Miley Cyrus' mom safeguards her career

Tue Oct 27, 2009 11:12pm EDT
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By Frank Swertlow

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - When Miley Cyrus wanted to shift from the tween roles that have defined her career, her mother and co-manager started at the top.

Rather than look for a pre-existing script, Tish Cyrus contacted bestselling author Nicholas Sparks ("The Notebook") and asked him to write something specifically for her daughter.

"Sparks is an amazing, faith-based writer and a Christian and he writes about relationships with a family and there is nothing about sex or things I felt were wrong for her," she explains.

Cyrus, 16, met with the writer to flesh out her character; she disclosed elements from her own life -- like her love for animals -- that Sparks incorporated in his work, which started as a screenplay and only later became "The Last Song," a best-selling novel. The movie version, with Cyrus, opens in April.

"This film is like taking that first baby step away from 'Hannah Montana,'" Tish Cyrus notes. "It's just a baby step, but she's doing something different."

Doing something different is one of many perfect moves the Cyrus team has made in building her career. Taken together, they're a textbook case on how to develop a young performer.

While few young actors can hope to emulate Cyrus' success, the 5,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild who are younger than 18 will face many of the same decisions that affect whether they succeed or fail.

Speak to agents, managers, producers and studio executives and they will tell you several key elements go into crafting a young actor's career: picking the right team; handling money astutely; maintaining an education trajectory; and diversifying away from roles that too narrowly define the performer.   Continued...

<p>Singer Miley Cyrus, one of the featured Divas, arrives for the VH1 Divas show in New York September 17, 2009. REUTERS/Chip East</p>