Blake Lively currently has a career that any young actress would be envious of. She’s the star of The CW series Gossip Girl, she’s currently filming Ben Affleck’s next directorial project The Town, she’s getting to work with esteemed Hollywood actors, such as Robin Wright Penn and Alan Arkin, in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and her sense of style is watched by girls and women everywhere.
While doing interviews to promote Rebecca Miller’s latest book-turned-movie about Pippa Lee (played by both Lively and Robin Wright Penn), a serene, beautiful, devoted wife and mother with a surprisingly volatile past, Blake Lively talked about how grateful and lucky she is to be having so much success and a bit on Ben Affleck’s The Town. Hit the jump for more:
Question: Did you have to audition for this film?
Blake: Yes. I had a few audition scenes, but the most memorable was the one where I take my mother’s bottle of Dexedrine and freak out. I’m dancing around, cracked out of my mind on speed, and screaming at my mother while she’s screaming at me, and we were pushing each other. That was a challenge to do in a 4 foot by 4 foot room, in front of Rebecca Miller, and this woman that I had never met before, reading the scene. It was supposed to be my mother and, not knowing what boundaries were there or weren’t, made it difficult. But, I did the few scenes, I finished with that one, and I was so nervous and intimidated, but I knew I just had to just let go and just do it. And then, Rebecca said, “Just stay here for a minute.” She walked out of the room, came back two minutes later and said, “You’re my Pippa. I’m not making this movie with anyone else.” So, she gave me the job, on the spot. I would have been freaking out for a few days, if she wouldn’t have, so I was very lucky.
Knowing that you were playing the same character as Robin Wright Penn, did you observe each other and pick up anything, in particular, that you wanted to add to your performance, such as any mannerisms or facial expressions?
Blake: It wasn’t as much about the mannerisms. There were things that Robin and I talked about, just like nervous tics, because it was interesting for us. The last thing Pippa wanted to do was be like her mother. She wanted to run away from her mother. Her mother was such a terrible thing for her, that she had to get away from it, yet she starts to repeat that same cycle of self-abuse. That’s a very interesting thing that people do. And so, we added just biting on the side of the nails and a few other certain nervous tics, but for me, the most important thing was watching Robin and just seeing who she was, at her core. It was nothing that could be described. It was just an essence. So much of Pippa is a mystery. She is an enigma. And so, just watching and seeing the feeling you get from her, and trying to recreate that, was the most difficult. It’s hard to articulate because it’s just a feeling.
How was it to work with Alan Arkin as your love interest? What that weird at all?
Blake: Yeah, it seems like it would be weird and, when I read it on the page, I thought, “Oh, no, this could be very awkward and uncomfortable.” But, once I thought about it more, and once I was talking to Rebecca about it, or in the scenes with Alan, you realize that Pippa isn’t looking for a sexual partner. It’s not lust that attracts her to him. It’s that she doesn’t have a parent. It’s him fulfilling that hole of a parent. He’s the first person that guides her, and that provides her security and comfort, so that’s what their relationship was about. So, we weren’t busy trying to fabricate sexual chemistry. We were just trying to create an honest relationship between two people. Between scenes, he would write notes and write down books I should read or movies I should see. I was trying to feed him my sundae and was like, “C’mon, it’s whipped cream. It will make you happy, before we shoot.” I didn’t realize Rebecca was outside shooting that, and that’s the scene where we are sitting in the diner. She ended up just filming our interaction with one another, which was a very innocent interaction. I think that that was the important thing because it would have made it really uncomfortable, if you saw them in the heat of passion with one another. You see me lying half-naked in his arms, but you see that he’s protecting her and he’s holding her, and it’s safety. You don’t ever see us kiss once, in this movie, because that wasn’t what was important about their relationship, and what attracted Pippa to him.
Was that bed scene uncomfortable for you?
Blake: Well, I think it’s uncomfortable, laying in strategically placed clothes that are taped on your body, in front of some strangers. That’s always uncomfortable. But, I was with Alan and Rebecca, and our wonderful D.P., and it was a very private set. We’re all actors, we’re all professionals and we all understood what was happening. Everybody is uncomfortable with those scenes. You’re never going to be comfortable being half-naked in front of anyone. But, it was fine. It was a short scene. For me, it’s more uncomfortable to watch it. It’s like, “Oh, no, all these people are seeing me like this!”
How was the directing process with Rebecca Miller?
Blake: It was really amazing because I didn’t get to work with Robin, to sit down and develop the character together. I didn’t get to read the book beforehand because the book wasn’t even out, so Rebecca was just my well of knowledge. She was Pippa, in so many ways, because she created Pippa and she had been living with Pippa for years, from developing her and writing this beautiful novel, to writing the script, to directing the script and developing the character with Robin. She had created this woman, but she also was a strong, powerful woman herself, who could be so vulnerable, but also be so strong, and who you could see that there was a certain edge or darkness, yet is also so light and bright. And so, to see a woman around you that is herself so complex and so interesting, and to be portraying that, was also very helpful. In a lot of ways, she was a muse, even though Pippa was her muse, or we became hers, at the point of making this. So, it was a wonderful process and we just had to trust her with everything that we had. I got to watch some of Robin’s dailies and she got to watch some of mine, but it was really up to Rebecca to make sure that the same person at the core shone through in my performance and Robin’s. We just had to trust that whatever we were doing was consistent, in one another. She didn’t tell me too much. She said, “Robin is copying something that you do,” but she didn’t tell me what it was. And, I said, “Well, what is it? What do I do?” It made me feel weird. And, she said, “Don’t worry about it. I don’t want you to be aware of it. But, if you stop doing it, or if you just did it for that audition and it’s something that you don’t do normally, then I’ll let you know ’cause we want it to be consistent. But, don’t worry about it.” And, she never told me what it was. I watched the movie and figured it out then.
You talked about Pippa being such a multi-faceted character. Was there an aspect of her that was more fun to perform, as an actor?
Blake: All of it was fun. It was fun to scream and cry and push my mother. It was fun to crawl around in Lederhosen and have Julianne Moore ask me to meow and spank me, as odd as that seems. Here I was thinking, “I finally have the most respectable job of my life, and I’m getting spanked and being asked to meow.” It was a little bit of an oxymoron. But, just getting to sit in scenes and chat with Alan, or have a simple conversation that is so insightful to who these people are, was also just as interesting. I had so many different things to do in this film, and such a nice time frame to build this character. I got to play her, over the course of a decade, so there wasn’t one more part that was more fun than the other. It kept each part exciting because they were all so different. I was given such great material. It’s so rare to get material like this, and I’m so thankful for it.
Because you get to play Pippa in all these different decades, what did you like about exploring the ’70’s and ’80’s?
Blake: I loved the look. For me, I really feel like a character when I look like them, so it was just about being a young Pippa and having the long straight hair and no make-up and feeling pure and innocent, compared to older Pippa with the crimped hair and all the make-up and hiding behind this mask of this character. I love fashion, so to wear different clothes and different looks was fun.
What’s the experience been like, to balance shooting Gossip Girl with doing The Town this season, and getting to play two characters?
Blake: It’s been a challenge just because of the hours. I’m working on The Town on my weekends and holidays, flying to Boston overnight and then shooting the next morning. But also, when you are on a TV show, a character can get stale, so getting to also portray another character simultaneously, and come back to this character, it makes the character of Gossip Girl fresher. It also is very exciting to get away from it and to play another role. And, just anytime that I get to do a film, I’m so thrilled because I love watching movies, I love making movies and the movies that I’ve made, I’ve been very proud to be a part of.
Can you talk a little bit about your character?
Blake: My character was originally 37, but when they cast me, we had to write it down to 29. I fought for this role. She’s a 29-year-old drug-dealing townie from Boston, who’s on welfare and has a two-year-old child. So, it’s very different.
How has Ben Affleck been to work with, as a director?
Blake: This is his baby project, and he’s done a lot of the rewrites, and he’s directed it and starred in it. It’s been just a wonderful experience.
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee opens November 25th.