Hollywood Reporter Interview
Brooklyn Decker’s Model-To-Actress Challenge
Brooklyn Decker may be one of the more famous models in the world, but she makes a point of not acting like one. She speaks quickly and straightforwardly in a voice filled with enthusiasm and calls herself out when she says something cheesy or cliched (like how she’s learning to “peel back the layers” of a character). She dresses in a way that hides her figure — today it’s a draping flannel sweater over a plain white shirt and blue jeans — and makes the jarring claim that she’s “not a sexy person at all.” She doesn’t hesitate to talk through a mouthful of food at a table in front of Charlie’s at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles on a recent morning. Her self-deprecation has the whiff of the real.
After today’s late breakfast, Decker is heading to Warner Bros. for a general meeting, where she knows what she’s up against. She did these studio rounds about 18 months ago, and they didn’t amount to much, but now she’s got two roles in the can and is slightly more hopeful. “I think people are like: ‘OK, we saw her coming out of the water, now who is she? Can she carry on a conversation?’ ” she says and laughs. “You never know.”
The 23-year-old model, most famous for baring almost everything on the cover of the 2010 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (we’ll find out Feb. 14 if she reprises that role on the 2011 edition), is in the midst of is in the midst of an attempted leap that, for many before her, has launched a thousand punch lines: the model-to-actress career move. On Feb. 11, she’ll appear as Adam Sandler’s lust object in Sony’s Just Go With It, and she recently wrapped a role in the 2012 Universal tentpole Battleship. “Look, I may never work again once [Just Go With It] comes out,” she admits. “But I don’t see myself doing catalog shoots in Madrid anymore like I was doing two years ago. I hope that the acting side of things grows.”
Of course, since the 1980s, ambitious models have become goodwill ambassadors, business moguls, designers, talk-show hosts and reality TV stars who have generated millions beyond their modeling income. But very few have found a way to do that as actresses. There are the trailblazing predecessors such as Cameron Diaz, Rene Russo and Milla Jovovich — and, on the flip side, Estella Warren, Cindy Crawford (Fair Game, anyone?) and plenty others whose names don’t even register in anyone’s memory.
Aside from the X-Men movies, in which her mostly naked body was covered in blue paint, Victoria’s Secret and SI model Rebecca Romijn has had a difficult time finding a solid foothold. Andie MacDowell, who went on to build a healthy film career, famously had all her lines redubbed in her 1984 debut, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. The pitfalls in the film world are more vicious and plentiful than simply making sure you don’t slip off a catwalk or get sand in your lady parts on a beach in the Seychelles. The battlefield is littered with false starts and embarrassing flameouts that show how often a pretty face is as deep as it goes.
As with well-known actors who try to paint or record music, the public often reflexively roots against models trying to break in as if they have the gall to win the lottery and then gild the lily by doubling down on fame and fortune in another field. Not helping ambitious models with genuine acting talent is that the cliche about their peers’ lack of substance often is true. “I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Pity me; I came from modeling,’ ” says Decker, who’s repped by Jason Gutman at Gersh and Chris Kiely at Marilyn Talent (he also reps her modeling work). “It’s opened a lot of doors. People will take meetings because they’ve heard the name before. That’s an advantage that I have. But at the same time, I will have to work really hard to show that I’m worthy of being in these films.”
Decker knows her physical attributes are likely to be played up until she proves her acting chops. For Just Go With It, the trailers and billboards unsurprisingly zero in on her bikini-clad body, in one shot rising up from the ocean dripping and undulating in slow motion. Those who have seen the film note that the role itself — that of the love interest whom Sandler’s character wants badly enough to create a fake family just to dump for her — entails quite a bit of comedy. And whether she can pull that off is the key to any kind of longevity.
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