You don't have to be a gum-slapping, mall-frequenting, Efron-obsessed tween to know who Vanessa Hudgens is. Her stint as Gabriella in the monstrously popular 'High School Musical' franchise catapulted her to worldwide fame, complete with incessant media coverage and a dreamy superstar boyfriend -- Zac Efron. But class has officially ended and with the new film 'Bandslam' (opening Aug. 15), and two others -- that we know of -- in the works, Hudgens is more than ready to, as she puts it, "grow up."

In 'Bandslam,' Hudgens is Sa5m (the 5 is silent) a snarky bookworm who falls for fellow outcast Will (newcomer Gaelan Connell). We sat down for a chat with the pint-sized actress and dished on what it was like kissing her 'Bandslam' co-star, whether she'd prefer an Oscar or a Grammy ... and what she has to say to the pesky celebrity press. You don't have to be a gum-slapping, mall-frequenting, Efron-obsessed tween to know who Vanessa Hudgens is. Her stint as Gabriella in the monstrously popular 'High School Musical' franchise catapulted her to worldwide fame, complete with incessant media coverage and a dreamy superstar boyfriend -- Zac Efron. But class has officially ended and with the new film 'Bandslam' (opening Aug. 15), and two others -- that we know of -- in the works, Hudgens is more than ready to, as she puts it, "grow up."

In 'Bandslam,' Hudgens is Sa5m (the 5 is silent) a snarky bookworm who falls for fellow outcast Will (newcomer Gaelan Connell). We sat down for a chat with the pint-sized actress and dished on what it was like kissing her 'Bandslam' co-star, whether she'd prefer an Oscar or a Grammy ... and what she has to say to the pesky celebrity press. -- By Alicia Roda

Your character in 'Bandslam,' Sa5m, is a loner and extremely different from the bubbly Gabriella of the 'HSM' movies. What did you do to prepare for this role?
I wanted to find the deadpan aspect of it, so, because I'm a singer I pick up sounds really quick, so I just kind of found a place in my voice that was a little bit lower and just kind of stuck with it.

One of the funniest scenes in 'Bandslam' is the first kiss between Sa5m and Will. Was that an awkward scene for you guys to shoot?
[Laughs] The kissing with Gaelan was awesome. I loved the scene. I thought it was so funny. It was very choreographed and, yeah, it was very fun. I'm happy with the way it turned out.


'Bandslam' showtimes & tickets | Watch an exclusive 'Bandslam' clip

You have a new house in L.A. -- do you enjoy living there?
I just moved in ... I have my own space, and I love my house so much. You know, it's just everything happens in L.A. It may not necessarily be my favorite place; I love just being able to get away from everything from the business when I'm not working, and L.A. doesn't really provide that. But, right now, I mean, I'm just starting out in my career, so I have to be where the action is.

With the paparazzi and everything going on in your life, do you have any hobbies that give you a sense of control or escape?
Probably photography; I think it's a lot of fun ... savoring the moment. I get to go to all these beautiful places, so it's nice being able to take pictures of it.

Of all the places you've filmed, what was your favorite, and where do you hope to film one day?
Well, when I did my first big movie, 'Thunderbirds,' we got to shoot on the Seychelles Island, so I was basically on vacation for three weeks even though it was work. But it was my first time being anywhere tropical and to go to the Seychelles as the first, I got extremely spoiled. I want to go to Morocco really bad. I'm extremely inspired by their style and I would just love to go and experience that, and India, [also] South Africa.

If you could perform with any band past or present, who would it be?
Probably Janis Joplin [Big Brother and the Holding Company]. I just love her, I think she was so talented, and she was just phenomenal. She had a great sound, and her band was great. I think that she was awesome.

You've released two studio albums so far. If you could pick, would you rather win an Oscar or a Grammy?
An Oscar, for sure. I feel like acting is something I've been working towards longer. And it would be great to win a Grammy, of course, but for some reason, an Oscar speaks more to me.

You sing and dance at this year's Oscars, and a few years back you performed for President George W. Bush at the White House, how was that?
It was great. I wish it was for Obama -- that would've been so much better [laughs]. It was nerve-wracking, I was singing 'Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire' and staring at Bush. It was weird; it was odd, I was like, "Why am I singing Christmas songs to the President?" But it was an honor ... It was very surreal.

You've said that fashion is one of your interests, so how was it working with fellow fashion junkie Mary-Kate Olsen in 'Beastly'? Has she influenced your fashion at all?
We had a great time. She's a really cool girl. We went vintage shopping, we hung out and went grocery shopping [laughs]. I mean it was mostly work, but we hung out on set. She always has [influenced my style]. She takes these crazy risks and she has her own style and doesn't really care what anyone else thinks ... she's awesome.

Who are your fashion inspirations?
I mean, like I said, Mary Kate, I think, is pretty awesome for taking risks. Victoria Beckham -- I just love people that take risks and do their own thing because I feel like when it comes to fashion I have my own style, I don't really look to certain people necessarily. I'm just kind of all over the place. I love just stylistic things. I love, like, bohemian, and then rocker-ish and then like more tribal; it just depends on the day.

Do you think you'll ever star in a romantic comedy?
I love Cameron Diaz, and I love Drew Barrymore. I think that a romantic comedy is definitely something I want to do in the near future, but it's just finding the right thing.

You'll be working with director Zack Snyder ('300,' 'Watchmen') on the thriller 'Sucker Punch' soon -- is there anything you can tell us about that?
I haven't even started yet, because I'm working on 'Beastly' right now, but I'm very excited. I'm such a big fan of Zack's. It's just so exciting, I just can't wait to kick butt and grow up a little bit.

Will there be any training before you start?
Oh, yeah. The girls [Jamie Chung, Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish] are actually already there right now, so they have a head start on me. I start training next month as soon as I finish 'Beastly,' and I'm stoked.

What's your response to all of the misconceptions that celebrity bloggers like Perez Hilton have of you?
[Laughs] I think I'm a cool girl. But now because I'm saying that they're going to say I'm conceited, see? That's just the way it is [laughs]. I don't know, I think I'm a very laid back, go-with-the-flow person. At the same time I'm passionate about what I do, so I have strong feelings towards that, but, yeah, I'm totally chill.

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