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A career "First'

The gossip-mongers had just reported that Dawson's Creek star Katie Holmes had told her fiance, actor Chris Klein, "I need more space," and thus they were splitting up. Turns out they were discussing buying a house.

"People talk about you, and what can you do?" Holmes, 25, says, shrugging. "It's like high school times one thousand."

The celebrity spotlight also shines on her character in First Daughter, opening today. Playing President Michael Keaton's only child, she has to cope with Secret Service agents guarding her college dorm, reporters chasing her around campus and students more interested in her title than her.

"Being in the public eye can be isolating," Holmes says. "It's hard to make friends easily. That's why I'm always on the phone with my family, trying not to think about my image."

Holmes' image is squeaky clean, though she protests that that's not wholly accurate. She grew up in Toledo, Ohio, the daughter of a lawyer and a homemaker, snagged her first movie, The Ice Storm, while in high school and then landed on Dawson's Creek.

As Joey Potter, the lovelorn tomboy and best friend of James Van Der Beek's Dawson Leery, Holmes spent six years in Wilmington, N.C., where the show was shot. Their very teenage relationship formed the emotional hook of the popular series.

"It was very difficult for me to leave Wilmington, to have my little glass bubble burst and move on," she says. "I hate change. On the other hand, it was refreshing to play someone else."

That someone else is the president's daughter: poised and awkward, obedient and defiant, gullible and wise.

"Kate is still accessible to young girls, but she's truly a woman," says her First Daughter director, Forest Whitaker. "She's someone people care about and want to follow. She's not afraid to make fun of herself, and she has good comic timing."

The movie gives Holmes a chance to play an American princess, complete with beautiful dresses, ballroom dancing and happy endings. But it's also a topical story, she says. "With all the attention on Chelsea Clinton and the Bush girls, it's a great background for the coming of age of a young girl," she says.

Holmes says there could be a Dawson's Creek reunion movie, but she would like to go to her high school's 10-year reunion first.

Holmes plays a good girl again in the upcoming prequel Batman Begins, opposite Christian Bale. "My character works in the District Attorney's office and was Bruce Wayne's good friend growing up," she says.

Holmes won't say whether she has a wedding date set. The longer the delay, she knows, the more room for speculation. But her other priority, having moved to Los Angeles, is staying grounded.

"Fame and adoration can be addicting," she says. "I like people to like me, so I have to really watch that. I call my mom a lot."

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