“I felt like I was in Gone With the Wind!” exclaims Tel Aviv export Bar Paly, reminiscing about spending time in Atlanta while shooting her latest film, Million Dollar Arm. “The first day I opened the door to my trailer, and I saw a sea of green. Coming from one desert [Tel Aviv] to another [Los Angeles], I’m really not used to that. I remember thinking to myself: Yeah, I could live here.” It’s a long way from Israel to L.A., and though Paly is settling in nicely to her burgeoning movie career, growing up in one of the world’s most volatile regions wasn’t nearly as glamorous as the Hollywood life. “From the time that you are 2 years old, you know that if you find a doll or a bag on the street, you don’t touch it because it could be a bomb,” she relays. “That’s already a different concern than a 2-year-old in America has. People end up going to the army very young, and I feel that people become adults sooner. You experience terrorism, and every family has something that happened to them. It’s horrible, but it shapes your character.”
No doubt this maturity helped the young Paly land modeling gigs for the likes of GQ and Maxim, a stint as the face of famed eyewear brand Oliver Peoples and, soon after, appearances on-screen. So far in her short career, Paly, who admits that modeling was always a stepping stone to her true career ambition—acting—has already worked alongside TV superstar Neil Patrick Harris (in How I Met Your Mother), Mark Wahlberg (in Pain & Gain) and Liam Neeson (in Non-Stop). You might think that the starlet is used to, or perhaps even jaded by, all the frills that come with being a Tinseltown up-and-comer, but, most endearingly, the blond beauty is as enamored with Hollywood today as she was when she first arrived stateside.
“Just the other day I got starstruck by Steven Spielberg,” Paly confesses about the famed director, whose work steered her toward the acting business. “I was probably acting like a 5-year-old. … Jaws and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial… you fall in love with them, and you think: I want to create those worlds!” A similar moment came courtesy of a Pain & Gain table read with Wahlberg. Admitting to being “terrified,” Paly remembers, “First of all, I was sitting across from [director] Michael Bay, and then I was reading lines with Mark Wahlberg. I was flipping out, but I was trying to keep it together. … We were reading one of the funniest scenes in the movie, and Mark just couldn’t keep his composure—he started cracking up. And that was so cool because it kind of broke the ice.”
Gushing about her latest leading man, Jon Hamm, who plays a down-on-his-luck sports agent in Million Dollar Arm, Paly says, “What I like most about Jon is that he’s this huge star, and, yet, when you meet him, he’s so down-to-earth. He doesn’t just do the scene and go back to his trailer. He’s always trying new things, and up for improvisation. He just has so much enthusiasm for what he does, and that’s definitely contagious.” Her own character, however, is more than a little “larger than life,” as Paly puts it. “She feels entitled and definitely uses her sexuality to get what she wants. And, let’s just say that maybe she’s not the right girl for Jon Hamm’s character; I don’t want to spoil it too much,” she adds with a twinkle in her eye.
Although Paly’s work spans several genres, from horror to thriller to drama, she is most at home with comedy (“I’ve loved comedy ever since I was little because my dad would always play pranks on me, so I was always this little mischievous kid,” she recalls). And, yet, the actress is usually typecast as the sexy foreign vixen—a role that she’d love to veer from. In fact, she shares with a child’s dreamy enchantment, “I would love to do a period piece. There is something very magical about that [idea]—from the clothes that would make you feel differently to your speech, to the language. Maybe even Catherine the Great; I definitely have the accent for it!”
Typecast or not, appearing in three Hollywood blockbusters released within a year of each other isn’t a bad take home, but don’t expect to find Paly palling around with an entourage—the girl still can’t believe her luck. “When I got the role in Pain & Gain, I was waiting for them to call me and say, ‘We’re just kidding; we actually have Scarlett Johansson lined up for this.’” She even pokes fun at her typical day off set: “I wake up, and I have this girl who feeds me grapes and Champagne. …” Then, just as quickly, she straightens up to say, “No, I try to keep it as normal as possible; I do my groceries, walk my dogs, go paintballing with friends.” Believe it or not, Paly counts paintball as one of her secrets to staying fit, along with, in all seriousness, pole dancing. “For Pain & Gain, since my character was an exotic dancer, I actually had to learn how to pole dance, which is an amazing workout. It’s kind of empowering; you’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m hot!’”
There’s no denying that.
Bar Paly’s A-Town Faves
LaVista Park and North Druid Hills (where Million Dollar Arm was shot)
“It’s a little park tucked away in a residential area. It’s very wooded and sits above a nice little valley with a creek running through it.”
Empire State South
“The bacon marmalade is delicious!”
Mary Mac’s Tea Room
“This was the place where I tried my first fried green tomatoes. I had wanted to try them ever since I saw the movie a long time ago!”
“We went there because of my obsession with Gone With the Wind—it’s named for Scarlett O’Hara’s aunt in Atlanta. I probably sound like such a tourist, but if there’s a place that combines movies and food, I’m there. The food was fantastic!”
Hair by Kylee Heath with The Wall Group
Makeup by Sage Maitri with The Wall Group
Styling by Marissa Peden with The Wall Group
Manicure by Noon Bui for johnrussobeauty.com using John Russo nail lacquer in Vamp and Mog