Although she’s no stranger to intimidating work environments (Maria Bello, who played her abusive, pill-popping mother in Rebecca Miller’s The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, “is delicious and lovely, but she could not have scared me more that first day we worked together”), nothing could adequately prepare Lively for working with Stone, who’s notorious for refusing to coddle actors. “Oliver is by no means a cheerleader,” she says. “His movies very much reflect the strong, aggressive powerhouse that he is, so he’s not cooing at you along the way. It was challenging because you want to feel like you can do no wrong, especially with your director, but that definitely wasn’t the case here. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing—it’s just the way he works.”
It’s a warm, sunny Saturday morning on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and we’re at Lively’s photo shoot inside the palatial mansion that doubled as Carrie and Big’s apartment in the first Sex and the City movie. Natural light from the courtyard floods the main floor, casting chandelier-shaped shadows across the plain white walls. Lively’s hired muscle, a broad-shouldered man from Queens, sweeps through every room to ensure the safety of his client, to whom he’d been recommended by Reynolds. (On February 14, Lively filed a restraining order against Sergei Mifle, an obsessive Gossip Girl fan who allegedly made repeated calls to her mother, talent manager Elaine Lively, because he wanted to “heal” her daughter, about whom he was “deeply concerned.” She now rarely leaves the house without an accompanying bodyguard.)
“I get called every now and again when Blake’s in New York. She has a regular guy in L.A.,” he says, peering across the room to keep an eye on Lively, who’s feverishly texting Roy Orbison. (“He’s dead, I know,” she says when she later catches me looking at her buzzing phone. “It always freaks people out. They’re like, ‘Roy Orbison?’ I put people in my contact list under pseudonyms.”) Wearing a tie-dyed gray T-shirt under an orange, knee-length Dsquared2 coat, tapered black jeans, and a pair of white slippers, Lively walks over to her bodyguard. She flashes him a pouty, curfew-extending smile, her outstretched, cupped hands suggesting that he has something she wants. “Snack?” he asks. She widens her eyes and nods with exaggerated mirth while breaking off two pieces of dark chocolate from a bar he’s been hiding inside his jacket. “Always got to make sure I bring her chocolate,” he says.
Lively counts among her closest friends her Gossip Girl hairstylist and makeup artist, two people with whom she spends much of her time. “I’m slow to build friendships, but they always end up being long and lasting,” she says. Other than her current relationship with Reynolds and her brief but much-publicized affair with DiCaprio, Lively’s only other boyfriends have been Kelly Blatz (her costar in the 2006 thriller Simon Says) and Penn Badgley (the Jack to her Rose on Gossip Girl). As a universally salivated-over star, it’s less dangerous to trust a new friend or a possible boyfriend when you’ve already established equal footing in the industry. But she insists, “The way that I meet people is the same way that I’ve always met people. It might be weird if I was on JDate, but I’m not, so that’s good. I meet so many people in passing at parties, but I’ve never been a person who’s like, I know I just met you, but let’s exchange numbers and be best friends.”