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Twilight stunner Ashley Greene is breaking new ground.  

Lace and jersey tank top, $795, and chiffon bias cascade ruffle long skirt, $1,795, both by Jason Wu. Armure ring in 18K white gold with diamonds, price upon request, by Wilfredo Rosado. Knot clutch (on counter), $2,450, by Bottega Veneta.

 

Black strapless jet tulle embroidered evening dress, $16,000, by Donna Karan New York. Galaxy comb, $625, by Jennifer Behr. Zenith black satin pumps with ankle straps, $695, by Brian Atwood.

 

There are the highest-grossing films of all time, like Gone With the Wind, Avatar and Titanic, and then there are the highest-grossing film franchises, like Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Christopher Nolan’s Batman. And there’s the series that could very well eclipse them all this month—The Twilight Saga.

While this final installment of the vampire franchise has secured megastardom for some of its cast, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part II (opening Nov. 16) will complete Stephenie Meyers’ book series and solidify yet another star of universal proportion, Ashley Greene.

Greene’s already been through the typical Hollywood initiations: She’s got almost 2 million Twitter followers, topless pictures of her have surfaced on the Net and she’s dated a Jonas brother. Yet when I sat with the 25-year-old beauty in the Royal Suite of midtown Manhattan’s Palace Hotel, I met a grounded, street- and school-smart girl from Jacksonville, Fla., who likes to bake and watch Gator football games with her dad. And while her striking good looks are a match for her strong sense of self—there isn’t anything typically Hollywood about the real Greene.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn director Bill Condon agrees that Greene’s star quality looms large and is driven by her timeless beauty. Condon minimized the Tinkerbell-like elements of her character, Alice Cullen, Edward’s clairvoyant and immortal sister, for the last two films. “In Breaking Dawn, we changed up Ashley’s pixieish hairstyle to reflect a more Audrey Hepburn-type look, which I think fit her really well,” he says. “As naturally effervescent as she can be, she also has
a great ‘Old Hollywood’ elegance which we wanted to bring out.”

As a victim on the hit TV series Crossing Jordan, Greene’s very first acting role wasn’t quite so glamorous, “I didn’t really study acting in school,” says Greene. “I got this role and my mom said, ‘Ashley! You have to tell me when you die!’ It was so funny because I didn’t think about it, but I guess as a mother, seeing your daughter get brutally murdered is not fun.”

Although she’s now the new face of Mark cosmetics and DKNY, Greene’s modeling career didn’t come easy. “I am clearly not tall enough,” says the 5-foot-5 Greene, of her attempt at modeling at 17, although her mother encouraged her to build her confidence by taking modeling/etiquette classes. Eventually that led to a commercial class, and then an acting class, where her teacher’s fervor for the craft ignited her own. “I fell in love with it, and my teacher was so passionate about acting and teaching, I saw how in love he was with the whole world.”

Greene went on to set her sights on role models like Audrey Hepburn (“I mean, I’ve seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s a million times and I never get tired of it!”). With her distinctive features she could very well take on a modern-day version of Holly Golightly, as Condon pointed out, but as far as a part she’d truly love to re-create? “Marie Antoinette. I love period pieces,” she says. “Or an action film that’s female-driven.” And the resolute Greene means James Bond, not a Bond girl!

Although it’s been four years since the first movie was released and a year since Breaking Dawn-Part 1, the craze of Twilight has not dwindled. Indeed, the fanatical “Twi-hard” fans the films have fashioned sometimes seem scarier than the vampire folklore they obsess over. A fan site for Greene popped up before the first film even came out. “We hadn’t done anything yet and the fans were so invested [in the books].” The attention has been the only thing that has scared her during the past four years. “I was in Sweden touring with Rob [Pattinson] last year, and we literally had to be ushered out the back because fans got so excited it became a safety hazard. They were pushing on barriers and literally they grabbed us and yanked us. It was a little frightening.”

Greene, however, sensed Twilight would be huge long before the first film came out. “Two days before I left to start filming, me and one of my best friends Katie were sitting at our place and she gave me a card and I started crying because I thought, this is going to change the rest of my life.”

Greene uses that intuition to push herself with out-of-the-box roles, as she did in the recently released comedy Butter, opposite the all-star cast of Jennifer Garner, Olivia Wilde and Hugh Jackman. Butter demonstrates Greene’s comedic side. “You have to do things that scare you. Butter’s amazing—so smart and funny. I was a little out of my element.” By “out of her element” she means playing a disaffected teen who gets physical in an engrossing lesbian sex scene with Wilde. Garner, who plays her mother, was maternal off the set, too. “When I got there I was intimidated, but Jennifer came right up to me and was so sweet and really welcoming, so thank God for her.”

As much as she is defining herself as Hollywood’s latest dream girl, Greene aspires to a deeper acting path and is drawn to strong female actresses. “I love Cate Blanchett,” she says. “She’s extremely classy and has this knack for taking on roles and being very, very strong, but also embedding vulnerability. She has this relatable quality. I like the path she chose.”

Greene’s shown she’s taking more leaps with next year’s CBGB film about the legendary New York City live-music venue. “Courage isn’t the lack of fear, it’s acting in spite of it,” she says. “As human beings we’re a work in progress and you learn things about yourself every day. You have to constantly keep working towards a better version of you. You have to look at the positives because it’s a hard industry.” Her love affair with New York City inspires her positivity and challenges her to take on more: “I like the energy—it’s so contagious and I feel like you just have to be productive here. It’s very artistic and inspiring.”

As far as her relationships have gone, since she’s hit the big leagues, Greene looks to her parents to keep her grounded. “The greatest thing about my parents is that they love me and support me. You need someone who is going to help you make that better version of yourself. I need someone who is strong but supportive and who loves me—someone who isn’t afraid to call me on my sh*t.”

One of the benefits of living a bicoastal life is the exposure to all sorts of people, men in particular. “I would love to date someone outside the industry,” says Greene. But, she points out, “It’s hard to relate to someone who hasn’t gone through the same thing as you.”

While Greene is down-to-earth, there is nothing half-baked about her. She’s clearheaded about her fashion choices and knows exactly what colors look good on her, from her nails and lips to her uniform of a gray T-shirt, jean shorts and black flats paired with a great necklace and handbag. “I pack all these amazing clothes, and that’s what I wear [instead]. My friends from Jacksonville could tell me what I’m going to wear on any given day.”

Greene stays connected to her pals back home and often meets her parents, who came up to Savannah, Ga., every weekend while she was filming CBGB. “We baked all the time,” she says, using the cookbook her co-star, Alan Rickman, gave her.

How does she stay connected to them all while traveling the globe? “‘I love you!’ I think it’s very important to say it to friends and family as often as possible. ‘I don’t like you right now, but I love you.’”