June 29 2011 12:00 AM

Selena Gomez is growing up, along with her fans


You wouldn’t mistake tiny, 18-year-old
Selena Gomez for the statuesque 44-year-old Nicole Kidman. But in "Monte
Carlo," Gomez is playing a role originally designed for the
Oscar-winning star of "The Hours."

That’s because "Monte Carlo" (opening
Friday) was initially based on a novel called "Headhunters," a story of
four middle-aged Midwestern women on a jaunt through France. It’s now a
tale of three Texas gals — one is 18 and the other two (played by Katie
Cassidy and Leighton Meester) are 21 — falling in love and getting in
trouble on the Riviera. 

"It was based on a book geared toward
older women," Gomez explained during a promotional tour stopover in
Livonia on Monday. "But when Fox got a hold of it, they decided to make
it younger. Nicole still wanted to be involved, so she became a

In "Monte Carlo," Gomez plays Grace, a
recent high school graduate who fulfills her dream of seeing Paris. She
also gets more than she bargained for when she turns out to be a dead
ringer for the snotty, amoral British socialite Cornelia Winthrop Scott. 

"It was actually quite refreshing, quite
sweet," Gomez said of the project. "Kind of a nice little baby step for
me to go toward older characters."

so, unlike in the casinos of Monte Carlo, everybody wins. Gomez gets a
star vehicle, Kidman earns a producing credit and the teen audience is
treated to an amiable comedy that pays tribute to the screwball spirit
of 1930s mistaken-identity farces — while including a thoughtful nod to
Monte Carlo’s most famous former resident, Grace Kelly. The iconic
actress-turned-princess is seen in a French-dubbed clip from director
Alfred Hitchcock’s "To Catch a Thief." 

"That was all Tom’s doing," Gomez said,
referring to director Thomas Bezucha ("The Family Stone"). "He wanted us
to watch the movie. I was aware of Grace Kelly, but I’d never seen it."

These days, Gomez barely has time to
watch her own movies. In addition to pushing the movie, she’s also
making singing appearances to call attention to her album with her band,
The Scene; "When the Sun Goes Down" went on sale Tuesday. She’s been so
busy, she was startled to realize "Sun" was also arriving this week.

"Oh, yes!" she gasped when the release
date was mentioned. "I completely forgot — oh, my goodness! I’m
extremely nervous for this whole week."

In case you hadn’t heard, in between acting, recording and touring, she’s also dating some guy named Justin Bieber.

Small wonder Gomez wound up in the
hospital earlier this month. She’s feeling much better now, but she
downplays reports that she’s changed her snacking habits.

"Not necessarily," she admitted.
"Ultimately, I’m an 18-year-old girl who wants to eat a lot of junk
food. But I am trying to incorporate healthier food into my diet."

Although some teenage stars go out of
their way to insist they don’t want to be seen as role models, Gomez
seems to have made peace with that situation.

"I don’t necessarily mind it," she said.
"It’s not something I obviously set myself up to be, but it’s a
compliment, really. I do work really hard and try to be the best I can
be. I’m not perfect — I make mistakes, I’m human — and I still feel like
I’m growing up. Growing up with my fans."