Bar Paly isn't a household name. . . yet. In fact, the Israeli actress, who got her start in the 2008 horror film The Ruins, was a bit of an enigma on the set of this spring's action hit, Pain and Gain.
"My first day, I went to the gym and saw Anthony Mackie there," Paly tells Rolling Stone. "I came up and said, 'Hey, Anthony! What's up? How are you?' and he totally didn't recognize me. He stepped back and thought I was some crazy fan."
Perhaps it's Paly's confidence that makes this embarrassing story so instantly endearing. Or maybe it's her infectious laugh, an adorable little chuckle that makes even the biggest, strongest stars (like her Pain and Gain co-stars Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson) melt like butter. Whatever it is, her days of not being recognized are coming to an end. Paly's landed significant roles in two high-profile films due next year. The actress, 28, is set to star alongside Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore in Jaume Collet-Serra's thriller Non-Stop, and will also play Jon Hamm's over-the-top girlfriend in Craig Gillespie's Million Dollar Arm.
Born in Russia, Paly moved to Israel when she was seven, where she remained for 10 years before transitioning to New York. "We had different problems over there," she says about her home country. "People mature a little younger." A modeling career blossomed after her move east, but Paly knew all along it was merely a stepping-stone to Hollywood.
"My mother recently told me that ever since I was three, I always said I wanted to be an actress," she says. "I was fortunate enough to model, but it was always work for me. It was a way to support myself and finance acting classes."
And quite an actress she has become. You don't land the type of gigs Paly has landed just by being another pretty face. You've got to have chops. In Pain and Gain (available on Blu-ray and DVD now), Paly plays stripper Sorina Luminita, bringing unexpected levels of depth and humor to the based-on-a-true-story character.
"Sorina comes across as this very beautiful – but maybe not the brightest – earnest person," Paly says. "I wanted to bring all these characteristics to her." Paly isn't just eye candy in director Michael Bay's world. Instead, she's one of the funniest things about the film. And while she might have gotten her start in the horror genre, she's most comfortable making people laugh.
"I really, really enjoy comedy. I think that's one of my strong suits. It's my zone. And people don't expect it from me, which is a whammy."
Paly admits that she's not quite ready for everything that'll come with being the breakout star she's positioned to become, but she's going to do her best to stay the same "geeky little girl" she was back in Israel.
"I didn't buy a private jet," she says with that adorable laugh of hers. "And I'm still going to do my own laundry."