel, and it's just a lot of fun, a lot of interesting and cool sets and just a big scale theme.

Is there anything else in the pipeline that you're working on?
There's a few little projects that I'm trying to figure out, but, I don't know, I definitely think I'm going to go smaller versus a big action movie fantasy next.

Watch the 'Beastly' Trailer

'Beastly' opens in theaters nationwide Friday.

Follow Laura on Twitter@LauinLA.
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