EXCLUSIVE: Grace VanderWaal, who at 12 years old won American’s Got Talent two years ago playing the ukulele and singing her original songs, has beat out 700 other girls to take the lead in Disney’s Stargirl — one of the first original films that will go through the company’s new streaming platform. VanderWaal, who is supporting her new single “Clearly” by opening for the band Imagine Dragons’s Evolve tour today, once again stole the director and producer’s hearts.
VanderWaal is making her acting debut with this film which is being directed by Julia Hart who just finished polishing the script with her partner Jordan Horowitz from the screen adaptation by Kristin Hahn.
“I knew she was Stargirl almost immediately,” said Hart. “The world knows what a talented performer she is, and I cannot wait for everyone to see just how many sides there are to this special and magical young woman.” Hart is pretty good at spotting talent, first discovering actor Timothée Chalamet and cast him in his first starring role in her debut film Miss Stevens. (Horowitz and Hart’s latest film Fast Color, which she also directed, had it’s world premiere at SXSW).
Producing Stargirl is The Gotham Group’s Ellen Goldsmith-Vein and Lee Stollman in association with Hahn’s Hahnscape Entertainment. Horowitz is the executive producer. The movie will shoot in Albuquerque and in parts of Arizona with principal photography starting Sept 24.
The young adult novel Stargirl from author Jerry Spinelli flew off shelves when President Obama was spotting buying the book from a Washington D.C. bookstore for his girls in 2015. The book has a Jonathan Livingston Seagull philosophy of non-conformity and following your own path and style. Coincidentally (or maybe not), one of Stargirl’s personality traits is that she sings Happy Birthday to kids at her school on her ukulele.
The casting of VanderWaal is kind of a brilliant move. After rising to fame on America’s Got Talent, the little girl with the unique voice he had the top selling EP of 2016 with her debut “Perfectly Imperfect” and released her debut album Just the Beginning a year later while embarking on her first ever sold-out headline tour of the same name.
The Disney-branded DTC service is launching in the latter part of 2019, streaming the latest Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars feature films. Deadline broke the story exclusively about the studio’s plans for the streaming platform. Disney plans to produce four to five feature films a year exclusively for the service as well as a number of original series — including a series based on Pixar’s Monsters franchise, a High School Musical series, and a series from Marvel Television. Recently announced was some big news: that director/producer Jon Favreau will executive produce and write a live-action Star Wars series. Doesn’t get any better than that.
Over the past year, Disney seemingly has also had their eye on the little girl as VanderWaal won the Radio Disney Music Award for The Freshest/Best New Artist. She also won the Teen Choice Award for Choice Next Big Thing. She was honored with the Rising Star award at the 2017 Billboard Women in Music ceremony. And Simon Cowell called her “the next Taylor Swift.”
VanderWaal is repped by WME. This is her first performance on NBC’s America’s Got Talent broadcast: