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Casting Call
At first reading, Hilary Duff realized she had little in common with the Sam character, and that's what piqued her interest in the role. "I'm nothing like Sam,” she reflects. "I've been very lucky. I'm a pretty happy person, upbeat, with lots of energy. I'm very close with my friends, whereas Sam doesn't have many friends and sometimes feels isolated with her problems. Where she struggles with an unhappy home life and an unsupportive step-mother, my mom and I get along really well. We're like best friends, completely honest with each other. It's a great relationship. Sam doesn't have any of that so she's sometimes lonely and unsure.

"There were times during filming when I had to ask myself, ‘what would Sam do in this situation, how would she say this?' because everyone handles their emotions differently.”

Considering that the powerhouse actress/singer was probably only 10 years old at the time this story was conceived it seems especially serendipitous to all concerned that she was exactly right for the part of Sam when it came time to cast A Cinderella Story. "It takes a long time to get a movie from concept to screen,” offers Goodman. "In the end, this movie was made for Hilary and thanks to the beauty of synchronicity it all worked out.”

While the details and the individual challenges of their young lives may be poles apart, what Duff shares with Sam is an undeniable resiliency of spirit, immediately apparent to fans, peers and colleagues alike. "She radiates determination, spunk and courage as Sam,” says Lowry. "At the same time, she is very accessible. Watching her, she makes you feel as though you know her and you're rooting for your best friend.”

As Rosman points out, Duff's ability to connect with fans aptly complements the universality of the story. "Cinderella speaks to human emotions; conflict and drama, the hopes and wishes and fears that everyone can relate to,” the director posits. "Hilary embodies that perfectly. As phenomenally popular as she is, she still seems like a girl you could walk up to and say hello. She's a real person. Even though she's a big star she's very down-to-earth, very centered, genuinely sweet, and that quality comes through in her performances.”

If anyone could identify more closely to the Sam/Cinderella character it would be Chad Michael Murray, who takes on the Prince Charming role in the form of Austin Ames –captain of the football team, big man on campus and, as Werber puts it, "the quintessential high school hottie.” Ironically, the charismatic young star of Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill and the recent hit comedy Freaky Friday admits, "I was Sam in high school, Sam the nerd – that was me. I had no friends, I used to walk through the halls at school worried about getting slammed into a locker. That's why it's so funny for me to be walking down those hallways again, like high school all over again except that now I get to be the cool guy.”

Like Duff, Murray saw his character as a stretch, a guy whose life circumstances couldn't have been more different than his own upbringing. "Austin looks so perfect in his perfect life. He's the big football star; he's got the friends, the girls, the popularity, the car. He's been handed absolutely everything and now he's having his whole future laid out for him. But the interesting thing is that he's not content. None of it is necessarily what he really wants, so he goes through the story battling with his father and his peers.” This duality allowed Murray to simultaneously play "the public jock and the private person,” another aspect of the project that appealed to him. "It was a great opportunity to fake the stereotypical jock thing, to play that and yet have an underlying sensitivity and conflict. There's always a sadness to Austin. He's so busy being the guy his parents want him to be or his friends want him to be that he can't take a break to figure out what he wants to

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