Britt Robertson does not want to hear that she's the Next Big Thing.
"Do you know how many times people have said that about me?" the actress said on a recent afternoon at a cafe near her home in Toluca Lake. She let the question hang in the air a moment, then answered, deadpan, "Like, four."
That may well be, but 10 years after she first arrived in Los Angeles from her native South Carolina to pursue acting, the 25-year-old Robertson is having the kind of career-redefining moment that can't be denied, starring in two high-profile movies opening just weeks apart.
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In the Nicholas Sparks adaptation "The Longest Ride," which opened this month, the actress — previously best known for her roles on the TV series "Life Unexpected" and "Under the Dome" — plays an aspiring New York gallerist who falls in love with a bull rider (Scott Eastwood). Next, in Disney's highly anticipated sci-fi adventure epic "Tomorrowland," opening May 22, she stars opposite George Clooney as a spunky teenager who travels to a mysterious futuristic world.
Still, the disarmingly frank and plain-speaking Robertson — who looks young enough to still play teenagers ("I get on flights and people are like, 'Are you old enough to sit in the exit row?'") — is doing her best not to get caught up in the talk of impending stardom.
"I don't put a lot of stock in those things," she said. "Scott Eastwood is always telling me I have to look at my career from a business point of view, and it just cracks me up. I consider myself an actor. To think of myself in terms of business or a strategy or 'the next big star.' Some of the best advice I was ever given was: 'Don't believe your own hype.'"
Directed by Brad Bird ("Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol"), "Tomorrowland" has been wrapped in secrecy since its inception. Robertson plays the 17-year-old daughter of a NASA engineer who meets a brilliant, cantankerous inventor (Clooney) and — for reasons the actress "can't disclose" — is recruited to go to Tomorrowland.
And what is Tomorrowland? "It's a place that the most brilliant minds have come up with to explore different innovative tools and technologies," Robertson explained carefully. "It's an alternate universe, but it exists in our time and..." She trailed off. "They still haven't given me any guidelines of what I should say," she said. "I can't believe they trust me not to screw them over."
Bird, who went through a long casting process before landing on Robertson, was impressed not only with her talent but her level-headedness and work ethic. "The people who are in this because they love acting and not because they need to be the flavor of the week — those are the people who have long careers," he said. "I think Britt is going to be one of those people."
Indeed, Robertson is not in a rush to get to some glittering Hollywood Tomorrowland. For now, she said, "I still go to the grocery store in my pajamas and no one cares" — and she likes it that way.
"My mom or my agent will be like, 'This is going to be your year, honey!' I don't want it to just be a year. I want it to be a career."