THE FORMER GOSSIP GIRL STAR AND MOTHER OF THREE UPENDS HER TYPICAL ROLE PROFILE IN THE ACTION THRILLER, THE RHYTHM SECTION

BY JOEL KELLER

There seems to be a mini-trend these days of actors playing against type. There’s funny guy Adam Sandler playing a degenerate gambler in the recent (and remarkable) Uncut Gems, and America’s Sweetheart, Jennifer Aniston, playing a self-interested semi-ruthless news anchor in the Apple TV+ series, The Morning Show. Then there’s Jason Bateman playing a potential child murderer in HBO’s The Outsider.

Still, it seems an extra stretch imagining Blake Lively who has specialized in romantic leads, femme fatales, and/or mothers in trouble playing a woman going undercover as a contract killer, but in her new film, The Rhythm Section, released on January 31, that’s the task set, and the results are fascinating.

In the film, Lively, sporting a British lilt, plays Stephanie Patrick, whose family died in a plane crash three years prior. When she finds out that the crash was not accidental, she poses as an assassin to find out who was responsible and to mete out revenge. Directed by Reed Morano (who directed three episodes of Hulu’s e Handmaid’s Tale, as well as the 2018 film, I ink We’re Alone Now), e Rhythm Section co-stars Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown, and Raza Jaffrey its principal character based on the Stephanie Patrick series of novels by Mark Burnell.

“My character, Stephanie, who lost her family…falls into drugs to cope with the pain,” said Lively in a Paramount Pictures studio interview. “She goes on a mission to find out who did it…to find out why [and to] avenge her family. That’s really what changes her. Every scene in this movie is life or death. You never know if she’s going to make it. She really is just a normal human being thrown into this world.”

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“Stephanie opens the door and steps through a life-changing scenario,” observed Law, also in a Paramount interview. “Once she’s done that, she can’t go back.”

Lively posted a picture on Instagram of herself in character, along with the caption, “Face tune broke.” Gone were her long blond locks, which were stuffed under a short brown bob wig complete with heavy bangs. In full makeup, she seemed tired and much older than her 32 years.

The journey to this tattered visage truly does seem remarkable for Lively, who has been in the acting game since starring in the 2005 film, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which she shot between junior and senior years of high school. She was born in L.A. in 1987 to parents who were both in the industry her mother, Elaine, was a talent scout, her father, Ernie, an actor (playing Blake’s on-screen father in both Traveling Pants and its sequel).

Lively always appreciated her parents’ creativity. “Before I could read, [they] would read my fortune cookies to me at restaurants, and the fortunes were always these long, complex, beautiful fairy tales,” she told American Way magazine in 2018, “…these amazing promises of great adventures that were going to happen to me, and I just loved that.”

She displayed such creativity and intelligence early on that her parents enrolled her in first grade with her older brother, Eric, when she was only 3 years old (more or less to keep him company, by her account). The rest of school life ran at a normal pace, though she was enrolled at many different ones before landing at Burbank High School, where she was your typical popular overachiever: AP classes, show choir, cheerleading, and thinking that she might attend Stanford. One thing she didn’t want to do, though, was act, given that Eric and half siblings Lori, Robyn, and Jason were all actors.

That said, she’d played a bit part in a film her father directed when she was 10, but had not caught the bug until Eric brought her to a casting director’s office under the ruse that she was there to run lines with him for one of his auditions. It turned out that he’d made the appointment for her. “I was too afraid to argue with him about it in the moment, so I just went in and read the scene, which I knew because he’d been tricking me into learning it for a week,” she told American Way.

That said, she’d played a bit part in a film her father directed when she was 10, but had not caught the bug until Eric brought her to a casting director’s office under the ruse that she was there to run lines with him for one of his auditions. It turned out that he’d made the appointment for her. “I was too afraid to argue with him about it in the moment, so I just went in and read the scene, which I knew because he’d been tricking me into learning it for a week,” she told American Way.

Filming The Rhythm Section involved a number of challenges for Lively, including a dizzying array of action sequences. During one, she broke a hand on location in Dublin and underwent two surgeries to correct the injury, causing production to shut down for six months while she Filming The Rhythm Section involved a number of challenges for Lively, including a dizzying array of action sequences. During one, she broke a hand on location in Dublin and underwent two surgeries to correct the injury, causing production to shut down for six months while she recovered. In November of 2019, she posted an Instagram Story of a video of her groggily waking up after one of the surgeries, while Reynolds played Tone Loc’s biggest hit in the background.

The post read: “Literally 4 weeks after I said, ‘I’d give my right hand to be in this movie!’ (Good thing no one told me to ‘break a leg’). My husband somehow knew ‘Wild Thing’ would be my version of smelling salts. I’ve never felt so seen. Or high. Also… I have zero recollection of this.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She fully recovered and completed the movie. When asked during the Paramount Pictures interview what directorial flair Morano brought to the production, Lively made particular reference to an extended car chase scene.
“What we’re used to seeing in these chases is great wide shots of cars spinning out and crashing and avoiding things. What sets this apart is that [Morano] wanted to keep the cameras with me in the car all the time, so it’s one shot. From the moment I jump in the car, you’re uncomfortable, because the audience is trapped with Stephanie. I had to do courses in order to learn how to do that type of driving. It was a really scary, intense thing. I’m screaming, I’m terrified, and that’s all real.”

Lively is next set to star in The Husband’s Secret, an adaptation of a novel by Liane Moriarty (no release date set at press time).

A longstanding focus of advocacy for her is the Child Rescue Coalition (founded in 2013 by Carly Asher Yoost), which works with law enforcement agencies to find predators who are exploiting children. One aspect of Lively’s interest involves technology that grabs the IP addresses of people who download child pornography, and she introduced it as her “charity of honor” during the 2017 Variety’s Power of Women luncheon in New York City.