updated 08/13/2009 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 08/13/2009 AT 12:30 PM ET
While she may be top-billed in the new movie Bright Star, Australian actress Abbie Cornish first rose to prominence in the U.S. two years ago, when she costarred in the real-life domestic drama involving the then-married Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon.
Cornish, now 27, and Phillippe, 34, met on the set of the movie Stop-Loss, and today they share a home in Los Angeles – “where it was love that brought me here, not work,” she tells W magazine for its September issue. “I think the city feels and looks a little bit different because of that.
While Witherspoon has publicly called divorce humiliating and isolating, Cornish – whom W says was “cast as the culprit” – looks back on the period when the spotlight first fell on her as “a really difficult time for me.”
Suddenly, she said, she was forced to enter a realm of paparazzi and tabloid coverage “that I’d never been exposed to. In a normal successful career, someone usually learns these things bit by bit. For me, it was like night and day. I woke up one day and there was this whole new thing I had to process and deal with.”
Since then, she has moved in with Phillippe and spends time with his and Witherspoon’s two children: Ava, 9, and Deacon, 5.
As for whether or not she’s engaged to Phillippe: “No,” she answers. Then, when asked if there are plans for their relationship to head in that direction, Cornish says, “I don’t know.” Following a tense laugh, she suggests to her interviewer, “I think I’m nearly ready to go on to another part of the conversation.”