Nichols was cast as Shana "Scarlett" O'Hara in the live-action film adaptation of the G.I. Joe franchise G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) in late 2007. She later said that she accepted director Stephen Sommers' offer for the role without having read the actual script. "I'd heard from other people that the script was quite good. And then when I finally got to read it myself ... I really, really liked it ... I liked that there were two kick-ass female roles. And I liked the fact that it wasn't just a big action movie ... And there was comedy in it. I was genuinely really happily surprised when I read the script." She put on approximately 15 pounds (6.8 kg) of muscle for the role and trained in mixed martial arts with co-star Sienna Miller for some of the film's action sequences. Nichols was burned by a flame during the filming of a fight scene with Miller. Like The Amityville Horror, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was not well received by most critics, but performed well at the box office. Richard Corliss of Time wrote that Nichols had "an appealing manner and comely biceps" as Scarlett O'Hara and took notice of her "savory girl fight with Sienna Miller, as the mostly villainous Baroness." After G.I. Joe, Nichols' next project was the horror film For Sale by Owner, where she played the half of a newly wed couple buying a house with a secret past. The film only received a direct-to-DVD release.