She plays a blind woman in the new psychological drama All I See Is You, but you won’t see Blake Lively tilting her head into the air to perceive her surroundings. While the gesture is a familiar trope in movies and TV shows about the visually impaired, the 30-year-old actress learned it has little grounding in reality.
That was an early lesson Lively gleaned from Ryan Knighton, a blind author and screenwriter she and husband Ryan Reynolds first became fans of when they heard him as a guest with Ira Glass on public radio’s This American Life, and who later became her friend and adviser. “Something Ryan said to me in the beginning was, ‘Why would I do that?’” Lively recounted to Yahoo Entertainment on the terrace of an upscale Beverly Hills hotel as Knighton lounged nearby. “He said, ‘I don’t want someone to walk in a room and be like, ‘What’s this guy looking at the ceiling for?’”
That was one of many subtle details Lively (Gossip Girl, Green Lantern) absorbed to play Gina, an American in Thailand whose life changes dramatically when she undergoes a procedure to regain her sight in the Marc Forster-directed film. Her transition alters the nature of her relationship with husband James (Jason Clarke), whom she later suspects of foul play.
Watch an exclusive clip from All I See Is You:
To play Gina, Lively wore contact lenses that took away her sight. “So it’s cheating in a way, because I didn’t have to act blind, I just was,” she said. “But it also was very hard, because I still had to get around a scene and navigate a room and walk a scene and know my husband in the middle of the room and know everything as intimately as if I were looking at it. … So it was tricky, really tricky.”
Since they could be picked up by the camera as it zoomed in, Lively removed the lenses for close-up shots — and found those scenes even more difficult to capture. “But I’ve already navigated the room that way so I know the movement, so now I have to act it. So it was actually harder when I took them out, because now you have to pretend. You can’t go to that crutch. When you’ve got your vision to access, then you want to use it. But when you have your vision to access and then you can’t use it, it’s really hard to keep blocking that.”
Scripted by Forster (who has previously helmed films like Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland, and World War Z) and Sean Conway (TV’s Ray Donovan), the film uses the metaphor of sight as a way to comment on traditional gender roles, the dynamic of relationships, and stereotypes.
“When women find their power or find their voice or sexuality, they’re labeled negatively,” Lively said. “So if they find their power, they’re a bitch or they’re demanding. If they find their sexuality, then they’re a slut. If they are determined and really stand for what they want, then they’re a diva. But men don’t have those things. Men are strong, men are powerful, men are womanizers or ladies’ men. Or they are bosses, they’re not bossy. So there’s positive connotations with the way men are described in the same way and there’s negative ones with women.
“That exemplifies a desire for women to be minimized and shamed in their pursuit of the same thing as men and to be controlled.”
After last year’s sleeper hit The Shallows, which found Lively as a surfer stranded in shark-infested waters, All I See Is You marks the actress’s second consecutive film that posed intense physical challenges. “If not, then why do it? If I’m going to spend time away from my babies, then why do it?” the mother of two daughters said when asked if she seeks out the types of roles that force her out of her comfort zone. “Whenever I read a script and feel like, ‘Ah, that’s really great but I can’t do that, that’s when I know I have to do it. But if I feel like, ‘That’s really great, I’m going to nail this then…’ — well, said me never. But if I did feel that way then I wouldn’t go after it. I’m always trying to challenge myself.”
For her next act, those challenges will continue to mount. Lively is learning rock climbing, swimming, stunt driving, martial arts, weapons, and some new languages. It’s all to play a spy and headline an action-revenge film called The Rhythm Section, directed by Reed Morano (who recently won an Emmy for Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale) and produced by Barbara Broccoli, in Broccoli’s first major feature outside the James Bond franchise that she and her family have overseen for decades.
“Someone said something to me recently, ‘Oh that’s so great you’re working with Barbara Broccoli, maybe you can be a Bond girl!’” Lively recalled. “And I said, ‘Why would I want to be a Bond girl? I get to be Bond.’ It’s a cool moment to be in, where we don’t get to be the girl in the cool movie next to the cool guy, but we get to be the cool character at the center.”
All I See Is You opens Friday. Watch the trailer:
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