Gossip Girl’s been off the air for almost six weeks now, but you wouldn’t know it from watching Blake Lively. In the last month and a half, Lively, fresh off her surprisingly convincing Boston accent in The Town, has become an “official ambassador” for Chanel, canoodled with Ryan Gosling, had her name bandied about as a possible reason for the tragic Ryan Reynolds–ScarJo split, and been up for a part in a Taylor Lautner movie. With a co-starring role in a big superhero movie (The Green Lantern) coming up in June, is Lively on the verge of making it as a film star? As a fashionista rather than a Van der Woodsen? Can she make the jump from the small to the big screen? We asked industry insiders this, and also: If Blake Lively were a stock, would you buy, sell, or hold?
Stock History: Going into Gossip Girl, Lively was the only cast member with a hit on her résumé: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Though her Serena Van der Woodsen has, in many ways, taken a back seat to Blair Waldorf as the driving engine of the show, Lively remains the face, if not the, er, soul, of the series. She’s made the most of this, complementing her steady gig with carefully selected highbrow, range-expanding roles as a young free spirit in Rebecca Miller’s The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, a working-class Bostonian in Ben Affleck’s The Town, and, just as important, BFF to Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld. Nothing scrubs the TV from an actress quite like the fashion world’s approval, and Lively has some to spare. As mentioned, she’s Chanel’s “handbag ambassador,” and she’s been on the cover of Vogue twice. (In February 2009, when it still felt weird, and in June 2010, when it didn’t. She was also recently on the cover of the magazine’s “Best Dressed” special edition.) Lively’s even had an upgrade in the boyfriend department (at least in the tabloids), trading in sweet little Penn Badgley for rumored trysts with bigger stars like Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds.
Peers: These days, Lively (23) is behind established actresses like Anne Hathaway (28) and Michelle Williams (30), but running neck and neck with Carey Mulligan (25), Rooney Mara (25), and Olivia Wilde (27).
Market Value: Lively only has one project lined up — playing the female lead against Ryan Reynolds in The Green Lantern — but her lack of future credits is misleading. Her name is now in the mix for just about every big-time Hollywood movie casting there is: Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity? Check. Christopher Nolan’s third Batman? Check. Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby? Check. Taylor Lautner’s Incarceron? Check. The fact that Lively hasn’t landed any of these parts just yet (and lost out on Gravity to Sandra Bullock, and Gatsby to Carey Mulligan, for sure) is besides the point. Serious Hollywood directors are taking her seriously, and it’s only a matter of time before one casts her. Between her steady TV gig and her fashion-world cred, she can afford to wait.
What Hollywood Thinks: Blake is buzzy right now, and insiders’ thoughts reflect that. Says one manager, “Blake is already a leading lady, who’s now proving that she’s a very good actress. I think she has a huge career ahead of her. She handles herself well. I think we’re going to see her starring in a lot of stuff.”
An agent seconds this, talking in particular about her strength on auditions. “Man, if she was a stock, she’d be a buy. She’s very strong in The Town. Her audition there [at Warner Bros.] was legendary. She came into the room as Blake Lively, but was wearing a tank top and no makeup. And the moment she auditioned, boom, she totally disappeared into that character. At that point, they went, ‘Whoa, we’re gonna get her for Green Lantern, too.’”
The agent also points to her cross-gender appeal: “You know how Julia Roberts has that ‘approachable’ beauty, and is not intimidating to women? She has that, too. And to men, she’s obviously hot. But while men find someone like, say, Megan Fox, very attractive, women find her intimidating. That’s a big deal, having male-female appeal.”
And both are also quick to say that should the forthcoming Green Lantern flop (and it’s been a troubled production), it won’t hurt Lively much. Says the manager, “Whatever the mistakes were with Green Lantern, she needs to not react to them and do an indie movie just because a big superhero movie didn’t work. It’s always about the role and the director. The hotter the person, the easier it is, and she’s very hot right now.” The agent adds, “Even though Green Lantern is supposed to be terrible, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to do extremely well and enhance her foreign value. Clash of the Titans was horrendous, but it didn’t slow down Sam Worthington any.”
The Analysis: Though we don’t like to talk about it much around these parts, many more people are aware of Gossip Girl than watch Gossip Girl. While this is obviously their loss, it has been Blake Lively’s gain. Unlike TV actresses who become strictly associated with one part and have trouble breaking type, Lively is instead loosely associated with a character who wears great clothes. Rebecca Miller, who directed Lively in Pippa Lee, didn’t watch Gossip Girl, and neither did Ben Affleck. Gossip Girl’s steady paycheck has given Lively the freedom to take her time and be choosy, all without giving directors preconceived notions about her. (And for those who do know Lively from Gossip Girl, The Town couldn’t have been a better gig. Between the accent and the trashiness, it was a total upending of the Serena Van Der Woodsen type. Well, maybe Serena would wear a hot pink bra, too.)
In other words, Lively doesn’t have the status of a TV star. And it’s not just because no one watches Gossip Girl, it’s because she’s keeping the right company: movie-star company, not TV-star company. Palling around with the aforementioned Wintour, Lagerfeld, Affleck, Gosling, and Reynolds will do wonders for a girl’s rep, and Lively’s proof of it. (As a point of comparison, consider Lively’s Gossip Girl co-star Leighton Meester: Anyone who watches the show, which Meester has taken over by sheer force of will, would think it was Meester who had the goods to make it to the A-list. She may yet, but for now, she’s not taking meetings with Christopher Nolan and Baz Lurhmann.) Lively may not actually be a movie star, but she’s done such a convincing job faking it, she’s just about to make it.
Bottom Line: Lively’s pulled off a magic trick: She’s escaped the TV ghetto, while still having the security of a TV show to fall back on. When Gossip Girl ends, she should be well positioned to have a robust film career.
Buy/Sell/Hold: Buy while it’s still cheap!