Bell du jour: Read our interview and go behind the scenes on our L.A. cover shoot with actress Kristen Bell

FASHION Magazine May 2012 | Kristen Bell

FASHION Magazine May 2012 | Kristen Bell

Before the year is up, Kristen Bell will have starred in six movies, a new hit TV show and one viral YouTube video. Dennis Hensley catches up with Hollywood’s newest MVP.

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Cover story: Bell de jour
ByDennis Hensley.
Photographed by Doug Inglish.
Styled by Hayley Atkin.

Kristen Bell’s favourite Hollywood pastime isn’t shopping on Rodeo Drive, starting Twitter feuds with other stars or even basking in the perpetual sunshine. It’s being able to “walk out my front door and climb up a mountain in the middle of the afternoon.” So that’s what we’re doing, hiking through the same corner of L.A.’s sprawling Griffith Park where Bell and her best friends have their regular “venting hikes.”

“We talk about our issues and we get in a workout. By the end of the hike, one of us has figured out the other’s problems,” says the 31-year-old Michigan native, who rose to fame as TV sleuth Veronica Mars before moving on to movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Couples Retreat and, most recently, Big Miracle. “Now, let’s get those glutes!” she exclaims, charging up a steep, grassy hill. “That’s my number one target area. I want a bigger butt. I just think butts are beautiful.”

These days, Bell is surrounded by plenty of well-toned glutes. Her latest small-screen role, as a cutthroat management consultant on the racy Showtime series House of Lies, has her in the best shape of her life. But it’s Bell’s acting range that is being pushed to the limit, as the show has her outside her rom-com comfort zone. “Our brilliant creator, Matt Carnahan, thinks all this dark stuff’s very funny,” says Bell, whose character, Jeannie, spends part of each workday deflecting the advances of her Armani-clad boss, played by Don Cheadle. “Matt’s got real issues in his past that he writes about. Maybe this show’s his catharsis, because it got a lot darker than I anticipated, but in a great way.” Case in point: a scene where Jeannie parties it up with her horndog colleagues in a strip club. “That was nerve-wracking because I’m so aware of the victimization that can happen [in places like that],” says Bell. “But the girl I was dancing with didn’t give a lick that she was topless, so why should I? And she had a great set of boobs,” she adds, laughing, “so no one was suffering.”

Closer to Bell’s smart-girl-versus-clueless-dude sweet spot is this month’s Movie 43, a star-studded comedy produced by Peter Farrelly of There’s Something About Mary fame. “My segment is about Gotham City speed-dating,” she explains. “I play Supergirl, Justin Long plays Robin and Jason Sudeikis plays Batman. Batman is cock-blocking Robin when he’s trying to get a date and, you know, chaos ensues.”

FASHION Magazine May 2012 | Kristen Bell
Photographed by Doug Inglish. Styled by Hayley Atkin.

Coming soon, Bell plays a reporter in Safety Not Guaranteed and lends her vocal talents to the animated adventure Flatland 2: Sphereland. She recently wrapped Outrun, a movie written and directed by her fiancé, actor Dax Shepard (Punk’d, Parenthood), who also plays her lover in the film. “Half of the conversations and arguments we have in the movie, we’ve actually had, verbatim,” she says with a laugh. “It was a big idea for us to do by ourselves. We had some experienced producers helping us, but sometimes we’d lie in bed at night and go, ‘Someone else has to be in charge, right? I mean, we can’t be in charge.’ It was really empowering to know we can create something. We’re editing it in our house, and when I look at it, I think, this all came from Dax’s brain. I can’t really wrap my head around that.”

Bell met Shepard four years ago at a mutual friend’s birthday party, but the pair didn’t click until a chance meeting at a Detroit Red Wings hockey game a few weeks later. “We both raised an eyebrow,” she recalls, “and then we went on a date after that and it was so on.” On her most recent birthday, Shepard surprised Bell with a playdate with a live sloth—something she’d long dreamed of experiencing—and she instantly burst into hysterical tears. (In January, Bell showed the hilarious home video of her meltdown on The Ellen Degeneres Show, and it immediately went viral.) It sounds similar to her reaction when Shepard popped the question two years ago. “I cried for about 45 minutes before I even looked at the ring,” she says. “Dax didn’t know what to do. He was like, ‘You’re happy, right?’ I was, like, enraptured in crying because I was just so excited.”

Bell wraps up our hike with a few stretches, observing that today was a departure because she usually doesn’t talk about her work when she’s out on a venting hike. “The business is a beast that you can’t control,” she says. “You can identify your insecurities, but then what are you going to do about it? You can’t make someone hire you.” With six movies set for release in 2012 and House of Lies renewed for a second season, Bell’s career seems to be falling into place, just like her personal life. “I find I’m not striving to be content anymore,” she says. “I actually am.” 

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