By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Former “Gossip Girl” star and new mom Blake Lively plays a woman who never ages in the fantasy romantic drama “The Age of Adaline.” We’re not talking Botox or plastic surgery, but some mysterious act of magic.
Looking radiant in a Spring-like floral dress just four months after she and husband Ryan Reynolds welcomed their daughter, James, into the world, the 27-year-old beauty spoke about motherhood, fashion, operating her own e-commerce website, and her new film.
Q: That’s a beautiful dress.
Lively: Thank you. I actually co-designed it.
Q: Oh, really?
Lively: (joking) I’m fishing for compliments.
Q: Which designer?
Lively: Amour Vert (Love Green). I designed it for my site, Preserve. They’re an incredible company that’s trying to reduce the carbon footprint. They plant a tree for everything that’s purchased.
Q: The director, Lee Toland Krieger, said when he first met you about the role, you said, “I really want this part, and I’m the best person for it.”
Lively: I didn’t say I’m the best person for it. I just said I really wanted it. I can give you a whole list of people that would have been better for it, but I was the most aggressive. I’ll tell you that much.
Q: How did you prepare to play someone with eternal youth?
Lively: I always look for the closest thing to a character I’m playing and I try to meet that person and talk to that person. It’s very hard to meet someone who has been alive for 100 years. It’s even harder to meet someone who is immortal. (She chuckles.) So I thought, “Well, what do I do? Do I look at women from the ‘60s or the ‘40s or the ‘50s or the ‘20s?”
Women were so different at each different decade because their role in society and politically was very different for them. So I thought, “When is a woman most defined by? When does she really blossom into who she is and smaller changes come along the way?” It’s when it’s when they come of age. Adaline came of age in the 1920s, so I needed to capture a woman from the that period who has that formality, who is stoic, and who is very proper, very reserved, and almost conservative, and then I had to try to weave in some influence from the subsequent decades.
So it was challenging to mix that and then to be in contemporary times and not just to feel like I’m talking like someone who is alien. She had to have this timelessness quality to her and she has to look like a mixture of all these decades. She wouldn’t just go shopping at Zara and talk like I normally do.
Q: You say timelessness but one of the things that struck me in a way was it seems like you’ve been away from the public eye for a while.
Lively: I was on a TV show for six years and every single break I had, we shot 10 months a year. We literally shot 16 to 18 hour days every day. It was an insane shoot. I was just exhausted, and I also didn’t feel good at it anymore, and when you have to do something so much, it’s just muscle memory and I wanted to take a break. That’s also why I started my company because I thought, “Okay, what else do I love? What else do I feel good at? What else can I be creative at?” While taking a break from acting, I still read a bunch of scripts.
When I read “The Age of Adaline” I thought I can’t not do this movie, but I still wanted to be on a break. I just thought I have to be in this film, and then because it was such a special movie and such a special experience I was reading other scripts and thought, “How do I live up to that?” And then I got pregnant.
Q: Since you are a fashion icon, how much input then did you have in the costuming for this film?
Lively: (Co-star) Michiel Huisman was saying that they couldn’t find duct tape strong enough to keep my influence out of the film, but I was really excited about it, first of all, from just from a purely superficial standpoint. I can’t believe I get to wear costumes from the early 1900s until now, but then it’s also about the history in the costumes, and what that says about women’s role in society at each different time was really significant, and helped that me as an actor.
When I came into it, she was dressed very contemporary in modern times. Basically, she looked like (“Gossip Girl”) Serena van der Woodsen in skinny jeans, a trench coat and tall boots. And I thought, “This woman, she’s an old lady, she would not dress like that.” And they said, “Yeah, but then, why does she dress exactly like each time, in each decade, and now, suddenly, she’s not completely contemporary?” And I said, “Yes. So, let’s weave in.” So, even in the ‘40s, we weaved in one little piece from the ‘20s, and so on. There’s always a carryover. So, if you watch (the film), you’ll see little pieces show up, little Easter eggs, throughout the whole film.
Q: How was it working with Dutch actor Michiel Huisman, who plays your love interest, Ellis?
Lively: We didn’t find him until two weeks before we started shooting. This is a love story, but it’s not only is it a love story, it’s a story about a woman who hasn’t been in a relationship since the ‘60s. So the man that comes along has to be formidable. He has to be contemporary and full of life and full of energy to make (Adaline) want to be young again, and make her want to feel alive. He has to be present enough to make her want to be present. He also has to have a gravity to him, an elegance.
They’re making jokes about (boxer) Sonny Liston, or taking about (singer) Josephine Baker. (Michiel’s character) is a part of the historical preservation society, or saving books, and he knows all the books that she’s reading. so that means a lot to this woman. Michiel is someone who can very easily juggle that seriousness and that weight. He also has a levity and a buoyancy to him that makes everybody around him cool.
Q: Did you have the chemistry right away?
Lively: (deadpan) Never. Still don’t. No, we were really lucky. You never know. You’re either working with someone who’s lovely, charming, awesome and kind, or you’re working with someone who’s a total a-hole, who just acts lovely and charming, awesome and kind. You can still pull it off on screen, but it’s a lot easier when the person is that way in their personal life as well.
Q: The way the film deals with the subject of aging is quite poignant, particularly you scenes with Ellen Burstyn, who plays (SPOILER ALERT) your daughter. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Lively: When I read the script, that was the thing that was always the most poignant to me, because I thought I can’t imagine sitting there watching my child at an old age being forgetful and knowing she’s only got a few years left. As a parent, all you want to do is protect your child. Your whole purpose of living is keeping that thing alive, and here you can do nothing. You’re granted eternal life, and she’s not. So, I imagine that would be really tough. I didn’t have my daughter in my arms (while making the film) but I had her in my tummy. So it was significant for me shooting this film and thinking of the mother-daughter relationship.
Q: How do you feel about getting older? That doesn’t seem to concern you since you’re still quite young.
Lively: I say that now, but ask me in 10 years when I get my crow’s feet or two years, or something, I’ll say, “Oh, my gosh.” It’s easy to ask me about that now, and I can say with confidence that I love getting older. But I’ve learned that like until you experience something, it’s really hard to get on your soapbox and talk about it.
Q: You mentioned about roles for women. Do you think we’re at a better place now? Maybe not in all cultures, but in Western cultures, in terms of women’s equality and where we are in society?
Lively: Look what happened today with Hillary (Clinton announcing her U.S presidential candidacy). It’s something to be very proud of. The fact that we have to be proud of this advancement is what’s a bit upsetting. I don’t know if you have read the (Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof) book “Half the Sky,” but if you haven’t, you should because it will change your life. They talk about how more women have died in the past 50 years just for being women than men in both World Wars. So, it’s really startling what a woman’s role in society still is. But there is progress, and that’s uplifting.
Q: Are you excited that Hillary Clinton is running for president?
Lively: Yeah. I think it’s amazing, whatever side of the political fence you stand on, the fact that that there’s never been a woman leading this country, when there are women leading households, leading companies, leading their own lives. What makes you think a man is more equipped to do that than a woman?
Q: How’s motherhood?
Lively: I love it but it’s also tough and I get pooped on and barfed on all the time. If anything else did this to me, I would club it. (She laughs.) But it’s your baby and it’s wonderful because even when it’s tough, you just think, I’m so fortunate. That’s why it’s wonderful.