While characters returning home to find themselves again are a staple in classic storytelling, “Hannah Montana The Movie” transcends the line between fiction and reality. In taking Miley Stewart and Hannah Montana back to Crowley Corners, Tennessee, the film transported Miley Cyrus, her father and co-stars back to the Cyruses’ real-life hometown, Nashville, giving the young actress a chance to be home again following her meteoric two-year rise to stardom.
“It’s super important to stay true to yourself and your family and stay in touch with who you are,” says Miley. “When audiences walk away from the movie, I hope they feel like they’ve been to my home. I hope they feel like they understand Nashville because Nashville is my everything. Nashville is who I am.”
With Tennessee being so much a part of the Hannah Montana story—and the Cyrus’ family roots—filming on location there became essential. In fact, Tennessee, like Los Angeles, soon became a character in the film, representing Miley and Hannah’s both real and fictional roots.
For Billy Ray, having the chance to return to Tennessee to shoot the film and be at the family’s farm, where Miley lived until age 13, was truly having the best of both worlds. “In the evenings, after work, she’s out climbing trees, riding horses, she’s that little girl again. She’s Miley,” he says.
Watching and working with his talented daughter is a remarkable experience for Billy Ray. “I’m so proud of her, not only as a daddy in her personal life, but as a musician to see the kinds of songs she writes,” he says. “Then, as an actress to see her evolve from a Lucille Ball-inspired comedienne to a role with some real depth is amazing. I think she brings inspiration to a lot of kids out there to follow your dreams, to pursue what you love and never give up.”
For all the confidence she inspires in others, Miley admits she was nervous about the film role and grateful she’d had the opportunity to develop these characters over time on a series.
“What’s been really cool in making the movie is to already understand the characters because of the television show. I was scared out of my mind for half the movie. Making a film is like learning the ropes all over again,” says Miley. “Director Peter Chelsom would say, ‘OK, I believed that,’ and I thought, ‘What does that mean?’ Soon, I understood. Our television show can be a little more unrealistic because it’s supposed to be crazy and fun, that’s part of a kid sitcom. But a movie is different. Peter was always saying, ‘Make it small, very little, you don’t have to do much at all.’”