She may look like the perfect Hollywood rom-com queen, but Michelle Monaghan bucks most Hollywood trends. Firstly, she’s been married to a “non-star” for 11 years; secondly, she runs marathons with her extended family; and thirdly, she’s a 36-year-old working mom who still looks this good. What’s her secret?

Seven years after her break-out performance opposite Robert Downey Jr in Kiss Bang Bang, Michelle Monaghan has notched up an impressive array of well-chosen roles opposite some of Hollywood’s hunkiest stars.

Description: Michelle Monaghan

Something happens in the body when people fall in love; a real kick-start of endorphins…

Since appearing alongside Tom Cruise in 2006’s Mission Impossible and again in last year’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (she’s the only actor besides Cruise to appear in more than one of the franchise’s movies), Michelle has added a few more leading men to her line-up. Among these are Casey Affleck in the critically-acclaimed Gone Baby Gone, Pattrick Dempsey in Made of Honour and a reunion with Robert Downey Jr in Due Date. Then last year we saw her relive a high-octane eight minutes alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in the sci-fi flick Source Code (“I didn’t realize he had such a great sense of humour; he’s incredible at doing impersonations”)

This month she shares the screen with Gerard Butler in the real-life drama Machine Gun Preacher. Michelle plays the wife of reformed drug addict turned missionary Sam Childers, who visits Sudan and decides to open an orphanage for child soldiers. “Gerry is just tremendous in this role,” she says. “He’s so, so good – it’s probably his best work ever.”

In reality, though, the former model and journalism student, once described by Charlize Theron (who she worked with on North Country) as “one of the funniest people I know”, has been hitched to Australian-born graphic designer Peter White for nearly 11 years. They live a down-to-earth family life with their three-year-old daughter Willow, splitting their time between New York and Los Angeles.

Being raised in a working class household probably has a lot to do with Michelle’s unaffected nature. “My parents are the most compassionate people in my life,” she’s said of her father, who worked at a local factory, and mom, who until recently ran a crèche in their home. They instilled a strong work ethic in their daughter, who paid her way through university by taking on modeling jobs, but when the acting bug bit in her third year, she hightailed it to New York.

Still, even after 10 years in showbiz, Michelle continues to think of herself as a “jeans and T-shirt gal”. Here she talks marathons, juggling Hollywood with motherhood and the trials of being a technophobe…

You’re looking great. What’s your secret?

Description: Michelle Monaghan

Michelle Monaghan: I’m in good shape at the moment, but I eat a lot actually – you’d be surprised. Right now I’m training for a marathon…

Well done! What inspired that?

MM: I come from a big family, we’re pretty tight-knit, and every couple of years we do something as a group. The last time we went to Las Vegas, which was very unhealthy, so this time my cousin suggested we do a marathon. We all thought, Ugh, but as the days went by I saw each of my cousins signing on to do it and I thought, Oh my gosh, I’d better join them!

How’s the training going so far?

MM: I’m doing about 32-plus kilometers a week. Sixteen kilometers is my long run, but I’m increasing it by about 1.5 km each week. So I’m on a roll!

You’re also on a roll with movies…

MM: Yes, things have been good – really good.

You worked with Jake Gyllenhaai in last year’s action thriller Source Code. How was that for you?

MM: The opportunity to work with Jake was a no-brainer. He’s incredibly talented. Once you get to know him on a personal level, you’ll find he’s a really outgoing, fun-loving guy; professionally, I think he was just born to direct. He really understands storytelling – it’s in his blood.

As an actor, I was excited about collaborating (with Jake), experimenting with the same scene over and over again and figuring out how to make it fresh each time. I knew that would be a challenge (in the wrong hands, it could be a scary endeavour), but with Jake and Duncan Jones, the film’s director, it was really exciting.

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