I wanted to write an article entitled “Go Ask Alice,” a play on that druggy confessional book from the seventies and the character that 24-year-old actor Ashley Greene is best known for portraying: Alice Cullen of the lusty vampire saga Twilight. I wanted to write about Hollywood DUIs with La Lohan, TMZ tussles, and coke-fueled orgies with the cast of Gossip Girl. I wanted to write the tragic untold story about the sorry life of the beautiful young starlet who got sucked into the vortex of a hyper-popular teen franchise—a $1.7 billion box office bonanza and counting. Being at the center of a storm like that must surely come with a dark side, right?
In person, Greene comes across as anything but a Hollywood monster. She’s more like a Girl Next Door, maybe one of the Joey Potter variety—only real, and rich, and available for dissection in the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. My hopes were dashed. Delivered from modeling classes in Florida to Hollywood at 17, and then to Twilight at 21, Greene appears to be well adjusted, deeply engaged in her career, and keenly aware of her good fortune. She’s close with her family, stays out of the tabloids (no small challenge given her relationship with onetime beau Joe Jonas), and seems every inch the PR fantasy.
The image Greene projects is one of a young woman so focused, private, and seemingly straight-laced as to be almost boring. (What good is a celebrity if there’s nothing salacious at which to wag our collective finger?) Except the Girl Next Door is never boring. Here’s why:
She’s a Bikini Babe Take a look at Sports Illustrated’s 2010 Swimsuit issue. That’s Ms. Greene inside, wearing nothing at all, her body a marvel in the ’90s-era supermodel mold. “My team asked them to go easy on the Photoshop,” she says. “I’m not perfect, I have flaws.” Perhaps they lie beneath the pink, scaly bikini that was painted onto her muscular form. “I painted it on myself,” she jokes. “Actually, it took 12 hours, and the artists are amazing. I was debating whether or not to do it, but I talked to my dad. I thought it was very beautiful and artistic.” She readily admits to harboring ulterior motives, though: “It had a really good response. I think it was actually a good thing in that it made my audience more broad.”
She Has a Dad Who Can Kill You How much heat did the old man take after his little girl turned up in her birthday suit on billboards and in magazines all over the world? “My dad used to be in the Marines, so no one is going to give him flack,” Greene says. She and her brother were raised with SEAL Team Six strictness in Middleburg and Jacksonville, Florida. (Her father now owns a concrete business, and her mother works in insurance.) “At 14, I was being a little brat. I thought I knew everything, and my dad was like, ‘I own your bed, your TV, everything.’ At the time I was annoyed, but I’m very thankful because he worked really hard to provide for us. There was a lot of discipline, and with what I’m doing now, I’m glad for it.
She Can Kick Your Ass at Sports It’s no coincidence that so many paparazzi shots show her exiting the gym. Her physique is so, well, exemplary that Greene has twice graced the cover of Women’s Health. “Growing up I was very competitive with my brother,” she says. “He did martial arts, and I was a tomboy. I got into martial arts and won medals.” Odds are good that one of them was a Purple Heart. “Once on the trampoline, I hit my leg and it just snapped,” the former cheerleader says. “They put pins in it.” Restrained in what nearly amounted to a full-body cast, Greene managed to re-break the bone soon thereafter when her brother, off balance on roller skates, sent her wheelchair careening into a concrete wall. “I broke my arm twice, I broke my femur twice, I split my head open twice,” Greene says. In other words, she is not afraid of you.
She Has a Crazy Work Ethic Greene joined the labor force at age 14. “I worked at the dry cleaner across from my school, I worked accounts payable for a company, I did hosting, I worked at a bowling alley, I worked at a boutique,” she says, ticking through her resume. After arriving in LA with a manager and an agent in hand, she earned spots on Mad TV and Punk'd (she tricked Justin Long into thinking she was underage after he bought her a cocktail), but continued to work Average Joe jobs to make ends meet. “I worked at a hotel, I worked at a restaurant, I did modeling, I worked everywhere. And I didn’t get fired!” That hotel she worked at? The Hollywood Roosevelt in LA, home of Teddy’s, the site of many a debauched evening for young Hollywood. Does she care to share any stories? “Absolutely not.”
She Knows How to Be Naughty Yes, she’s discreet, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be seduced. Before there was Sports Illustrated, there was the cover of Maxim. “I wouldn’t have done anything too crazy,” she says. “The thing I tell myself is, My father’s going to see this.” She knows that teen girls make up the vast majority of her fan club, too. And yet, she understands what brings home the bacon. “It’s important to have a male audience.”
She’s Probably Seeing Someone Else It’s a wonder the aforementioned teens didn’t abandon her in droves in 2010 when she started dating Joe Jonas. (Whatever did happen to that promise ring?) Since their breakup last March, her love life has been the source of endless speculation—she’s been paired with everyone from onscreen afterlife-mate Jackson Rathbone to Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane. “I’m not an actress, I’m a professional dater,” she jokes. “I’m dating everyone! My brother lives in LA and won’t even walk outside a restaurant with me. He’s like, ‘I do not want to be romantically linked to you.’” But she’s quick to add: “I’m not dating anyone. I’m very focused on what I’m going to do next.”
She Will Always Be 17 in Your Mind Her future projects, other than Twilight: Breaking Dawn (parts I and II), include Butter, a dark comedy about butter-carving, a colloquial art form popular at state fairs (she plays Jennifer Garner’s stepdaughter), and LOL, a teen flick with Miley Cyrus. There’s also an Oliver Twist-like project, wherein Dickens’ famous tale of orphandom gets re-imagined for a female lead. Truth be told, Greene is entering a tricky age in Hollywood: too old to play the daughter, not old enough to play the wife. Not many actors negotiate the transition gracefully. “I think Rachel McAdams has done a great job,” Greene says. “Going from Mean Girls to Midnight in Paris. She’s had really diverse roles and separates herself.”
She Has a Clue Greene knows that people see her as Alice from Twilight. But she also realizes how limiting that can be. “Everyone sees Alice as a best friend. A teen idol is an untouchable, unapproachable, amazing thing. The cool thing about Alice is that anyone that comes up to me is like, ‘I just want to hug you.’” Is that not also, well, a little creepy? “No, they’re not asking for a lock of my hair. They just relate to that character and relate to me, but I don’t consider myself a teen idol. Justin Bieber is a teen idol.”
She’s Down to Earth Bieber and the Jonas brothers and dozens of other stadium-filling teen idols can’t go five minutes without name-checking God for their success. To what does Greene attribute her good fortune? “The first year I was in LA, I worked my butt off. I was in acting classes every day. I would rather pay money for a class than have nice clothes. If I hadn’t worked as hard as I did, I wouldn’t be with the manager and the agent I have and they wouldn’t have sent me out for this Twilight thing. There are roles I didn’t get and I was really devastated, but because I didn’t get them, I was able to do Twilight ... If you end up unsuccessful, on the street with no friends, it’s probably because you’re a jerk. It’s not necessarily divine intervention. Your actions predict what happens.”
But just like any good Girl Next Door, Greene counters all that talk about forging her own destiny with some good-old fashioned humility: “You can’t control if the casting director thinks you look like his ex-girlfriend.”
ASHLEY LIKES Madeo.