Blake Lively can make a mean martini.
It's a skill the actress perfected while shooting the R-rated "A Simple Favor", in which she plays blunt-spoken, cocktail-shaking housewife Emily, who will guzzle a stiff drink (or three) sooner than she'll acquiesce to humdrum suburban life.
But despite her expertise and familial connection to the liquor business (husband Ryan Reynolds owns Aviation Gin), Lively doesn't actually enjoy the taste of alcohol.
"I am the in-house mixologist in my family, but I don't drink, which is the joke," Lively says with a grin. "People come over and I start to pull out the shaker and muddler, and they're like, 'Why is she making me a drink? This is going to be terrible.' And I say, 'Just trust me.' "
You wouldn't be wise to believe her latest character, though. Shortly after striking up an uneasy friendship with chipper fellow mom Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), Emily asks her for "a simple favor" of picking up her son from school one afternoon. But after days with no sight or word from Emily, Stephanie and Emily's husband (Henry Golding) begin to fear the woman they thought they knew has disappeared -- or worse -- which sets off a twisty, twisted chain of events.
Lively, 31, who struck surprising critical and box-office gold with shark drama "The Shallows" in 2016, knew she wanted to make "Simple" even before reading the script, primarily because director Paul Feig ("Bridesmaids") was attached.
When she finally read it, "I was suddenly very confused because the script was a thriller, and yet Paul Feig was making the movie," Lively says. "I sat down with him and asked him if it was a thriller or a comedy, and he said, 'Yes.' "
From the get-go, Lively leaned in to the story's heightened tone and style, choosing to outfit Emily in chic three-piece suits, accessorised by colourful pocket squares and walking sticks (inspired by Feig's own dressy everyday wardrobe).
"I thought, 'This character has lived so many different lives, that in order to do that and not be recognised, she must jump ship and have a completely distinct identity in each life,' " Lively says.
Adds Feig: "I always (encourage) my actresses to come up with their own look, and she was the one who decided she wanted the character to dress like me, with suits and ties and all that. She also had a lot of great ideas how to make Emily understandable and sympathetic, even though she's a pretty devious character."
Before she goes missing and her dark past is revealed, Emily begrudgingly admires Stephanie's adept parenting: cooking for her son every day and eagerly volunteering at his school, earning eye rolls from other mums and dads. Lively could relate to sometimes feeling inadequate, as a parent to daughters to James, 3, and Inez, almost 2.
"Every good parent I know is hard on themselves, which is beautiful, because it means that you care," Lively says. "I live for my family, so where I might have insecurities about other things in my life, I know I'm giving the best of myself to my family. That's not to say I'm without plenty of mistakes, but I'm confident that everybody knows how loved they are. I sleep easiest at night knowing I'm at least giving it my all."
The Lively-Reynolds brood sticks together even when they're working, which means only one of the two actors is shooting a project at any given time. (Lively shot spy movie "The Rhythm Section" in Madrid this summer.) While the "Gossip Girl" star once enjoyed flying solo in her 20s -- traveling to places such as France and South Africa to study and explore -- having a family made the concept of alone time null.
"They're always so much more fun and interesting to be around than being by myself," Lively says. "So when I do get the time to do nothing, all I want to do is drink them up." ---
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