Unlike the events that unfold in Alexa Vega’s latest big-screen adventure “Sleepover,” her success hasn’t happened overnight.

Vega’s Hollywood career started at age five, after her first ever audition landed her a part on the Burt Reynolds sitcom “Evening Shade.” Since then, she’s been working steadily in TV and film, opposite big names such as Hugh Grant, Alec Baldwin and Michelle Pfeiffer. But it’s her role as Carmen Cortez, one of the crime-fighting siblings in Robert Rodriguez’s “Spy Kids” trilogy, that made her a household name – at least in households where young, wannabe secret agents reside.

As the teen steps up to her first starring role, she’s aware that her young fan base will be looking to her to set an example – in both her work and public appearances.

“People are going to say things about you, so you have to be ready to be a role model. It just depends on what kind of role model you want to be,” she says.

It’s difficult to mold your own image, however, when the media never forgets mistakes. Vega points to how Hilary Duff and Aaron Carter’s appearance together at the premiere of Lindsay Lohan’s “Freaky Friday” launched a public rivalry, after it was discovered that Carter had recently dated Lohan.

“I want to be able to walk hand in hand with a guy on the red carpet, but I don’t want it to be like – it’s a little overplayed … (and) kind of looks corny,” says Vega.

The 15-year-old has a little help trying to establish her adolescent career from “Spy Kids” director Rodriguez, who understands her need to break with her childish image. The filmmaker even reduced Vega’s role in the third “Spy Kids” film, allowing her on-screen brother Juni (Daryl Sabara) to take the spotlight.

“When I first read (the script), I was really happy that I wasn’t in it a whole, whole lot,” says Vega. “But everybody else thought it was because ‘Oh my gosh! Is Robert mad at her or something?’ No, Robert did it for a really good reason.”

As her mentor, Rodriguez also took it upon himself to push Vega to master multiple skills.

“From Robert I learned wearing a lot of hats,” Vega tells Zap2it.com. “He writes, directs, edits, produces (and is) a father of three boys and an excellent father at that. He says that anything that you have when you’re younger, save it for when you’re older. If you make little home movies now, save the ideas because you never know.”

The actress has taken his advice to heart. She’s already written three scripts, has made 25 home movies – edited with Final Cut Pro – and has even taken up guitar lessons at his request.

“But he won’t tell me why,” she adds mysteriously.

While Vega waits to see if Rodriguez has a “La Mariachi” up his sleeve, she’s just happy to be involved with the all-consuming business of being a mischievous teenager. When she’s not plastic-wrapping the furniture in her fellow “Sleepover” castmembers’ classroom, she’s putting soap in her friend’s yard sprinklers or holding paintball wars in the backyard with the guys. These tomboy tendencies mean that “Sleepover’s” wackier action scenes are perfectly suited to Vega.

“Sleepover” centers on Julie (Vega) and three friends who decide to spice up their slumber party by competing in a scavenger hunt against a rival girl clique. Of course, this means sneaking out of the house in their pursuit of adventure. Along the way, Julie has to scale a wall, ride a skateboard, jump off a rooftop, dangle from a rope, crawl on a rickety trellis and hang upside down by her legs.

All this is no problem for the former “Spy Kid.”

“When I first got (to set), they were like, ‘So have you ever been in a harness before?”‘ Vega relates with a smile. “Like, I lived in a harness for four years.”

Vega has swung into a new era in her career as “Sleepover” opened nationwide starting Friday.

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