In A Simple Favor, a glitzy satire-noir thriller from Paul Feig, Blake Lively plays a woman of mystery. As Emily Nelson, she saunters around in tailored suits and lives in an icy modern mansion. Displayed proudly on her living room wall: a nude portrait that becomes the movie’s greatest gag. The image almost looks like it was taken from the angle of Lively’s thighs, looking up: The vagina is front and center, taking up most of the painting, her waist looks impossibly long, and her chest and face are nearly obscured in the background. It’s a surprising and hilarious image, one that leaves mommy blogger Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) a bit overwhelmed. Kendrick recently told Pride Source that the portrait was added in post-production (and didn’t say whether Lively actually posed for it), but that it was in fact Lively’s idea. So, can Blake explain her inspiration?
“The nude portrait was a very critical part of the film. The portrait itself, the execution of what said nude portrait would look like, was inspired by this iconic Helmut Newton photo,” Lively told Vulture at A Simple Favor’s premiere at MoMa Monday night. “I felt like it had to be over the top and funny, and what I loved about the Helmut Newton photo is that it was very graphic and abstract, like a wide lens but shot closely, so it distorted everything. It almost looked architectural, but it was unflattering. It was a lotta crotch. I thought it was so over the top and funny that I thought, We’ve gotta take this Helmut Newton photo and re-create that.” Lively clarifies that it was the execution of the portrait — with its sharp angles and crooked perspective — that was her idea. Lively playfully tapped Vulture’s arm: “You probably thought I was craaaazy!”