Eighth grade graduate Lizzie McGuire (Hilary Duff) lived every teen girl’s dream when she flew to Rome for a couple weeks with her best friend Gordo (Adam Lamberg) in “The Lizzie McGuire Movie.” She even one-upped herself and lived every teen girl’s fantasy when she stumbled upon cute pop star Paolo (Yani Gellman) and embarked on a crazy Italian adventure. Sure, there were a few hiccups along the way, but it all worked out in the end, in full Disney fashion.

That fine piece of teen movie history celebrates its 15th anniversary on Wednesday, and International Business Times decided to give Paolo a chance to tell his side of the story. The actor who played him, “90210” and “Pretty Little Liars” alum Gellman, had 15 fun “Lizzie McGuire Movie” tidbits to share, including what he thinks his character would be up to 15 years later.

“With each passing year, I realize more and more how special that experience was,” Gellman told IBT. “I really cherish my time on that film.”

1. Gellman doesn’t think Paolo is as big of a villain as people think and imagines him trying to fix his life all these years later.

“I think Paolo really gets humbled at the end of the film and I think — a lot of people call him the villain and say he was a bad guy, but I think inside of there, there were moments and feelings that were really real for Lizzie,” he said. “And I think he probably reflected on what he did and he’s probably trying to resurrect his pop career and maybe even find a way to win this girl back.”

Watch out, Gordo!

2. He earned the role of Paolo from just one self-tape audition.

“I was working on another show, I think, called ‘Mentors,’ or something like this, that filmed up here in Canada and I sent out a tape and it seemed like a fun role and a fun script and I kind of had fun in the audition and I sent it off.

“A lot of times when you send out these self-tape auditions, you don’t expect to hear anything back and I got a call saying that they were interested in me for the role and would I like to fly out to Vancouver to meet with the director and the producer… So, I got on a plane, went out to Vancouver and had the script, thinking this was going to be more of a callback-type situation, but actually we just went out to dinner and just chatted with me for a little while and then he said, ‘How would you like to come and film this crazy little movie in Italy with me?’ and I was like, ‘Uh, I would absolutely love to,’ and off we went.

“We did some screen tests once everyone was together, but at that point, the role was pretty much mine.”

3. The Italian accent came pretty easily to Gellman.

Fully committing to the role, Gellman put on his best Italian accent for his audition tape and was “able to fool a couple people along the way into thinking that was my actual accent.”

For the audition and movie, he made sure to prepare as best he could for the role and the accent that it required, but overall, he did not find it too difficult.

“I watched a lot of Italian movies,” he said. “I worked with a couple different dialect coaches. [As] I grew up, most of my favorite actors were sort of Italian-American actors, so I kind of had a bit of ability for that sort of thing and it came pretty naturally and easily to me when this role came around.”

4. Duff and Gellman were in real traffic for the moped scenes.

“That was a really crazy experience for me and just a real highlight of the filming process, to be on a moped in live traffic,” the actor shared. “The people around you don’t know that you’re filming, they’re just honking and driving and swerving and yelling at you to get out of the way. That was really a lot of fun.

“Looking back on it, it was probably a little bit riskier than I thought it was at the time.”

lizzie movie moped Hilary Duff and Yani Gellman riding mopeds as their characters in “The Lizzie McGuire Movie.” Photo: Buena Vista Pictures

5. Gellman and Duff’s lack of bonding time before filming actually helped the portrayal of their onscreen relationship.

“In the film, these guys, these two characters are meeting each other for the first time and getting to know each other,” the 32-year-old said. “So I think it was a good balance of being introduced to each other, but then allowing for the camera to kind of capture us getting to know each other as the story progresses.

“In many ways, our experience filming it was very much the story in the movie. We were on this adventure in Italy, it was my first time to Italy, I think Hilary’s first time… but we were definitely going to a lot of these places for the first time, so the reactions you see onscreen of us discovering like the Colosseum or the Trevi Fountain or whatever else, are very real. You know, going on the moped through the city center, all these sorts of things, there wasn’t a whole lot of acting required, it really was just us experiencing Rome and having it captured on camera.”

6. The already-established “Lizzie McGuire” cast embraced Gellman.

“Because they had been together for so long, they were so welcoming,” he said. “I remember they sort of knew their stuff so well that it was very easy for them to bring in this new guy and bring me up to speed. I just really remember getting such a great vibe from them. I think joining a team that was already in place and had so much experience working together made the whole filming process a lot easier than if we’d all been new to it and were all figuring everything out for the first time. 

“I remember Hilary just, from day one, we just sort of clicked. We had a really great time together.”

7. He has nothing but respect and sweet words for Duff and his time working with her.

“For a young actor to get to work with somebody as talented and experienced as [Duff], even though she was quite young at the time herself, she’d done a lot of work, that was really great for me.

“She just brings it. Every scene, she just brings so much energy and life and charisma and that really helps you as an actor because you have so much to play off of. Kind of effortless for her, she just turns it on and goes and that really sucks you into the reality of the scene, as well, because you’re just with somebody who’s just really in the moment. So, a lot of those scenes, I’m really in the moment with her and she was really leading the way when it came to that and I was kind of playing and feeding off of her.”

8. He’d never seen the show before landing a role in the movie.

“I had heard of it, but never actually watched [it], which is good because then when my character meets Hilary’s for the first time, he doesn’t know who she is and confuses her for someone else, so it all kind of played into the story.”

9. There are certain secrets Gellman can’t divulge, including if he actually sang the ballad version of “What Dreams Are Made Of.”

“I can't divulge some of these film secrets,” he said when asked if it was really him singing the ballad version of the iconic track.

On the track listing posted on Amazon, characters “Paolo & Isabella” are noted as the artists singing the song, while IMDB has both Haylie Duff and Gellman posted as the uncredited singers behind the song. It was long ago revealed that Hilary’s sister was the voice behind Isabella, but what about the voice behind Paolo? Gellman likely signed some form of a non-disclosure agreement that has him keeping quiet about it all, or he just likes to keep people guessing. Disney has a history of using uncredited people as the singing voices of its characters (Drew Ryan Scott sang most of Sterling Knight’s Christopher Wilde songs in “StarStruck” and Drew Seeley sang for Zac Efron’s character in “High School Musical”), so it wouldn’t be unusual for this to be the case for Paolo. 

One thing Gellman was able to share, though, is that he’s an “okay” singer who “can carry a tune,” but “probably a slightly different style than a lot of the pop ballads in the movie.” Since wrapping the film, he’s been working a lot on his singing voice to improve it and he “can tell you that much.”

The other secret he didn’t want to share, strangely enough, was whether or not Hilary really had to hold a giant wheel of cheese for that entire scene or if it was an empty prop.

“I can’t say, that’s some film magic there, I can’t reveal those secrets,” he said while laughing.

lizzie movie cheese Alex Borstein, Hilary Duff and Adam Lamberg in “The Lizzie McGuire Movie.” Photo: Buena Vista Pictures

10. He thought WWTCD — ahem, What Would Tom Cruise Do — when he walked the red carpet at the end of the film in front of all of Paolo’s fans.

“Tom Cruise came to mind. I’ve just seen that guy so many times on the red carpet — smiling from ear to ear, pointing at people, having the best time ever — and he was someone who I thought of in that moment, as someone who really owns the red carpet and really enjoys it and really comes alive,” Gellman said of which celebrity he was trying to imitate in that scene. “It wasn’t really something I had experienced before, doing that. I’ve done red carpets since that, but that was sort of my first time, so sort of thinking about movie stars who I grew up with and how they would act on the red carpet and I think I did a pretty good job of it actually. When I watched that scene, it really does seem like I’ve been there before.”

11. The cast ate at Italian restaurants instead of having on-set catering.

“The only accident was eating too much every day or too much pasta,” he joked. “Basically, we would film for however many hours and you would break for lunch and they wouldn’t have catering, they would just take us to a local restaurant and put together a huge table for everyone.”

12. The actors who played Miss Ungermeyer and Segei had him cracking up in-between scenes.

“Miss Ungermeyer, Alex Borstein, she would always crack us up,” he revealed. “I mean, she’d have the crew like howling, she’s just so funny. And then Sergei, the guy who played Sergei [Brendan Kelly], would constantly be staying in character, so that would kind of be pretty hilarious in-between takes, to have this guy sort of shadowing you and following you around like a bodyguard. He was a pretty funny guy.”

13. Stand-ins helped make filming with “two Hilary Duffs” at the end of the movie less difficult.

“Not really,” he said when asked if it was difficult to shoot that scene.

“I’m not on stage for that entire scene. I think we had to do some sort of blue screen, they had a double acting as one of the other ones, so we had a person there who we could reference and look to and stuff. It wasn’t too bad, actually. And again, that was such a wild and chaotic scene, I don’t even know what the heck was going on. I’m up on stage lip-syncing and then my real voice comes through and there’s a huge crowd of people. The whole thing was just wild that I was just reacting the best I could.”

14. The end performance took place in both Italy and Vancouver.

“The outside stuff was by the Colosseum and then all the interiors for the film we shot in Vancouver in a studio,” Gellman shared. “Everything that’s outside is Italy and then as soon as we go inside, most of that was in Vancouver.

“The actual performance was, I believe, somewhere in Vancouver.”

15. He had those long locks in the film simply because of timing.

Though Gellman had short hair for his 2002 Disney Channel Original Movie “Tru Confession” and then long hair in this 2003 flick, the long hair wasn’t a request by the film’s director for the character.

“I think I had just done a previous film where my hair was really long and I was just wearing it that length at the time,” the actor said. “Now, looking back on it, I just can’t believe how big my hair was. It was kind of crazy. I had an amazing hairstylist on the film who just somehow was able to turn it into something that looked okay, but man, that was a huge mop of hair on my head.”

His final thoughts on the lasting success of “The Lizzie McGuire Movie”?

“You never know in your career which projects you do are gonna kind of take on a life beyond the initial run of the film and I’m really proud and privileged to have been a part of something that is carrying on and still has a lot of fan support.”