Actress and singer
Born Hilary Ann Lisa Duff, September 28, 1987, in Houston, TX; daughter of Bob (a retail executive) and Susan (a business manager) Duff.
Office —c/o Boo Management and Consulting, 10061 Riverside Dr., Ste. 1061, Toluca Lake, CA 91602.
Appeared in a BalletMet Columbus tour of The Nutcracker, c. 1993; cast in television commercials. Film appearances include: True Women (uncredited), 1997; Casper Meets Wendy, 1998; Human Nature, 2001; Agent Cody Banks, 2003; The Lizzie McGuire Movie, 2003; Cheaper by the Dozen, 2003; A Cinderella Story, 2004; Raise Your Voice, 2004; The Perfect Man, 2004; Outward Blonde, 2005. Television appearances include: The Soul Collector (movie), 1999; Chicago Hope, 2000; Lizzie McGuire, 2001–03; Cadet Kelly (movie), 2002; George Lopez, 2003; American Dreams, 2003; Frasier (voice), 2004. Launched singing career with "Santa Clause Lane," included on the soundtrack to The Santa Clause 2, 2002, and on her own Christmas album Santa Claus Lane, 2002; released Metamorphosis, 2003; released single "So Yesterday," 2003; released single "Come Clean," 2004; contributed to A Cinderella Story soundtrack, 2004.
Hilary Duff became a household name and a worldwide phenomenon thanks to her starring role in the hit Disney series Lizzie McGuire. With her
Duff was suddenly dubbed the new "tween queen" in the media, a superstar for a generation of pre–teens whose age group had now grown to include ten–year–olds. This new "tween" category was a marketing phenomenon that took off with Duff and her cohorts around 2002. But as Newsweek 's Kate Stroup noted, the Texas teen was a cut above. "Duff, who's got a giddy charm and unexpected vulnerability in person, has established herself as the best actress of her generation," Stroup asserted, "easily outclassing the Olsen twins and Nickelodeon's Amanda Bynes."
Duff was born on September 28, 1987, and grew up in Boerne, Texas, a part of the state known as Hill Country. She was close to her older sister, Haylie, who was two years her senior, and took gymnastics and ballet lessons from an early age. She eventually won a part in The Nutcracker with BalletMet Columbus in the Ohio company's tour of the Christmas-time classic. Their mother, Susan, who had once worked as a makeup artist, decided to take the girls to Los Angeles, California, to try their luck in television commercials. Right away, they landed jobs. "We were like, 'This is so easy!'" Duff recalled when Taylor Hanson spoke with her for an Interview article. "Then we went back to Texas and came back to L.A. for the next pilot season. We thought that would be easy, too, but you audition and audition, and you don't get anything."
On that second trip to Los Angeles in 1996, Duff's mother had decided to resettle there in order to be closer to the entertainment business. Their father, Bob, was a partner in a chain of convenience stores back in Texas, and agreed to the plan, with visits from him every three weeks. The Duff women headed to Hollywood in a car with all their belongings, which included a pair of goldfish, a hermit crab, gerbil, and rabbit. Both Duff and her sister won parts in a television miniseries, True Women, in 1997, and Duff also appeared in a movie that went straight to video, Casper Meets Wendy.
A rough patch followed, and Duff did not work for almost two years. "Some kids have success too quickly, and they take it for granted, but it definitely didn't come too fast for us," she reflected in an article that Texas Monthly invited her to write. She appeared in the pilot episode of an NBC sitcom, Daddio, but the show's producers replaced her when casting the regular series, which did not last anyway. After that, she won a guest role on a Chicago Hope episode that aired in March of 2000, but was beginning to feel disillusioned by the search for work. "I was, like, wanting to quit," she recalled in an interview with Entertainment Weekly journalist Tim Carvell, "and I had one audition left, and it was Lizzie McGuire. "
Duff actually auditioned for the Disney show four separate times, as the network's entertainment–division president Rich Ross told Stroup in the Newsweek article. "She wasn't doing anything wrong," Ross said of the multiple auditions. "She just wore such great outfits, and we wanted to see what she'd come in with next." Clearly, Duff had a natural star quality, and Ross and his colleagues decided she was a perfect fit in the role of a normal middle–school student with an amusing animated alter ego. Lizzie McGuire debuted in January of 2001, and quickly garnered a huge following among younger viewers for its lighthearted look at the ups and downs in the life of a klutzy middle–schooler.
With plots revolving around Lizzie's adventures at home and at school, and helped out by her two best friends, Gordo and Miranda, the show was a hit with critics and even older viewers, too. Many of the storylines "typically prey upon Lizzie's insecurities, which are more about what she wants to do when she grows up than about the size of her tummy, or crushes on boys," the New York Times ' Hillary Frey reflected. "In one episode Lizzie, who has quit many an extracurricular activity, worries that she isn't as talented as" Gordo, a wannabe film-maker, and Miranda, a violin prodigy. "In stark contrast to the contrivances of prime–time teenage dramas," Frey continued, "Lizzie's problems are plausible, her character believable. This is key: Lizzie is the luminous and loyal friend any kid would want to have at a stage of adolescence when the world just begins to seem very dark."
More than one television critic and celebrity confessed to being a fan of Lizzie McGuire. "Lizzie's fizzy middle–school misadventures, like buying a bra and scoring a first kiss, are always sweet, never syrupy—making the show palatable for parents and even twentysomethings," declared Stroup in Newsweek. Carvell, writing in Entertainment Weekly, noted that Duff's hit show "amounts to Ally McBeal with longer skirts and homework: Lizzie negotiates all the crises of middle school, while her cartoon alter ego supplies fantasy sequences and wry commentary." Duff herself explained Lizzie's particular appeal. "She doesn't exactly fit in at school," the actress reflected in an interview with Time 's Richard Corliss. "Even though she's cool, and she dresses cool, she doesn't know who she is yet."
Lizzie McGuire became the Disney Channel's highest–rated program, and also the highest–rated program on basic cable in its 7:30 p.m. time slot. The Disney marketing machine went into overdrive, merchandising tie–in material that included a series of Lizzie McGuire novels, a clothing line, and then a big–screen version. That was slated for a spring release in 2003, and Duff's status as the new "Tween Queen" was cemented by a Vanity Fair cover for its annual Hollywood issue. Though The Lizzie McGuire Movie was savaged by many critics, it took in $17.3 million on its opening weekend, a testament to the legions of Duff/McGuire fans. Its plot began with the end of her middle–school career for McGuire, and an exciting summer class trip to Rome, where Lizzie becomes involved with a handsome Italian teen pop star named Paolo (Yani Gellman).
Disney also owned the ABC network, and had planned to move Duff into prime–time on the broadcast network with a new series that would feature Lizzie as a high–schooler. There were, however, reportedly two other broadcast networks vying for a chance to give Duff her own prime–time sitcom, and Duff's mother, who served as her business manager, was reportedly unhappy with Disney's offer for a big–screen sequel. There was further rancor involving an alleged $500,000 bonus Disney had promised when The Lizzie McGuire Movie had earned $50 million at the box office. "Disney thought they'd be able to bully us into accepting whatever offer they wanted to make, and they couldn't," Susan Duff told Entertainment Weekly writer Allison Hope Weiner. "We walked away from a sequel. They walked away from a franchise."
Duff was already a feature–film veteran by then, with a role in another tween hit, Agent Cody Banks with Frankie Muniz, and signed to a $2 million paycheck for the lead in A Cinderella Story. She had also segued into a recording career, with a CD, Metamorphosis, on Buena Vista/Hollywood Records—also owned by Disney but part of a separate contract from her film and television work. Her debut record of pop tunes went platinum weeks after its release in August of 2003, yet further evidence of Duff's ongoing appeal to her vast Lizzie McGuire audience. Her move to pop stardom was somewhat unexpected, she told Billboard writer Craig Rosen, but certainly not unwelcome. In 2001, she had taken part in a Radio Disney concert, and saw "all these pop acts backstage at the concert," Duff told Rosen. "They were all getting ready backstage and warming up, and I was like, 'I want to do this so bad.'"
Despite her thriving career in television and film, Duff's first actual singing appearance before a live audience was unnerving, she confessed. It came at the American Music Awards telecast in November of 2003, with several industry heavy–hitters, among them country superstar Faith Hill, sitting in the front row. "I was so nervous I thought I was going to throw up," she wrote in the article for Texas Monthly. But Duff then embarked on a concert tour to promote Metamorphosis, and the tour dates also served to boost her profile for her next project: her appearance in the Steve Martin family comedy Cheaper by the Dozen, which hit theaters in time for the holiday 2003 season.
Duff's career in television seemed to end with the 65–episode run of Lizzie McGuire. She was the object of a bidding war between networks in the fall of 2003, and walked away with a sitcom development deal with CBS. A few months later, however, the network announced that there would not be a new Duff series, after writers and producers failed to come up with a suitable project for the teen star.
Her career in Hollywood and on stage, meanwhile, continued at an exciting pace: in June of 2004, she and her sister, Haylie, released a single, the remake of the early 1980s Go–Go's classic, "Our Lips Are Sealed," which was slated to appear on A Cinderella Story 's soundtrack. The movie was set in California's San Fernando Valley, and starred Duff as Sam, a high–schooler whose father dies and leaves his restaurant to Sam's brutish stepmother, played by Jennifer Coolidge ( Legally Blonde, American Pie ). Sam is overworked at home and at the restaurant, and ignored at school, until she begins receiving mysterious text messages from the cute boy at school, played by Chad Michael Murray ( Freaky Friday, The Gilmore Girls ). Duff was also slated to appear in The Perfect Man, opposite Heather Locklear and Chris Noth, about a daughter determined to find a mate for her single mom.
As for herself, Duff has had a difficult time dating with such a high public profile. The press avidly chronicled the perceived ups and downs of her relationship with pop singer Aaron Carter for most of 2003. Despite the multimillion–dollar contracts and endless business meetings, she remains very much a teenager. She travels with a tutor, who assigns typical high–school homework for her to complete, and for months she told reporters that she could only think about turning 16 and being able to get her driver's license. Nor is she immune to standard bouts of freak–out. "I think I have about two really good cries a year about being so overwhelmed and having so much stress," she confessed to CosmoGirl! writer Lori Berger. "Sometimes you don't even know what you're crying about because you've held it inside for so long."
"Santa Clause Lane," The Santa Clause 2 (soundtrack), Disney, 2002.
Santa Claus Lane, Disney, 2002.
Metamorphosis, Buena Vista, 2003.
"So Yesterday" (single), Festival, 2003.
"Come Clean" (single), Festival, 2004.
(Contributor) A Cinderella Story (soundtrack), Hollywood, 2004.
Billboard, January 31, 2004, p. 10; June 5, 2004, p. 32.
Billboard Bulletin, September 11, 2003, p. 1.
CosmoGirl!, March 2004, p. 126.
Daily Variety, May 2, 2003, p. 8; March 22, 2004, p. 7.
DSN Retailing Today, January 5, 2004, p. 2.
Entertainment Weekly, May 9, 2003, pp. 34–36; June 13, 2003, pp. 14–15.
Film Journal International, April 2003, p. 57.
Girls' Life, August–September 2003, p. 46.
Interview, February 2004, p. 122.
New Statesman, September 8, 2003, p. 46.
Newsweek, March 17, 2003, pp. 56–57.
New York Times, April 27, 2003, p. 13.
People, May 12, 2003, p. 37; May 19, 2003, pp. 83–84; April 5, 2004, p. 20.
Texas Monthly, April 2004, p. 80.
Time, April 14, 2003, pp. 76–79.
WWD, December 18, 2003, p. 2.
"Sizzlin' 16, 2003: Hilary Duff," E! Online, http:www.eonline.com/Features/Features/Sizzlin2003/Girls/index2.html (January 31, 2003).
— Carol Brennan