“I’ve gotten to play a lot of drug addicts and hookers this year,” muses actress Shirly Brener. The Bardot-esque blonde, who possesses a paradoxical mix of girl-next-door charm and femme fatale-worthy dark sensuality, revels in her distinctiveness. She’s as comfortable portraying the bubbly love interest in a romantic comedy as a depraved addict in an indie flick. “Once you really get to know me you see that I am actually pretty edgy,” she purrs over the phone. “There is a darkness, an edge, in me, and I really like to go against what is first expected.” The Israel-born and L.A.-by-way-of-London-bred actress got her start in the business at age 2 when she was photographed with her thespian mother in an ad campaign. She has since worked alongside accomplished actors such as Harvey Keitel, Val Kilmer, and James Spader and reached full-fledged celeb status in her home country, where she costarred in an O.C.-like prime time soap opera. Brener recalls her most recent cinematic accomplishment, Righteous Kill, the gritty cop drama staring film titans Al Pacino and Robert De Niro: “It was definitely an experience of a lifetime,” she says. “It’s funny because I wasn’t nervous when I booked the job. The audition process was far more nerve-racking.”
When asked to discuss her ink-a rotund cherub at her chiseled hip and a glowing sun on her back that she got as a teen in Israel-she dives into a careful explanation of the sun. It’s an homage to her maternal grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, who saw her potential as a performer early on. “My grandmother always used to say, ‘You are like the sun-you come in and light up the room.’ She was a huge inspiration for me and I decided to get this as a tribute to her.”
Brener will soon appear in the upcoming comedy Labor Pains, starring Lindsay Lohan. “I think that after all the scandal in the tabloids, it was important for her to deliver in this role,” Brener says of her costar. “She is a good actress and so pretty up-close, in a fresh way.”
And though others, like her grandmother, consider the actress sunny, Brener can’t stay away from her dark side too long. After Labor Pains, she’ll play a drug-addled hooker in Streets of Blood, an action thriller based in post-Katrina New Orleans starring Sharon Stone, 50 Cent, and Val Kilmer.