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How Liam Hemsworth won the hand of Miley Cyrus

Former Disney star Miley Cyrus 19 'Hunger Games' star Liam Hemsworth 22 are engaged. The two have been dating since

Former Disney star Miley Cyrus, 19, and "Hunger Games" star Liam Hemsworth, 22, are engaged. The two have been dating since co-starring in the 2009 film "The Last Song."

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Updated: July 8, 2012 6:56PM

As congratulations poured in Wednesday for Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth — from both personal friends and their legions of fans — I learned the newly engaged couple worked hard to convince their parents that they were ready to make this big leap.

The former “Hannah Montana” star particularly had to win over her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus — convincing him his 19-year-old daughter was grown-up enough to walk down the aisle.

“Billy Ray has always been super-protective of Miley,” said one of the Cyrus family’s oldest friends. “While he’s become very fond of Liam — as has the entire family — Billy Ray was just worried about Miley still being a teenager. … On top of that, there’s the whole entertainment world thing, where so many young stars get married young, and then it falls apart fairly quickly.

“He obviously didn’t want that to happen to his Miley.”

Hemsworth — himself only 22 but considered very mature for his age — apparently has quietly worked on Miley’s dad for a number of months, making him realize this is something the couple takes very seriously.

Having met on the set of their film “The Last Song” in 2009, the twosome have dated relatively steadily since then — having taken only one break “just to make sure this was the real deal,” added the source.

Cyrus herself happily tweeted Wednesday, “I feel all my dreams are coming true,” and top Hollywood jeweler Neil Lane told People that Hemsworth helped design the 3.5-carat diamond engagement ring — calling it a “contemporary design based on vintage aesthetics.”

That fits with my source’s take on the “Hunger Games” star: “Underneath it all, Liam is a very solid guy with good, old-fashioned values. At the end of the day, I think that’s won over Billy Ray.”

CHEFS TO BE? There will be a local open casting call for the upcoming 11th season of Gordon Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen” from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Le Cordon Bleu, 361 W. Chestnut.

OFF THE RAILS? People close to Amanda Bynes, who was charged Tuesday with DUI, are concerned and questioning her recent bizarre behavior — especially her Twitter request to President Barack Obama to fire the police officer who arrested her. “As if the president would even get involved in something like that,” said a studio exec who has frequently worked with the actress and insists she does drink — despite Bynes’ claims to the contrary.

TV TALK: Kudos to ex-Chicagoan Howard Bragman, who has inked a deal for a yet-unnamed E! Entertainment scripted series based on the major Hollywood publicist’s own life and experiences shepherding stars in Tinseltown.

SEEN ON THE SCENE: Fred Schneider of the B-52’s attended Second City’s 100th revue, “Who Do We Think We Are” — and then jumped onstage to improvise with the cast after the show! … Just back from renewing their vows in Vegas, “Boss” star Kelsey Grammer and wife, Kayte, charmed Four Seasons Hotel guests who spied them looking super-lovey-dovey as the couple headed off for a jog Tuesday afternoon. … The New York Knicks’ Allan Houston slam-dunked an order of buffalo wings — into his tummy — Tuesday at Jake Melnick’s. … Patrick Warburton (“Rules of Engagement”) lunched at Gibsons on Rush while in town to play in a charity golf tourney with Bears kicker Robbie Gould.

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