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Proving herself to be more than a young, blonde, pretty television star on Gossip Girl, Blake Lively surprised a lot of people last year starring in Ben Affleck’s The Town. Now she’s ready to jump into a whole new territory. Playing Carol Ferris in the Martin Campell-directed Green Lantern, she will be the female face of what Warner Bros. hopes to be their next big franchise.
This Friday, the superhero movie showed off a great deal of footage to eager fans at San Francisco’s WonderCon and both Lively and co-star Ryan Reynolds, who were present for the panel, found themselves bathing in cheers. Going back stage, Lively then was kind enough to take part in roundtable interviews to discuss the new film, one of which I had the good fortune to participate in. Check out the interview below in which the actress discusses what it’s like being turned into a Barbie (literally), working with Ryan Reynolds and Peter Sarsgaard, and how if she should become the villain known as Star Sapphire in future films, why they would need to change the costume.
How does it feel to have your own Barbie?
Oh my gosh, crazy! What!? It’s so wild. I feel like I need to go home and buy Barbie’s Magical Dream house and play with myself…that doesn’t sound right. Next question.
Were you aware of the comics before this all came around?
No, I actually knew nothing about Green Lantern, and I imagined that nobody else in the world knew anything about Green Lantern and as soon as I got the role I was quickly humbled about how naïve I was. Because people just came out of the woodwork, people I would never even imagine, you know? I'm on a set with a ton of New Yorkers, very serious dudes who don't geek out often, just very tough. Here they were like grilling me about Star Sapphire, and Hector Hammond, and Parallax, and who's gonna be in it. “What about the Corps?” and “Which Green Lanterns are gonna show up?”, and “Is Bzzd gonna be in there?” What are you guys talking about? It's also really exciting that I didn't know anything about because then, you know, my nephews don't know anything about it. To introduce, reintroduce a character to a younger generation you have a lot more freedom and you're not being compared to all the different incarnations that you've seen before like the more staple, more commonly known superheroes. So that's really exciting.
You obviously have gained a following thanks to your role in Gossip Girl, but how much more intense is this, particularly when you are in a room like that and the fact that the characters have such a following?
You definitely feel the pressure. Before I even took on the role I felt the pressure – the pressure to make the fans proud, to do the character justice. When a story has been developing for so long – this is one of the longest running comic books of all time – there’s such history there and such a fanbase, there’s a responsibility to do it right and to do justice to these characters that people love so much. So when we were on set we had such an attention to detail. There was question of whether my hair would be blonde or brown. To me it was never a question. Carol Ferris is a brunette and she had to be a brunette. And then once they made that decision they tested 14 different shades of brown. I flew out to North Carolina just to test the brown, three different weekends on camera. So that kind of attention to detail, if it was down to the shade of my hair, you can imagine how it was in the world of Green Lantern, in the suits, in the Corps, in the world of Oa. Warner Bros. is a company that really makes their films with such integrity. They take these big films and they could just make a lot of money off of them and do a fine job, but they really, if you look at the Harry Potter or the Batman franchise, the movies that they made are actually really great films, not just big movies that make money. We were really lucky to work with them on this sort of project.
Because you're doing less action than Ryan, how much green screen acting did you have to do and how is that a different kind of imagination as an actor then pretending to be any other character in a situation?
Well we still had a lot of, most of the stuff that we shot there was a blue screen, couldn't be green or he would just disappear [laugh], just be a floating head. Different movie. A lot of the stuff we did was with the blue screen and that's very different because I'm used to being in scenes and having a good idea what it's gonna look like when the finish product comes out, but to be existing in a world that doesn't even have life until we wrap. You know? You're shooting for six months and then the movie starts, is something very different and makes it that much more exciting when you see it. Seeing those ten minutes of footage, I now feel like a fan of the movie whether I was in it or not. “Ah, I can't wait to see this movie!” and here dedicated six months of my life to it and I have no idea what it's going to look like and that's really cool because there's an extra energy there. When things are just sitting in the room and manmade there's not that sort of life breathing through it in the way you can with CGI. Just like with Ryan's suit, it's comprised of energy and no fabric, no thread, could have conveyed that the way this CGI can, so it's pretty exciting.
She’s a very strong woman. She’s a business woman – she inherits her father’s aviation company. She’s also militant, she’s a fighter pilot. But she’s also very caring and kind. She has this relationship with Hal, they’re each other’s first love, they’ve known each other since they were children. She witnessed his father’s death with him. So there’s that history. Also, keeping in mind the fact that she becomes a villain. You have to have those kinds of teeth apparent in the beginning so it makes sense that her arc goes there. So there are a lot of different levels to play with her. But I really appreciated not being the damsel in distress.
Martin Campbell – what is it like working with a director like him working on a project like this?
He’s an incredible person to work with. I never met a person who works so hard and is so old [laughs]. He would get up at 5:00 in the morning and go to the production office, and he would go, “Yeah, it opens at 9:00.” I said, “Why would you go in at 5:00?” And he said, “I get to work before all these people come in and distract me!” And I thought he left at 9:00am. No, he would continue be there the whole production day and leave at 8:00pm. He is somebody who will take something very fantastical and find the realism in it. When I watch Casino Royale and I watch those fights, I could feel my ribs cracking [laughs]. He makes it so realistic. To bring that realism to a thing like this, so the audience can grasp on to something, because when it’s taking place on Earth and in space, you can get lost in the fantasy of it all, but you need something, some human interaction, something to connect with in it, and grab on and take the journey of the film. We were really lucky to have Martin tell this sort of story and I love working with him. He spent a lot of time rehearsing, flying out every weekend, spend 12 hours a day going over the script, talking about the characters, their backstories, their history. And then before we shoot the scene we would spend an hour in the trailer before shooting. On a film this large every moment costs a lot of money, and the fact that we could sit in that trailer and rehearse for an hour to make the scenes better, to make the story better, was an amazing, amazing thing that they afforded us that chance to make the best movie we could make.
I really love that Hal wasn’t a super man; he is just a man. He’s somebody who inherits great responsibility, but you’re not really sure he wants it. I’m not sure every man in the world would say, “Yeah, you know what, I want to sacrifice my life to go fight aliens and have my family specifically attacked and targeted and everyone I love and save the Earth” - the fact that he had reservations about being the person responsible for saving planet Earth. The fact that he had weaknesses – his father was taken from him, he was a person with great potential, but was broken and guarded. I loved that, because not everyone is a hero and without Ryan there would have been no Hal Jordan, and he’s somebody who could be incredibly intimidating and super, and he’s incredibly talented and intelligent, but he’s also very humble and kind and witty and charming. To relay all of those emotions he’s a very human super man. And I loved that about Ryan, I loved that about Green Lantern. And also the fact that he is weak – he looks to people around him for support, whether it’s his nephew or Carol, because people do need each other and I thought that was beautiful.
What was it like working with Peter Sarsgaard? We haven’t seen too much from him in the footage or the trailer.
I actually didn’t get to work with Peter much. I wish I would have been able to work with him more, I’m such a fan of his, maybe it’s a good thing – he had a restraining order against me, so maybe that’s why [laughs]. He’s such a talented actor and it was so important to him to really disappear under this character, because with prothetics, he spent eight hours a day – he would come to work at three in the morning and then shoot all day until the evening. That alone could have carried his performance. He’s such a great actor he would saying anything looking like that and he would be so incredible. He did all the extra work. When he’s in that crazy head – his daughter came to set one day and she was hysterical because he wasn’t the same. He was like, “Baby!” and she had no idea who this was. And the way he moved, the way he talked, the way he batted his eyes was even different. He’s just such a talented actor and fascinating to watch. Even when I would wrap I would sit around and watch him in scenes.
You keep mentioning Star Sapphire, are you convinced or are you gonna try to push for you to be her in the sequel, if there is one?
If this movie is successful and we did a few more films I'm pretty confident that Star Sapphire would show up. Just by all – all the conversations are very guarded and protected, even with us because nobody wants to commit to anything, but I imagine Star Sapphire not showing up if we made more films.
Costume too, of course?
Well, I mean, a little more material would be nice [laughs]. And by “a little” I mean a lot.
The way that this movies came to me was that I had made The Town with Warner Bros. and they saw the footage of The Town and they said to me, “We want you to look at Green Lantern.” I still had to audition for it. It was really nice for me that this was a studio that wasn’t looking for some girl to have her legs greased up and her boobs out and that’s all that mattered. They saw a pain-riddled, drug-addicted, drug mule mother from Boston and said, “Oh, we want her to be the female face of our next franchise film.” Those are the people I want to work for! That’s the kind of story that I want to tell, where the art and the craft means something to them. I think they saw from my role in The Town that I was able to be dark and angry and be a villain. All I did was screentest with Ryan once and it was more about seeing the chemistry between Hal and Carol and to see if we could spar against each other and have that rivalry and that tension, but also that kindness and care.
How would you compare Carol and the character and the complexity that she offers to Lois Lane or Mary Jane, these typical female roles in comic book franchises?
She's very untraditional in the fact that she is head-to-head with Hal, and the fact that they are always challenging each other was something was really nice that she's not waiting for him to save her. There are times where he experiences weakness where she has to come in and save him and I think that that's a little more like real life. Like I was saying if people, do – where you're missing something you can have a family member, a friend, or a lover fill that and empower you and make you stronger in that area and it's nice to see that in a comic book film because when there's a hero, he's the hero and he saves the world and he saves the he loves but the fact that other people can be heroes too is pretty cool.
I don't think there's anything negative that you can say about being a part of a film that has such a strong fan base, people that are so supportive. Just sitting in there and showing those ten minutes of footage and hearing the reaction. I grabbed Ryan and said, “If that doesn't make you feel good then I don't know what does!” You know? So to do something that brings people happiness and excitement you only feed off of that energy. Hopefully people will like it. I don't think about jobs and how they're gonna effect my career or my path or this, you know? If I connect with a role, with a character, with a story, with the filmmakers that to me is the reward. That to me is the success and if receive it well then terrific and if they don't then at least I had a good time making it. That's how I feel.
Yes, there's a big focus group out there, but what would you say to those that this wouldn't be on their radar. What's so special that they should see it?
Like I was saying earlier, it's really exciting to introduce a superhero to a generation that's not aware of him yet. I'm such a fan of Harry Potter, it's not healthy [laughs]. It's, oh my gosh, it's so not right but when the books were over I thought I may as well end my life and now that the movie are ending I don't know how I'm going to continue on. I sometimes fantasize about the fact like what if there was another J.K. Rowling could create another character like Harry Potter.
[Ryan Reynolds walks up from behind her and lets out a big sigh]
Go away, I’m talking about Harry Potter.
Ryan Reynolds: Harry Potter? Yeah, they need the money!
I'm just saying it's that same sort of thing. It's a character that not everybody is aware of and that's exciting and also the fact that it take place on Earth as well as space, it's the world we get to explore is just so much more vast and, I dunno, it's so exciting. Just watch that, that will make you want to see it!