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Yesteryear’s sleuth is still on the case

AT 77 years old, Nancy Drew just got her driver’s license. Well, to be fair, the teen detective character was created 77 years ago by Edward Stratemeyer, but the actress playing the big-screen incarnation of the girl with the uncanny smarts and knack for solving mysteries this summer just got her license.

Based on the nearly 8-decades-old mystery series, the new movie, directed by Andrew Fleming and produced by Jerry Weintraub, is infused with a contemporary teen sensibility more recently seen in “Mean Girls” and “Legally Blonde,” with their prominent pinks, plaids and purples. The new Nancy Drew, played by Emma Roberts, also has hot wheels; she tools around town with her pals in a robin’s-egg blue Nash Metropolitan, which Roberts described as “basically, a bathtub on wheels.”

“That’s one of the things that’s so great about the script. We didn’t update Nancy, we updated her surroundings, the people and the places,” Roberts said. “We wanted to see how Nancy Drew would react to modern-day Los Angeles.”

In her first big-screen appearance since 1939, Warner Bros. Pictures’ 2007 girl sleuth is still a brunet everygirl, in a prim headband, twin sets and sensible shoes. She leaves her mythic American home in River Heights, U.S.A., to solve a murder mystery in Tinsletown, where she enrolls at Hollywood High and has to tangle with a daunting pack of L.A.'s self-absorbed mean girls.

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The star could as easily have played one of the movie’s popular local girls. Herself the child of Hollywood royalty (niece of Julia, daughter of Eric), Roberts recently celebrated her Sweet 16 with 90 of her closest friends at the trendy L.A. hotspot Social Hollywood and just got her driver’s license.

Even before she had read the script for “Nancy Drew,” which opens June 15, Roberts asked her manager to pursue the part for her while she was still starring as confident tween Addie Singer in the hit Nickelodeon comedy series “Unfabulous.” Roberts said that Nancy Drew was “the perfect next role to play” and working on a regular series versus plying her craft on a film set was a very different experience.

“Working in TV is just the same thing, every day. It’s pretty easy,” she said. “Carrying a movie is much more complicated.”

Among the complications on “Nancy Drew,” besides the indignity of being pulled around in her cute picture car behind a trailer, was the humiliation of having to watch someone else do her stunts, thanks to an overly protective crew, the actress said.

“Every time I attempted to try my own stunts, everyone was like, ‘No. No. You’re not doing that,’ ” she said. “I didn’t do any of my own stunts, and I’ll admit it. The most stunt-y thing I did was dive onto a mat when a bomb exploded. Nothing too crazy-crazy.”

She’ll soon have a lot more chances to try it again.

In addition to prepping for a sequel to “Nancy Drew,” Roberts will appear in “Rodeo Girl,” in which she’ll play an equestrian who falls for a rodeo cowboy, and she has just signed up for “Wild Child,” a Universal Pictures comedy that will tweak her new squeaky-clean image. She’ll switch sides and play a spoiled Malibu mean girl who gets shipped off to an all-girls English boarding school.

-- Sheigh Crabtree

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