Hilary Duff has touched the lives of young men and women across the world. Duff was the face of “Lizzie McGuire,” the first major Disney Channel television program to make an impact on mainstream culture. It was also a show that became the stepping stone and future template for many Disney projects that followed like “Hannah Montana” and “Good Luck Charlie.” The former Disney star and multi-hyphenate businesswoman took a few years off from her career to be a mother and live a normal life. Duff’s work was scattered with few projects in the last few years. But after five long years, Hilary Duff is officially ready to make her music comeback.
Our very own Josh LeClair, one of the four page runners for Hilary News, scored the first candid interview of Hilary Duff’s career. The interview offers answers to her fans on the past, the present, and the future.
J: What inspired you to return to the studio and what do you hope to accomplish?
H: I think it was just taking such a big break. I wrote a bunch of books. I wasn’t doing much. I met Mike so we were traveling a lot. I wanted to just take a break. I felt like I was tired and not enjoying what I was doing after working so hard and touring for so long. I didn’t have much of a personal life. It was such a crucial time to grow and figure out who you are. I was kind of – not told who I was, cause I knew who I was. But I was stuck a little bit because everyone had this preconceived image of who I was, and it was who I was, but I felt like I wasn’t able to grow or change at all. So taking that break, I started writing because I always need some kind of creative outlet and even though I love those books, it took me writing them to realize that that’s not really where my passion was. I got pregnant and I was really excited about that.
J: And you had your little boy, he’s so adorable.
H: He is my everything. He’s the sweetest little guy. He’s such a good, pure spirit. It’s just amazing to be with him every day. But I don’t want to just be a mom. I have so much more inside of me. So I started writing while I was pregnant and even recording a little bit, but nothing I was too excited about. It was just spiritually amazing getting into that groove again – of writing and finding my confidence and stuff. It had been five years and I’m still in that process. Then once I had him (Luca) I thought I was going to want to get back into the studio again and it didn’t work out that way. I was just really happy being a mom and enjoying my time with him. Then I think when he was at 12 months it felt good enough for me to be away for a little bit and still feel like myself again. And I think seeing that outpour of attention from my fans like “When are we going to get new music back?” or “When are you coming back with music?” and it being so freakin’ persistent, it sparked that side of me that was like “people want to see me again.”
J: But then it’s got to be hard, going on tour again.
H: I’m going to be able to figure that part out. I don’t think I’ll ever do a tour again where it’s 6 months. I’m going to have to schedule it a little smarter than that. Maybe do two-week runs then go home for a week. Maybe I’ll have him (Luca) for a week on the road, but he’s going to start pre-school soon. I’m just going to have to learn that I’m lucky to be able to have the time with him and not have a 9-to-5 job where I’m gone all day, every day, but I might have a week where I’m in LA, and then two weeks when I’m not at home. Honestly it feels so good now that I’ve written about 7 to 8 songs, I just feel like I’m on the direction. I finally feel like I’ve really thought about it.
J: If you could go back and release a song as a single from each of your past albums what would they be?
H: Oh my gosh I don’t even remember which songs are on which (album). You know what song I love and I always sing to Luca is – and I don’t remember which album it was on, maybe the second – but it is “Shine.” I love that song. But now if I release it, I don’t think anyone would care, but back then music was in a different place and I really love that song. I love the song “Happy” on Dignity. I think that would have been a fun single, just because it really was talking to what I was going through at the time. Then like really early on? I have no idea. Off of Metamorphosis, I don’t even…
J: “Party Up”?
J: “Workin’ It Out”?
H: Oooo “Workin’ It Out” huh.
H: You know what? I actually did like that song. That would have been cool.
J: It really spoke for the whole album.
H: It was tough back then when I was just starting out, I didn’t really have control over what I was singing. I wasn’t writing yet. I wasn’t able to shoot some of the songs that I thought would make a great single. Music has changed a little bit now and artists have a lot more control.
J: During your hiatus from music, what was the most important thing you learned about yourself and how will you incorporate that this era?
H: I kind of touched on this before, but when you are so busy, you have your whole day planned out for you, every day, and it’s all about work. It’s hard to really start figuring out “this is what I want”. Your vision gets cloudy. Like, what do you like to do? Who do you like to hang out with? What do you really thrive on? What makes you happy? I think at one point I was just feeling pretty lost. I had to just shut it all down. When my tour was over, I fired my manager. I was done with my label; I didn’t owe them anything else. I shut down my whole clothing line. I just shut it all down. And it was all really successful, so people were shocked. I just needed a breath. I needed space. I think in that time, I realized how to take care of myself, because there was so many people taking care of me. I learned to live alone. I learned that I loved cooking. I remodeled the house. I learned that I love interior design. And I had to cut out a bunch of friends that I realized weren’t good for me. I found my own group and it was a small one. But it’s people that I really, truly, care about and that care about me. It was just an all around cleanse. I learned how to be strong. I learned how to stand up for myself. Even to some of the closest people near me. It was a really empowering thing. It was also a really sad and hard time too, because I felt so alone at certain points. I had gone through a breakup that was pretty bad, and I think I started to be okay with myself and that’s a big step. A big step that I think a lot of kids go through naturally when they go to college is the separation from their parents, from your comfort life, where you grew up and so on. I kind of had to figure that out in my own way.
J: I’m not sure if you are allowed to say anything and I know you like keeping secrets, but are you signed to a new label?
H: I’m not. No. I’m not. I’m still taking meetings and there’s some exciting potential. I will be signed to a label. A lot of people thought that I wanted to do it on my own, but I think that they (labels) bring a lot of important things to the table. But I don’t need one right now. I’m still in the studio working with all of the people that I want to working with, without a label. I’m playing my music for the few labels that I’m talking to. They’re excited about it, but I’m just trying to play my cards right. I’m still writing and I’m still recording, and I’m still taking songs that I love. There are some songs on the record that I recorded, that I didn’t write, but I did some of them as demos. So I’m not like a snob where I have to write them all. So I’m still in that process and I still think it could be better. Towards the end, I’ll turn my record in and then get all their notes and maybe fix some things, and sign.
J: So it’ll be a little bit before we start getting some news when you sign?
H: I mean, you guys will hear about it. I’m sure it’ll be big news. I hope to have a single by late spring.
J: That’s really exciting
H: I know! I’m so excited I don’t know which one it’s going to be yet. They (the label) always have influence on that but yeah.
J: Now we’re going to move on to acting.
H: Not much going on there.
J: After doing a string of mainstream movies, you did a handful of independent movies, what movie out of that group means the most to you, what did you learn from working with Oscar winners Ellen Burstyn and Melissa Leo and then also John Cusack?
H: I love all the mainstream movies, they means so much to so many people. People will come up to me and say “A Cinderella Story is my favorite thing ever”, or Raise Your Voice, or whichever one. Every time that The Perfect Man comes on TV, my sister says “The Perfect Man is on, I’m crying right now!”
J: That’s so sweet.
H: Yeah, she is so, so sweet.
J: I watch it every time it comes on, any time your movies come on…
H: I think my movies are nostalgic for people, they feel like little kids in their heart because at the time it meant a lot to them. After that (the mainstream movies), I felt totally typecast and I still feel that way. I have to audition for stuff all the time and I get amazing feedback or I will get to the very end and they are just like “No, she is not the right look.” I know half of it is because of my name that is holding me back. It’s not fair and it is really tough but it’s not making me give up. It has to be the right person that wants to give me a shot or the right project, or the right place at the right time.
J: You are determined.
H: You know I am! I got that fight! It does bum me out sometimes but I am sure that every well-known actor deals with that sometimes. I just have to be in love with what I have. That was the reason I was doing a lot of those independent movies where sometimes on set it was torture – there is nothing to eat, you’re not being paid anything, it’s really long extensive hours. A lot of those are really fun. When I did War, Inc. with John, he called me up on the phone and said “I want you for this movie. I have never met you before, but, I think you would be perfect. I think you would kill this role, I heard you do really good accents.”
J: You must have been so happy.
H: I couldn’t believe it. My agent called me up and said “John Cusack wants you.” I said, “What?” He literally called me up on the phone and it was the coolest, coolest thing and it was one of the best experiences that I have ever had, to be able to play as an actor and really get that time to be able to really get it right. Working with Melissa Leo (who played Hilary’s mom in According to Greta), who is now really on top of her game, she is such a great actress. I feel lucky for all of those experiences. Greta was the first time I went and did a movie on my own and I was living there by myself, that movie holds a special place in my heart, I think like nine people saw that movie.
J: All of your fans love that movie and wish that more people would have seen it.
H: Sometimes what happens with the independent movies is that the production company doesn’t have the money to promote it or they don’t have the finances behind them to be able to really do the promotion or whatever it is. So, it’s out of your control sometimes.
J: What are your thoughts on horror film and thriller films? Would you ever be able to shoot one?
H: Totally, I would. I am terrified; I’m never able to watch scary movies. Mike is terrified too; I think the last scary movie he saw was The Sixth Sense, he is so scared, he says “I don’t want to watch people and ghosts and The Poltergeist.”
J: I am all for that, I love being scared.
H: It freaks me out and I watch all those scary TV shows, so I don’t understand why the horror stuff I just cannot handle. I would totally film something like that and I actually read a lot of scripts. There was potential for me to do one last year, but there is such a fine line between it being cheesy bad and being really legit scary and a well written project. I haven’t found the right one to do. But, I would totally do it.
J: Most of your earlier films are tween/teen classics but they also brought about a negative perception of you from the critics. Your indie films weren’t loved either, but you, as an actress, were critically praised in all of them. If you could go back in time and you had a choice, would you rethink the films from your teen years?
H: No, I would not, because everything in my career has been a growing experience and I don’t really care what the critics think. Well, I do care. When, my album comes out obviously I am going to care what they say. But not when I was younger and I had some middle aged person saying something about teen movies that I am in. All of them were pretty successful, which means that the people going to see them were probably my age and enjoyed them and that’s who they are for. So, I appreciate that in the independent films that I did people could see that I actually can act and that I have talent. But, I wouldn’t change it; I don’t think you are supposed to change your past; it’s for us to grow up on. If I ever get down on not getting that film role that I wanted because of my past, I have to figure out all of the things that I am grateful for and I am going to be able to fight through it and get what I want. I still feel so young. I think those teen movies are the reason that I don’t get the movies I want now but I know what they meant to people so I have them to be thankful for. That was one of the things that I learned during my big five year hiatus is not being embarrassed of my past and where I came from. I have to say that wanting people to see me as an adult and grown up took so much work. But, it is all about letting go and being happy about where I come from.
J: Speaking of the mainstream movies, were you offered roles in the past few years, but just weren’t really interested in the part?
H: Yeah, a lot of it I just felt was a step backwards; I only want to go forward. I hope this doesn’t come off in the wrong way, I feel very lucky and very blessed to not have to work. Sometimes, it is a game of “Is this the right thing?” Also, do I want to take time out of my life away from Luca to do this movie? Everything has to be plotted and planned out, as much as that sucks sometimes. You have a bunch of people with opinions about something. An agent might want you to do it, a manager might not want you to do it, or I’m on the fence. There are a lot of factors.
J: You took a break from doing mainstream movies for a while and appeared in a handful of independent movies, out of all the indie movies you have starred in, which one means the most to you?
H: It’s a tight tie between War, Inc. and Greta. Because War, Inc. was the first time I felt like I worked with heavy hitters and it was so different. In Bulgaria, nobody speaks English, it was like this weird dream, it was in the middle of winter and it was so foggy for days, you couldn’t go outside because you couldn’t see. It was like this weird dream that I was working with all of these cool people and they said “So, we need you to dye your hair black and we are going to do it now.” I just had to give into it and I knew it was going to be a good opportunity for me, so I would say that I found a lot of strength there and I am proud of my work. Greta was just an angsty thing that I thought my fans would love. I did this thing in the movie where I walked really funny. Greta is definitely a side of me, so it was fun to tap into that, because normally I am not that angry. But I definitely have that side of me, so tapping into that was really fun.
J: It’s just like me, I don’t get angry really easily.
H: Yeah I don’t either. I snapped on a paparazzi the other day. It was bad
J: They are terrible.
H: They are. I don’t enjoy that part of it at all but some of them are nicer than others and honestly I don’t know them, but I know their faces, because they are the same ones that follow me every day. I try to be polite, but I’m not always smiling because they are always freaking there. One of them that I hadn’t seen before – I think he was some Russian guy, he was such a jerk – just getting way too close to me and overstepping his boundaries and I just went off. Mama bear came out, and then I turn around and someone was filming it. I don’t like to lose it like that, it takes a lot for me to really get pushed there but I’m sure that people understand.
J: Have you thought about potentially bringing Luca on the road with you?
H: I mean, I can’t imagine not being with him, I think the longest I have been away was three days without him. I think it’s healthy to get away, have a little bit of separation and some Hilary time. I miss him so much, he is such a part of me. I’m a little worried about that, but I want to be on tour. I miss being on stage, I miss having that feeling. It meant so much to me, It means so much to me being able to reach people and to see them. I think he will be okay on the road, other people do it and have made it work. I’m not concerned. I’m sure we will have a bus with some of the things he needs and I’m sure it will be fun for him. He’s about to start a toddler program at pre-school and next year will be kindergarten. I’m a little nervous. When he’s done I feel like I’ll be able to pull him out of school for two weeks at a time and come back and make it work. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’m sure it will be fun for him, he’s already traveled a lot with us. When he gets into a hotel room he’s like “New place! New place! What can I get into?”
J: Is there anything you wanted to say to your fans?
H: Oh my gosh, When you take such a big break like I did, you’re like “Does anyone care about me anymore?”. You feel that way. Actors and singers and performers… they’re kind of like dogs. They want to know they are doing a good job, they want the praise. Not in a excessive way, but I’ll still do an interview and be like “was that okay, did I say everything I needed to say?”. It makes me nervous coming back, “does anybody care anymore? Is there any point in me doing this?”. I think that seeing the stuff that the fans write about me on my Twitter page, or running into someone on the street asking “When are you doing new music? We’re waiting, we’re waiting”. It means the world to me for them to have stuck it out this long and still care and still support me, and the kind words that they say about me and the love that they show, that I get to feel, means everything to me and I am so grateful that they’re around. They have given me so many wonderful experiences and make my heart feel so big. I appreciate each and every one of them. I’m excited to give them my music and I hope it’s everything they want.