''The Town'' actress makes a successful jump to the big screen in the Ben Affleck film

By Tim Stack
Updated September 24, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

Blake Lively kept her cool when she met Ben Affleck, which may be how she landed the role of single mother Krista in his hit movie The Town. The actress, 23, took the train from New York to Boston to audition for the part of Affleck’s character’s drug-addled ex-girlfriend. She found herself surrounded by local Boston actresses and got momentarily nervous when ”a girl came out right before me, and I heard her go around the corner and burst into tears. I thought, Oh, no — this man must be a monster. And then I hear her go, ‘Oh my God. I just met Ben Affleck!’ Then the rest of the girls burst into tears. I probably had an unfair advantage because I didn’t cry. He ended up giving it to me on the spot on the second audition. I celebrated by seeing a midnight showing of Harry Potter.”

That’s probably not how her character on Gossip Girl, party girl Serena van der Woodsen, would have chosen to celebrate. And that’s what may separate Lively from most of her peers. Sure, she’s a budding fashion icon who has already graced the cover of Vogue twice, but in person she’s polite, grounded, and endearingly sunny. After all, she’s been surrounded by actors her whole life: Her father, Ernie, played her dad in both Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants films; sister Robyn starred in the 1989 cult classic Teen Witch; and brother Eric was in American Pie. When Lively sat next to her parents at The Town‘s Boston premiere, though, she still had to brace them for her sex scene with Affleck. ”I said, ‘Remember when I was a kid and Eric was in American Pie and you made me close my eyes and plug my ears?’ I said, ‘That’s what you’re going to have to do.”’

Lively’s raw performance has bumped her up Hollywood’s call list. ”She’s definitely the It Girl right now,” says Sisterhood producer Denise DiNovi. Lively’s turn in The Town convinced Warner Bros. she could play the fighter-pilot female lead opposite Ryan Reynolds in 2011’s Green Lantern. Lively is grateful and mystified: ”They see me play this tragic, drug-addicted disaster and they want me to star in their next franchise?” Says Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. Pictures, ”Given how she transformed herself, I thought it was an incredibly special performance.”

Now that she’s finding success on the big screen, rumors have surfaced that she’s looking to leave Gossip Girl. But Lively and GG exec producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage deny talk that she asked producers to kill off her character. ”We put people on the show hoping that we have to struggle to keep them on because they’re such big stars,” says Savage. Lively, halfway through a six-year contract, says, ”It was actually nice to go back to Gossip Girl after The Town, because if I had to keep playing that character every day, I’d still be in the fetal position.” Instead she’s in the best position imaginable: ”I still hope to grow. I don’t even know what I can fully do.”