Brooklyn Decker: ‘It took Andy five months to woo me’

Though she initially ignored tennis star Andy Roddick’s requests for a date, top model Brooklyn Decker soon realised she’d found her perfect match. And now she’s got her man, her heart’s set on combining a family with a film career

‘To start with people would dismiss me, simply because I was a model. So you have to work extra hard hoping that they’ll see something more in you than just the way you look'

In the world according to top model turned actress Brooklyn Decker, she is ‘just an ordinary girl from North Carolina’. In the world according to me, sitting in a suite of a beachside Santa Monica hotel opposite this 5ft 11in creature, all startling sky-blue eyes and Angelina pout, she is anything but ordinary. From the cute choppy hair and the bright white smile to the Valentino kitten heels, Brooklyn Decker, it has to be said, is also a whole lot more California than Carolina.

Married to tennis superstar Andy Roddick, Brooklyn was perhaps previously best known for sitting courtside, cheering on her husband at tournaments around the world. Male fans will be aware of her frequently topping ‘sexiest woman alive’ polls and landing one of modelling’s most prestigious assignments – the cover of Sports Illustrated, one of America’s most widely read magazines. She has long had the sort of online fanbase and professional clout that equals a very healthy bank balance, but not the job satisfaction she craved, and the SI cover would be her last modelling assignment. ‘I loved the travel but I didn’t love the work,’ she confesses candidly, rolling her eyes. ‘I mean, come on, modelling is only so stimulating!’

It is fair to assume, given the above CV, her physical attributes and her personal connections, that Brooklyn would have had a head start in the frenzied competitive jungle that is Hollywood. But, as every model turned actress will testify, it takes more than the perfect Cali-look and a famous husband to impress agents and casting directors, who have their pick of the world’s most beautiful women. ‘I auditioned for two or three years and didn’t get anything. Then I started getting a couple of TV shows and finally my first movie,’ says Brooklyn, referring to the comedy Just Go With It, in which she starred alongside Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston (moviegoers may remember the ‘bikini-off’ scene where Jennifer infamously held her own against the 24-year-old Brooklyn). Praised by critics for her ‘natural allure’, she’ll soon be seen starring opposite Rihanna, Alexander Skarsgard, Taylor Kitsch and Liam Neeson in Battleship, the splashiest $200-million sci-fi blockbuster of the year.

Her success, she says, comes down to a mixture of luck, hard graft and resilience in the face of repeated rejections. ‘To start with people would dismiss me, simply because I was a model. So you have to work extra hard hoping that they’ll see something more in you than just the way you look. As soon as I got Just Go With It, I left the modelling world behind, which is a big thing to do when
you’re at the top.’

‘I don’t play tennis at all. I figure it’s a dangerous situation to try to learn a skill from somebody you love. Stay far away and leave the tennis to him’

Brooklyn is opinionated and intelligent, nailing both the action (battling extraterrestrial beings, running from explosions) and the feistiness of her Battleship character. ‘I play Samantha, a tough,
butt-kicking girl. Make-up is out and mud is in! My hair was messed up and I had bruises on my legs and cuts on my arms.’

Brooklyn describes Rihanna, who plays a naval officer, as ‘a sweetheart, a total team player. She is wildly successful in her world, yet she’s taking a chance to learn. I respect her because she was going into a situation as an actress where she could be scrutinised and criticised and she didn’t care. She was having fun with it, being bold.’ Infusing the film with realism, director Peter Berg cast non-actor US Army Colonel Gregory Gadson, who lost both legs in Iraq, in a key supporting role.

Brooklyn making a splash in the comedy Just Go With It

‘Greg was incredibly inspirational. We were shooting in the muddy mountains of Hawaii. In
one scene he was supposed to be hiking in the mud; obviously the task was much more difficult on prosthetics than it would be for me, but the
crew and I were more concerned about it than he was. Greg is tough as nails and this task paled in comparison to the challenges he’s faced and conquered in life.’

Brooklyn went through rigorous training for
the role. ‘It’s empowering and thrilling; all of a sudden they’re handing me a machine gun.’
Eyes lighting up, she wields an imaginary weapon and shoots the air. ‘You realise how dangerous and powerful they can be. I almost enjoyed it too much!’

Brooklyn, a self-confessed tomboy, and her younger brother Jordan were raised in Matthews, a town near Charlotte, by Tessa, a nurse, and Stephen, who programmes pacemakers. ‘My parents had us very young. We lived in a modest house. We built forts, we hiked, we went camping and they wanted us to be independent,’ she says. ‘It’s how children grew up in the 1940s and 50s: outside all the time, playing in the dirt, riding your bike around. I played sports; I played the violin and the guitar. We weren’t allowed to watch TV. We didn’t have passports and we didn’t travel – it was too expensive.’ Brooklyn smiles. ‘With my first pay cheque I sent my parents to Jamaica, so they actually got passports! They’re pretty grounded; it wasn’t until they saw the trailer for Battleship that they were like, “Ooh, this is a big movie, isn’t it?”’ The Deckers are not dazzled by their daughter’s glitzy lifestyle and are equally proud of 22-year-old Jordan, who is about to join the army.

Not many people, Brooklyn points out, go from Matthews to the cover of Sports Illustrated – certainly, she had never considered it, and quite fancied becoming a vet. It was a chance encounter with another model in a shopping mall at 16 that led to an agent and then casting and then, two years later, a move to New York.‘I was 18, living in New York alone – and I’d never left North Carolina! It was difficult,’ says Brooklyn. ‘Suddenly I had to know what the best angle on my face was. It’s just a very different world.’ Work was slow; Brooklyn has a famously great figure, but it’s not one befitting the designer catwalks. ‘I have boobs and I talk too much and I smile too much. I’ve never been runway skinny.

No one wanted to hire me.’Encouraged by her parents, she decided to stick it out and took up acting lessons to fill her spare time. ‘My father advised me to make the most of my athletic physique, to nurture it and make it my thing.’ Was there ever any temptation to slim down to a typical model size zero? ‘I did the whole juice-fasting thing, I tried all that – it was stupid,’ she admits. ‘But you learn. I love sugar and coffee, but I try to balance healthy eating with the occasional indulgence.’

With her newfound confidence and attitude, the work, she says, suddenly flooded in, and she shot for some big-name glossies such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan. ‘I think once you start accepting who you are, you get successful,’ she says.Meeting tennis superstar Andy was an unexpected bonus to her international success. Andy – a former US Open champion and three times Wimbledon finalist – spotted his future wife on a TV talk show and was instantly smitten. ‘He got his agent to call my agent,’ smiles Brooklyn. Flattered but cautious, she ignored his incessant requests for a date. ‘He wooed me,’ she laughs.

‘But it took five months until I called him back! And then that was that.’

Brooklyn with her husband of three years, US tennis
star Andy Roddick

Their first date was dinner and a comedy show, and he won her over. ‘I said, “This guy is a catch. This is the man I’m going to marry.”’ How did she know he was the one? ‘He made me laugh – he is hilarious and he is also chivalrous.’
Of course, Andy did rather well too…the beautiful girl from the TV chat show looks set to become one of Hollywood’s leading ladies. In the forthcoming movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Brooklyn appears alongside Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez and Anna Kendrick as a cliché trophy wife (‘I hate my character, but she was so much fun to play’). Jennifer Lopez, she says, came to rehearsals without a stitch of make-up: ‘I was so surprised at how down-to-earth she was.’

She was equally impressed by the other Jennifer, her Just Go With It co-star. ‘I grew up watching Friends. I was so nervous and scared to work with her, but she has this warmth about her and told me to always ignore the critics and just have fun.’

‘I’ve never been runway skinny. My father advised me to make
the most of my athletic physique, to nurture it and make it my thing’

Her goals? ‘I want it all – great films roles and a family. I love children, but that will come in time.’
For now, she says that she and Andy are focusing on their respective careers – aware that they ‘both have careers with fairly short shelf lives’.

 In new movie Battleship

They live well away from the Los Angeles bubble in Texas with their English bulldog Billie Jean
(named after the tennis legend Billie Jean King, a good friend of the couple) and, even though they are both in the public eye, theirs is a relationship free from professional rivalry. ‘I can imagine that it would be difficult for two competitive people working in movies if one is doing well and one’s not – that would be stressful,’ she says.

I point out that both having such time-consuming, high-profile careers is hardly a conventional setup.  ‘A lot of times in relationships you make so many sacrifices for the other person that you almost lose yourself. I’ve found that nurturing my own life is just as important,’ says Brooklyn. ‘It is so important to support each other’s passions, but what I’m learning is that people need their own independent accomplishments to feel good about themselves.’

So no Decker v Roddick tennis matches? ‘No! I don’t play at all. I figure it’s a dangerous situation to try to learn a skill from somebody you love. Stay away. Stay far, far away – leave the tennis to him.’
Battleship will be in cinemas from Wednesday.

Brooklyn’s finest

Favourite Book: The Hunger Games — I read all three books in three days. I’m too old for them, but I love them.
Musical picks: I’m really into Lana Del Rey. I also love the Jay-Z/Kanye West album Watch the Throne.
Amazing Accessories: Theodora & Callum scarves. They’re super-graphic and rainbow coloured.
Style icon: Jane Birkin [right]— so sophisticated but always with an edge.
Saving up for: Art for my house. I love an artist called Matthew Heller— his paintings cost around $10,000 [£6,300] each, which some say isn’t much for art, but it seems a lot to me!
Beauty essential: Chanel foundation and Stila lipstick in bright colours.
Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with? Piers Morgan. I know him— he’s very nice and he knows everyone. He could tell me a bunch of funny stories to make the time fly!

What to Expect When You’re Expecting will be released on 23 May

Pictures: lickerish ltd, wireimage,, gunnar larsen/rex

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