In addition to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, which was released this past August (and by late October had grossed $44 million, already outpacing Pants 1), Lively has two indies in the can. There’s Elvis and Anabelle, in which she plays a bulimic Texas beauty queen alongside Max Minghella, Keith Carradine, Mary Steenburgen and Joe Mantegna. And in June she wrapped The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, written and directed by Rebecca Miller. Lively plays young Pippa—a drug user–turned–stay-at-home mom—while Robin Wright Penn tackles the middle-aged version opposite Alan Arkin, Julianne Moore and Winona Ryder. The movie will be showing on the festival circuit starting early next year.
Along with braving a hideous spray tan and scary pageant hair, Lively shed serious weight from her “five nine and three-quarters” frame for Elvis and Anabelle. “I play a beauty queen who died of bulimia,” she says. “But beauty queens are still very toned. So I lost weight, but I got toned. It was the healthiest I’ve ever been. I just made chicken breasts from Whole Foods on a George Foreman Grill, with asparagus and broccoli.” Not an easy task for someone who describes food as “the No. 1 love of my life.”
Of the main Gossip Girl cast, many of whom have been dabbling in film when the show is on hiatus, Lively seems to be winning the high-profile movie-role race. (While both Badgley and Crawford have new movies this year—the rugby flick Forever Strong and the horrorfest The Haunting of Molly Hartley, respectively—neither boasts a starry cast or a heavyweight director.) And Lively’s smart enough, and gracious enough, to publicly pinch herself for her good fortune. She even sounds a little starstruck, as when she describes Moore as “one of the kindest human beings” she’s ever met or when she rhapsodizes over Wright Penn’s effortless ability to slip into character. “Getting to work alongside that caliber of talent was just mind-blowing,” she says of the Pippa ensemble. So much so that Lively says she felt, at times, like an impostor. “I thought that one day Rebecca was just going to catch on.”
In Miller’s opinion, Lively needn’t have worried. “She is brilliant in the film,” says the writer-director. “Blake could be a real star in the making, the way Jessica Lange has been. She has depth, and she is disarmingly lovely.”
And in an era of starlets gone wild, Lively is even borderline geeky. At certain points, like when she’s recounting an elaborate Twenties-theme fete she threw for her last birthday (“Michael Bublé came!” she enthuses, referring to the young Sinatra manqué beloved by baby boomers), Lively can sound like a 50-year-old woman trapped in a hot young body. “I don’t really like to go out,” she says. “I’ll go listen to live jazz, but the club scene isn’t so fun for me.” Instead, her idea of a good time is scouring Williams-Sonoma for acorn-shaped tart pans and crème brûlée torches—both of which may be put to use in preparing for the aforementioned dinner party, now scheduled for tomorrow night. It’s a far cry from the boozy party girl she plays on TV. Ever diligent, Lively plans to get cooking directly after her interview. “I’m exhausted,” she admits with a yawn. “But I have to go home and bake.”