When Miley Cyrus arrived on the set of her movie "The Last Song" in the summer of 2009, she ended up with a lot more than a non-Disney role. The then-16-year-old actress and singer, who was best known to tween girls and their parents as the star of "Hannah Montana," found more than someone to share the screen with in co-star Liam Hemsworth, an Australian actor who was at the time 19. On Wednesday, Cyrus, now 19, and Hemsworth, 22, announced they are engaged to be married, following a very public three-year relationship that hasn't always been perfect.
Their romance began on the Georgia set of "The Last Song," which writer Nicholas Sparks of "The Notebook" and "Dear John" fame wrote specifically for Cyrus. "Hannah Montana" was set to end by the following year, and the star was ready to take on more grown-up projects. She described her first encounter with Hemsworth during an appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in 2010: "I was actually going through a tough time," said Cyrus, who broke up with her long-distance boyfriend, model Justin Gatson, just before filming began. "I was like, guys just need to be out of my life for a little while. [I thought] 'I just need to be alone.' But I met him, and he opened the door for me, and I was like, I have been in L.A. for three years and I don't think any guy has actually opened the door for me. It wasn't that he wanted the job. That's just who he is. I was like, 'Wow, that is super-impressive.' I actually turned to the director and said, 'He's got the job.' He's hot and he opened the door. Excellent." By August 2009, Hemsworth had the job as Cyrus' real-life boyfriend, too! She and Hemsworth were captured by photographers kissing off-set.
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By early 2010, Cyrus was head over heels for the Aussie! She gushed about her guy to Parade magazine in March, referring to him as "her first serious boyfriend." (Sorry, Nick Jonas!) She added that, "[Liam has] become my best friend in the whole wide world. I love him. He really respects me for who I am because coming from Australia, he really didn't know me as the celebrity I am here," Cyrus explained. "I got to tell him about myself on my own terms and my own way. He had no preconceived notion of who I was supposed to be." The same month, Cyrus demonstrated that Hemsworth was a big influence on her when she cited him as one of the reasons she temporarily left Twitter in a quest for more privacy. Her last post was "FYI Liam doesn't have a Twitter and he wants ME to delete mine with good reason."
When "The Last Song" premiered in 2010, the duo hit the red carpet together holding hands. Their movie eventually earned a solid $89 million globally. However, in August 2010, it looked like Cyrus and Hemsworth's young love was over when they called it quits. But wait — they reportedly got back together a month later, then split again in November. Cyrus, whose father Billy Ray Cyrus filed for divorce from her mom Tish in October of that year, seemed to be going through a lot at that point. Though she clearly was not over Liam, in late November, Miley was snapped kissing Nickelodeon star Avan Jorgia at her 18th birthday party at Hollywood club Trousdale. (Her parents called off their split the following March.)
But by the beginning of 2011, all was right in the world again as Cyrus and Hemsworth were officially back together again. The couple was photographed on Hawaiian getaway, and continued to be seen on casual dates grabbing sushi or riding jet skis. Cyrus even made them a little family in January when she gave her guy a puppy as a gift for his birthday! The two continued to gush about each other in interviews. Hemsworth took his turn to compliment his girlfriend while promoting his blockbuster movie "The Hunger Games" on Ryan Seacrest's L.A.-area morning radio show. "She's [Miley] one of the biggest stars in the world, there's no shadowing her," he said when asked about his up-and-coming status. "She embraces it, she's very very happy for me." The Aussie actor also spoke about Cyrus when he was asked who would win in "Hunger Games"-style fight between the two. "Probably her," Hemsworth told People. "She's a tough girl, that one."