OLD SOUL – Blake Lively
Months after she and husband Ryan Reynolds welcomed their daughter, James, into the world, 27-year-old beauty Blake Lively speaks about motherhood, fashion and her new film, The Age of Adaline
Q: Your new movie takes audiences on a very epic kind of personal journey. How deeply did this story affect you?
LIVELY: I was swept away by its poetry and romance. The story says so much about love and the love of life itself. What I especially enjoyed about the making of the film was falling into my character’s beautiful journey. I thought it was such a moving and dramatic film. I loved everything about it.
Q: How do you prepare for a role where your character is immortal?
LIVELY: That was the key question for me. Normally when I get ready to play a character I try to prepare by speaking to people who have had similar experiences. But obviously in this case there weren’t any eternally young people I could speak to so I went to speak to people, mainly women in their 80s, who had lived so much history and asked how they remembered their youth. It was so interesting to be able to have their perspectives.
Q: What was it about Adaline that was most interesting to you?
LIVELY: It was probably how she tries to adapt to each new decade in her life but always feels that she belongs in a different era. She lives like a recluse to protect her identity, she keeps moving to a new city every 10 years, and she never allows anyone to get too close to her. What was also fascinating for me was to explore the relationship with her daughter, Flemming, who is the only one who has been able to share her journey over the ages, and we see her as a very old woman while her mother is still 29. It’s an incredible situation but it’s because she is able to lose the one person — her daughter — who has been the only constant thing and love in her life that she allows herself to fall in love with Ellis.
Q: Is Ellis the man she always needed or was destined to meet?
LIVELY: I don’t know if it was destiny but he was certainly the kind of man that if fate were involved he would be the one. She’s overwhelmed by his energy and enthusiasm. Adaline has been living such a closed, quiet life and suddenly she meets this man who breaks down her defences and renews her interest in life. Her daughter helps her understand how important it is to find love and experience that because your life can seem very empty and meaningless without it.
Q: What was the best thing about working with Dutch actor Michiel Huisman?
Lively: We didn’t find Ellis [Huisman’s character] until two weeks before we started shooting because this is a love story. And not only is it a love story, but this is a woman who hasn’t been in a relationship since the ’60s. So the man that comes along has to be a formidable man. He has to be contemporary and full of life and full of energy to make her 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. But he also has to have gravity to him, and an elegance, and a timelessness that is meaningful. And you see that in the fact that they’re making jokes about Sonny Liston or talking about Josephine Baker. He’s a part of the historical preservation society, or saving books, and he knows all the books that she’s reading. That means a lot to this woman in the day and age of Tinder.
Q: Working with Harrison Ford must also have been a treat.
LIVELY: He brings so much confidence and preparation to his work. You have the feeling that he truly understands every element of acting and storytelling. You’re expecting this icon who is unreachable in some way but then when you meet him he gets down to the basics and gets very involved in the work. He’s such a supportive and engaging presence on the set and I’m so proud to have had this chance to work with him.
Q: You’re noted for your deep interest in fashion and vintage clothes. It must have been exciting to get to play a character like Adaline whose fashion tastes have necessarily evolved over so many decades?
LIVELY: (Laughs). I was thinking about the clothes Adaline would wear even before I got the part in the film. We see her in modern times in San Francisco but she still dresses more conservatively than other young women. That’s where you see the little old lady side to her that influences her tastes. (Laughs).
I work with Gucci and they were so great in how they wanted to be part of the film and they provided some incredibly beautiful designs from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. I especially loved the custom golden gown that Adaline wears for the New Year’s Eve ball.
Q: How much input did you have in the costuming for the film?
Lively: Michiel 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 a purely superficial standpoint. I mean, oh my gosh, I can’t believe I get to wear costumes from the early 1900s until now. Then there’s the history in the costumes. What they say about women’s role in society at each different time was really significant, and helped me as an actor. When I came into it, she was dressed very contemporary in modern times. She looked like Serena van der Woodsen in skinny jeans and a trench coat and tall boots. And I thought, “This woman is an old lady, she would not dress like that.” And they said, “Yeah, but why does she dress exactly like each time, in each decade? And then now suddenly she’s not completely contemporary?” And I said, “Yes. So, now let’s weave in. So, even in the ’40s, we weaved in one little piece from the ’20s. So, there’s always a carryover. If you watch the film you’ll see little pieces show up, little Easter eggs throughout the whole film.
Q: Do you have a favourite fashion era of your own or the period of clothes that Adaline gets to wear in the film?
LIVELY: My favourite clothes of hers are those from the ’40s. That’s the fashion era that feels closest to my heart. There was an elegance and style to that period in history that seems unattainable today. There was also a simplicity to the looks of that era that reminds me of the phrase — I don’t know who said it — “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Q: Let’s look at the film’s whole subject of what it would be like to age when you still look young.
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 that. 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. That was the thing that, even in reading the script, hit me the most. And, you know, I didn’t have [my baby] in my arms yet, but I had her in my tummy then. And so it was significant for me shooting this film and thinking of the mother-daughter relationship.
Q: And age? I know you’re not frightened of getting old. I mean, you’re looking —
Lively: Well, 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, “I love getting older.” But I’ve learned that until you experience something, it’s really hard to get on your soapbox and talk about it.
Q: Is Adaline’s immortality a curse in a way?
LIVELY: Yes. That’s such an important statement and aspect to the story. She has this gift, or curse, about remaining young and beautiful but she’s a recluse, she feels trapped in life. Our society is very much caught up in wanting to look as young as possible but if you look at Adaline’s life you see that the real beauty in her world is her daughter and how we should understand that our time on Earth is limited because we need to make room for new generations. It’s a very poignant thing to consider.
Q: Can you talk about work and how your priorities have shifted with the arrival of your daughter? Is career not where it used to be anymore?
Lively: My priorities are always the same. My personal life has always been my priority. When I was on Gossip Girl, it was completely consuming. I didn’t have much room for a personal life, but I did everything I could to carve it out. And that didn’t feel good, that I had to work so much at a job where you’re outputting so much. We had 27 episodes in one season. We were shooting 10 months a year, 16- to 18-hour days.
Q: You just can’t possibly be good at that anymore.
Lively: At a certain point it becomes muscle memory. They’re handing you lines before they’re about to roll, and you have five minutes and you’re learning things. So it was really important to me to not just jump into the next thing because I could because I was on a successful TV show and I could get a movie.
There wasn’t a movie that I really wanted to be in, or that I really wanted to see, or that I felt like I could pull off and do well at. So, taking that break was really important to me, and that’s why I started my company because I wanted to be creatively fulfilled, and I wanted to do something where I could work without compromising my craft of acting. When I read Adaline, I actually wasn’t ready to go back to work. I wanted to take a bigger break. It had only been like seven months at that point, and I thought, I cannot not be in this movie. And that’s the reason that I did this. I didn’t mean to take a break after Adaline. I just was pregnant.
Q: What’s it like being a mother?
LIVELY: It’s the most fulfilling and beautiful experience I could ever have imagined. It’s beyond anything I expected and every day is filled with such happiness for me right now. Being a mother is just the most rewarding and exhausting and amazing experience.
Q: Do you think we’re at a brilliant place now in terms of women 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 book Half the Sky [by Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof], 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 all the World Wars. So, it’s really startling what a woman’s role in society still is, and [the authors] speak about how that will be the plight of this century. But there is progression, and that’s uplifting.
Q: How do you see your own fashion sense or way of presenting yourself?
LIVELY: I like to be spontaneous and not overly fussy when it comes to dressing up for the red carpet or special events. I was brought up to be myself and not cater to any particular trend or fad. I want to live as honestly and authentically as possible and not create a false image of who I am. That’s why I get annoyed sometimes when I read stories that try to identify me with the character I played on Gossip Girl. I was never anything like Serena even though I loved being able to wear so many beautiful clothes and that character was what gave me the chance to have a good career.
Q: Do you think your website Preserve gives the public a better understanding of who you are?
LIVELY: I think so. I always thought that the photos of me in magazines or from when I’m appearing on the red carpet only show one side of my life. The site is my way of letting people see who I really am and what’s really important to me in my life, which is my family. It also enables me to discuss my real fashion tastes and other interests that I have. I like the way [Preserve] helps me connect to the public.
Q: Your husband, Ryan Reynolds, is famous for starring in Green Lantern (in which you played opposite him) and now he’s playing another superhero in Deadpool. Have you ever been offered a superhero role yourself?
LIVELY: No, but I’ve had lots of offers to play in big action movies that really didn’t interest me. I love dramas and comedies and romantic stories, I’ve never wanted to play some kind of kick-ass Amazon type. (Laughs). But Ryan had done a great job on Deadpool, I’ll leave those kinds of roles to him.
Q: What are some dream roles you would like to play in the future?
LIVELY: I’d love to do some great comedies. It’s important to be able to laugh and let go sometimes. A comedy can also make you smile and be happy and positive in ways that other kinds of films can’t. That’s what I would like to do.