“They were worried when they first got me, that I seemed a little too… nice.”
How easy to believe. Brooklyn Decker (Mrs Roddick to tennis types) sits across from me, all strappy heels, Californian tan and coltish frame. She’s politeness personified, there is literally nothing to dislike and I see Battleship director Peter Berg’s problem.
“He always deglamorises his female characters,” Decker tells me. “The fifth time I auditioned for him, he said, ‘I want to see snot bubbles come out of your nose, your boyfriend is dying, aliens are…’
“Up to that point, I had no idea there were even aliens in the movie, I wasn’t allowed to read the script. By that point, I thought, ‘I’m going to freaking do this,’ and I gritted my teeth, and Pete got it out of me on the Friday, and on the Monday, he offered me the part.”
The part causing such turmoil was of physiotherapist Sam, Taylor Kitsch’s girlfriend, Liam Neeson’s daughter, in the big-budget Battleship, Universal’s summer blockbuster, based on the famous boardgame. It was only Decker’s second film (she’s now made three), and she was well out of her comfort zone, alongside fellow screen newcomer Rihanna (who plays naval petty officer Cora Raikes):
“I was very much outside of my comfort zone, it was incredibly intimidating, and the nerves came in. It was my second movie, it was Rihanna’s first, but I think Rihanna is a performer, she knows how to captivate an audience, and that was something I had yet to learn.”
Do I point out that Decker, who in her days as a model graced the cover of the prestigious Sports Illustrated, presumably has her own capacity to captivate an audience?
“That’s just the magic of photoshop,” she says, apparently genuinely.
“It’s a different beast, so for me, it was very daunting in that way, but Pete takes his new actors and pushes them, says ‘get over yourself.’”
Get over herself she did. By the end of filming, “I was looking at Rihanna’s guns, and thinking, ‘Rihanna’s getting all the cool stuff.’ I did some training, and I did get to shoot a machine gun, it’s empowering. I told Pete, if we do Battleship II, that we have to figure a way I can be in the navy and shoot. He said to quit dreaming.”
Nonetheless, Decker has her own action going on in the film, featuring alongside Gregory Gadson, a real-life army veteran who lost both legs in Iraq, something the actress describes as “one of the most rewarding parts of the whole process. He is strong and independent, and had to come and make himself completely vulnerable to this puny little blonde girl – we were both so nervous and wanted to do such a good job."
She adds: “It’s a big summer pop corn blockbuster, we’re not trying to make it more than that, but it definitely added a sense of emotion that helped both of us a lot in the process.”
Decker is clearly more than the camera-friendly woman photographed in the stands watching her husband on the tennis court. She explains how she only started modelling to pay for vet school, and once that line of work took off, she went back to school, this time to act:
“I started auditioning, and I failed so many auditions, they’re going to all come back to haunt me, tons and tons, hundreds probably. That’s what people don’t see, they only see she’s got three movies coming out…”
However uphill it might have been, she’s not looking back:
“I stopped modelling a while ago, you can only be so stimulated by taking photos, so I decided if I actually wanted to move into acting and have people want to work with me seriously, I had to stick to the study.
“But I can’t really bite the hand that fed me, and I’m not the first, Cameron Diaz and Charlize Theron both did enough work to prove themselves. There’ll be people not wanting to meet the model chick, so I just have to do the work, and that’s all that you can really ask, for the chance."
Battleship is in UK cinemas today - here's the trailer...