Clues to the two Nancy Drews 

If Veronica Mars were younger, got a perky makeover and attended the Bree Van De Camp School of Teenage Etiquette on "Desperate Housewives," she'd come out looking a lot like Nancy Drew.

Summer movie audiences can thank Warner Bros. for that. The film "Nancy Drew," which opened Friday, may be a refreshing surprise in a summer filled with tech-heavy threequels.

"Nancy Drew" has a lot of heart, the majority of it generated from the film's lead, newcomer Emma Roberts. She breathes new life into a literary sleuth who hasn't had a memorable screen presence in 30 years.

"The movie shows that it's OK to be yourself; that it's OK to be smart and intelligent, which I think young girls don't think is so cool any more," says Roberts, niece of Oscar-winner Julia Roberts.

In the film, Nancy heads to Hollywood with her father. In between homework assignments, she tries to unravel a Tinseltown mystery surrounding a dead actress. Meanwhile, her egocentric, text-messaging peers look on without a clue-literally.

"I was a little nervous about the role because there are so many die-hard fans," Robert says. "You want them to be happy about how you portray the character."

Roberts researched by reading a slew of Nancy Drew mysteries. "The character was around for the first time in the 1930s and there weren't many girls to look up to at that time," she adds. "And even now, there's really not."

As for real-life mysteries, Pamela Sue Martin comes to mind. The popular actress garnered fame for playing the young detective on television back in the late 1970s before striking showbiz oil on "Dynasty." Where is she now?

These days, Martin has been busy writing. She's currently shopping around her memoir, "The Spirit of the Matter," a thought-provoking read about Hollywood, fame and the quest for spiritual grounding. She's nestled happily away from Hollywood in Sun Valley, Idaho, where she's lived with her son for more 15 years.

"I left Hollywood to take a long philosophical break," she says. "I wanted to write about my evolution and the crazy things people can do to have their five seconds of fame. I never understood why I wasn't quite as thrilled about it as everybody else."

Martin dedicates a chapter to her experiences on "Nancy Drew." "She was the heroine of my own childhood books," she writes and recounts backstage antics with Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy, her co-stars on "The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries."

As for the differences between today's Nancy and the one of yore, aside from age — Martin was 25 when she started the series, Roberts is 16 — the spunk is still intact.

While both actresses believe the character is easy to embrace because to her confidence and intelligence, Martin doesn't mind sharing the credo of her alter ego: "Follow your heart is my motto."

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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