Hollywood Reporter Part II
“Usually you go for the actors, but when it calls for a beautiful, stunning woman, then you jump into the model world and see if there’s somebody who can step up,” says Roger Mussenden, the casting director on Just Go With It who also put Halle Berry, Famke Janssen and Romijn in X-Men. Mussenden claims that Decker “hit all the marks and wasn’t thrown off by the comedy.”
That she trains with acting coaches Joan Rosenfels in New York and Cameron Thor in Los Angeles and has refrained from lining up new modeling gigs signals the seriousness of Decker’s approach. After growing up in Charlotte, N.C., Decker moved to New York in 2005 at age 18 after high school and eventually signed with the Paris-based Marilyn Agency, which has an office in New York. She quickly secured magazine spreads in Glamour, FHM and Cosmopolitan, as well as campaigns for the Gap and Victoria’s Secret, but her annual appearance in the SI swimsuit issue beginning in 2006 led to the coveted cover spot last year. By then, Decker had spent regular time co-hosting a CNN/SI Web sports show and a few years auditioning for TV and film roles, mostly without success. Acting wasn’t an early passion for Decker and only became an interest as a way to compensate for not going to college — she says she felt dumb and wanted to use her brain to study something while traveling the world for shoots. “It was stimulating my mind in a different way than modeling was,” she says.
Parts in Bedtime Stories, Hall Pass and Transformers: Dark of the Moon went to other actresses (fellow Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley ultimately got the latter after Megan Fox was jettisoned). A few TV series guest spots in 2009 on Chuck, Ugly Bettyand Royal Pains finally led to a string of auditions on two coasts, plus a table read that won her the part in Just Go With It.
“There might have been a few extra hoops, but not that many,” Mussenden says. “It is a very sensitive area with a lot of gorgeous faces that are sometimes just that. We have to look a little deeper at them and get them out of their comfort zone. Brooklyn has other qualities, and she knows how to handle herself; she was pretty confident. This was a big deal for her.”
“There’s a likability when a woman is beautiful and can make fun of herself — it disarms people; they become accessible,” says an agent who has worked with model-actresses. As an example, the agent cites the scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding when Diaz makes fun of her inability to sing in a karaoke bar. “Men and women started to really want to hang out with her,” the agent says. “If you had a beautiful girl, and you could put her in a situation that wasn’t too far away from who she might be as a human being and she could make people laugh, then men and women would like her, and she’d get away with murder in the beginning and accelerate faster.”
Decker has her own version of this appeal. On The Dan Patrick Show during pre-Super Bowl coverage in Dallas — she followed NFL Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Joe Montana and identified herself as “a wannabe actress”— Decker displayed her everywoman nature with her sports chatter and ability to banter with a bunch of professional macho meatheads. (Sports are in her blood: She’s a Carolina Panthers and UNC Tar Heels fan who’s married to tennis star Andy Roddick.)
“A woman that can be beautiful and funny — there ain’t a lot of them,” says casting director Fern Champion, who waded through an entire sea of Victoria’s Secret models before she put Diaz, then mainly a magazine model in Europe, in The Mask in 1994. Champion also saw Angelina Jolie in 1995 for Mortal Kombat and had a producer nix MacDowell when Champion tried to cast her in the 1988 ABC miniseries War and Remembrance. “Very similar to what I saw in Cameron, Brooklyn has got a great attitude,” she says. “She can talk, she’s funny, she’s humble, she’s got a great sense of humor. Women fell in love with Cameron, and men were totally involved. When you look at Brooklyn, same thing — I like her as a broad! You go to the personality.”