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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As a little girl Amanda Seyfried avoided reading old fables such as "Little Red Riding Hood" because they scared her, which seems ironic now.
On Friday, the 25-year-old embodies the little girl with the red hood and cloak in a film version, "Red Riding Hood," of the famous fairy tale. While she is no longer afraid of old stories with scary creatures, she is nervous about taking on an iconic role that is ingrained in western culture and has been written and rewritten hundreds of times.
"Carrying the cape, playing the iconic title role -- you do have a responsibility to wear it well," she told Reuters. "It's such an age-old story and so cemented in our childhood that it was scary to try to take that on."
In the fable, Red Riding Hood and her grandmother are gobbled up by a wolf before a hunter comes to their rescue.
The story had a frightful impact on Seyfried, the actress said, because her own grandma took care of her after school and Seyfried saw her almost every day of the week.
The movie updates that age-old tale with new fantasy and special effects. It is set in a medieval village whose people are haunted by a wolf that takes human form, but is a killer.
The villagers band together in a hunt and soon begin to suspect each other of being the wolf. As the man/wolf's body count gets higher, so does the villagers' panic and paranoia.
Red Riding Hood is a young girl named Valerie (Seyfried) who loves a woodcutter named Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) but is expected to marry another man, the wealthy Henry (Max Irons).
Complicating matters is that Valerie discovers she has a special connection to the wolf, and that its identity could be someone very close to her, perhaps even someone she loves.
"Red Riding Hood" was directed by Catherine Hardwicke, whose last film "Twilight" became a phenomenon that launched the billion-dollar movie franchise about teenage romance and vampires that is still going strong today.
Adding to Seyfried's trepidation about the part were feelings of intimidation about working with Hardwicke, given the success of the "Twilight" movies. But the film's producer, Leonardo DiCaprio, convinced Seyfried to take the role.
He also assured the actress that she and Hardwicke would be the perfect pair to build and expand upon on the fairy tale, which is now a coming-of-age story with supernatural elements.
"Red Riding Hood" marks Seyfried's first time playing the title character in a major studio film, but she is no stranger to success. In fact, getting to this point has been a slow and steady climb up Hollywood's ladder.
After making her debut feature film high school comedy "Mean Girls," opposite Lindsay Lohan, Seyfried was cast as a young girl who struggles with the polygamist lifestyle led by her father (Bill Paxton) on HBO's critical hit, "Big Love."
In between seasons of the TV show, Seyfried continued to work in movies and got a major boost when she was cast as Meryl Streep's daughter in musical "Mamma Mia!". That movie was a smash hit with more than $600 million at global box offices, and it earned Seyfried worldwide name recognition.
"It gave me an audience and opened up a whole other door...that's when I knew that movie was helping me get parts," Seyfried said.
Since then, she starred in two romances in 2010, "Letters to Juliet" ($80 million worldwide) and "Dear John," ($115 million). Now on the eve of "Red Riding Hood", the actress is bracing herself for one of the biggest jobs of her career -- playing a little girl in an updated version of an age old fable about a grandma, a hungry wolf and a dark forest.
"To be that fearless young female lead, that's scary to me because I don't see myself as fearless in real life," she said. "That's why I like to hide in these types of characters. This woman is good and strong."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte