July 2, 2012
I put up my hand to stop her. “Listen, I should be fair,” I say. “Before you go any further: I live in the Midwest. I flew in from Indiana last night.”
With that, Ashley Greene flops her long, fragile-looking hand over her mouth and gently barks out a laugh at herself. “Oh, my God,” she says. “That’s great.” She tilts a finger, pointing to me then to her, back and forth, laughing at the look-what-I-almost-got-us-into thing. “Me, too,” she says. “I’m from Florida!”
What the? “No, no,” I clarify. “I said Indiana. Green-castle. Twenty-five years.”
“Well, I’m from Florida!” she declares. And, truth is, somehow the simple joyous force of this incongruous assertion makes us peas in a pod in that moment. She drops her anecdote, leans against the table, gets just a little closer, and I can smell her shampoo. She has her finger twirling the inside rail of her large hoop earring. She left Jacksonville when she was seventeen. A year later, she had a leading role in Twilight, traveling enough that she can now say pretty clearly “I don’t really live here.” Again with the finger, pointing this way and that, meaning: this place, this neighborhood, this city, Los Angeles. She touches the end of her hair, flicks the silky weight of it over her shoulder, and looks in like she’s sharing a secret.
“Wait,” I say, “What was the joke? Was it about butter carving?” But she begs off the punchline. The moment has passed. She’s too smart to put her foot back in her mouth. “You make five movies with the same people and they really do feel like family. But film those same five movies in different locations, and none of the locations ever really feels like home.” And just like that, Ashley Greene turns the whole thing on a dime, whips up a chicken salad of sentiment and connection from the chicken shit of the moment.
Tick out Ashley Greene’s name in some Internet image-search, and you’re met with the marvelous puzzle of a woman who transforms herself from sultry accident — tripping happily along a red carpet, hair mussed, cleavage plunging, a party girl caught in a wide-open laugh at the absurdity of a lucky life — to slender, luminous sorority girl: hair brushed down, clipped in back, curling prim on her shoulders, a sensible and diligent student of the work she’s undertaken. It would be unfair to say she does all this with her eyes and her hair. But sorry, that’s how it works. She transforms with one or the other from photo to photo, right in front of your face.
She looks free enough, as if she has all the time she needs. She’s utterly without tension in considering herself, speaks about her life as if it were a wander, as if there were little real effort in the path she’s beaten from Twilight, the vampire-hormone megapack, to The Apparition, a late-summer horror film, to Butter. There’s no real hint of the work schedule that keeps her from having any real home.
She does blush, though — at the mention of naked body-painted photo shoots at the beach, and when called out on never claiming a boyfriend. Even when her eyes are quietly admired, blood spreads from her chest to her neck and cheeks. The party-girl Ashley Greene, the one who can wear any dress, anytime, and make it look like it’s about to fall off, is not without illusion. Ashley Greene does not drink, doesn’t really party. “In my second year in Los Angeles, when I was eighteen, I wasn’t getting any bookings,” she says, “so I stopped going out, stopped partying. It was a matter of getting to the work. I had to focus.”
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