Actress Lively stretches out for more adult role

She distances herself from the 'teen-ish' parts that have characterized her career

February 05, 2010|By Michael Ordona | Tribune Newspapers

Looking very much like the fashion plate celebrated in magazines, complete with stylishly unruly blond mane and plunging black leather-like jacket, Blake Lively sits on a couch in a suite at the Luxe Hotel. Piled on the table before her: posters of her new movie for signing. Piled on her lap: fruit and dark chocolate.

"Want some?" she asks, true to her last name. "It tastes like Easter."

Heretofore known for teen-ish roles, Lively covers 10 turbulent years of the title character's younger incarnation in "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee." Rebecca Miller adapted and directed her own novel, which navigates the churning beneath an apparently ideal suburban wife's placid surface. Mature Pippa ( Robin Wright) accepts her stagnant marriage and daughter's indifference with pretty stoicism; any other punches are met with homemade rolls. Young Pippa, in flashback, learns hard lessons on the way to that perceived perfection.

"Pippa's mother is a drug addict," says the 22-year-old Lively. "You see your mother as your mother; that's all they are. But this realization that she's a human being who makes mistakes, that is flawed, that is selfish, is really hard for her. And you'd think the last thing she would do would be to [make those same mistakes], but it's really interesting to see how people repeat the cycle of abuse."

Unlike Pippa, Lively remains very close to loved ones from her Los Angeles roots. But the newly minted New Yorker kept her enthusiasm for this project to herself, before the audition.

"I didn't tell many people about it because I wanted this job so much, and I knew everybody would just be so excited and so want me to get it, and be so disappointed if I didn't. I was going to be disappointed enough in myself. All of the cast had signed on by the time I read the script, so I was able to imagine these actors playing the characters."

Among those actors firing her imagination: Alan Arkin, Maria Bello, Monica Belucci, Zoe Kazan, Julianne Moore, Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder.

"Rebecca, who's just the most beautiful, intelligent, intuitive writer - to work with her and the cast, and have this role, this decade arc," says Lively. "And especially being a young female, the issues that we deal with [on-screen] are often so materialistic."

To play the part - to get the part - Lively had to distance herself from those "young female" roles that made her famous.

"I'm sitting in the audition room, and the casting director says, 'Oh, Rebecca, she's on "Gossip Girl," you would love this show!' Rebecca said, 'Oh, actually, I've never seen it because I live on a farm in Ireland with my husband; we don't have a TV.' And I thought, 'Goodness, somebody who lives on a farm in Ireland with Daniel Day-Lewis probably would not love "Gossip Girl." ' "

She seized the advantage of anonymity to tackle the audition scene, one of the script's most demanding:

"I take my mother's entire bottle of Dexedrine and I'm sitting in a 4-foot-by-4-foot room in front of Rebecca Miller, having to dance like I'm out of my mind on speed and screaming and crying, fight with this woman I've never met before who's reading lines with me, and I'm shoving her and she's pushing me. It was very intense. I just had to let go and do it."

Lively and Wright didn't have any scenes together, so they had to rely in part on each other's dailies to understand their respective other halves. Mostly, they relied on Miller.

"Rebecca has been living with Pippa for, like, seven years now. Robin and I didn't get to spend much time together at all. So I just had to trust Rebecca 100 percent, and I did, that we were going to seem like the same person.

"Younger people's problems are usually portrayed as juvenile and trivial, so this really was a dream project. I still can't believe that I'm sitting here looking at this poster and promoting this movie. It's so surreal and exciting."


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