Spinning Platters Interview: Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, and Charlie Bewley on “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1”

by Jason LeRoy on November 16, 2011

left to right: Charlie Bewley, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, and Jackson Rathbone promoting THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 1 at The Fillmore in San Francisco. Photo by Erika Everett.

On Thursday, November 10, the earth shook a bit more than usual in dear old San Francisco. And I’m not referring to that troubling rash of tremors we’ve been dealing with over the last few weeks. No, I’m talking about the kind of shaking that can only be attributed to a pack of stampeding Twi-hards barreling toward an opportunity to personally accost one of their big-screen idols in the flesh. And the Breaking Dawn Cast & Concert Tour, which came to the Fillmore last week, provided them with one such rare occasion. As a red carpet novice who recently tasted blood and was eager for more, I decided to subject myself to this spectacle in the name of…adventure? Journalism? Bragging rights around 12-year-old girls and the mothers who brazenly steal their Twilight books? Hard to say. But I did it. And it was an eye-opening and occasionally overwhelming glimpse into one of the most powerful and efficient machines in American culture.

I should begin by noting that I am not fluent in Twilight (although, full disclosure, I also once personally accosted one of its cast members). I have not read the books. I have seen each of the first three films, but only once, and I honestly couldn’t tell you one blessed thing that happens in any of them. I know there’s lots of angsty sighing and prolonged pauses. But I mostly know that from this:

I am, however, familiar with its bevy of ubiquitous young stars, although it helps if I know them from something else. For instance, while Ashley Greene (Alice), 24, and Jackson Rathbone (Jasper), 27, were perhaps the biggest draws at the event, I only know them from their work in Twilight. Meanwhile, Charlie Bewley (Demetri, a member of the Volturi), 30, has a pivotal role in the well-received romantic drama Like Crazy, while Nikki Reed (Rosalie), 23,  first burst onto the scene when she co-wrote and co-starred in the explosive 2003 indie drama Thirteen, at the age of 15. The film, which also launched Evan Rachel Wood’s career, was a collaboration between Reed and writer/director Catherine Hardwicke, who had been dating Reed’s father; it was inspired by Reed’s own troubled adolescence. And when Hardwicke came on board to direct the first Twilight film, the two reunited.

Nikki Reed. Photo by Erika Everett.

In addition to the four actors, the Cast & Concert Tour also had its second component to deal with: the concert. So, several artists from the Breaking Dawn soundtrack – Sleeping At Last, Aqualung (a.k.a. Matt Hale), and Lucy Schwartz – were also in attendance to perform sweet vampire love songs (but, sadly, not this vampire love song) for the clamoring fans. Before the arrival of the cast and its attendant shrieking, the musicians wandered the red carpet in a bit of a daze. When I asked Ryan O’Neil of Sleeping At Last if he’d had any preparation for such an intense promotional event, he said, “This is my first time and I have no idea what I’ve said so far.” Matt Hale seconded this, saying with a grin, “They specifically promised it wouldn’t be like this, or I wouldn’t be here.” “We’re shy!” added Schwartz, who sings a lovely duet with Hale on the soundtrack.

But the time for shyness soon came to an end, because with a great racket and clatter and a low rumbling groan and the sound of a thousand balloons slowly pinching out air, the cast members took to the red carpet one-by-one; each was subsequently greeted with even louder shrieks and more blood-curdling screams than the last (sidebar: do vampires enjoy curdled blood? Or is it like curdled milk? Obviously I’m thinking of this question too late). And thus began a very curious waltz that consisted of the actors talking to the assembled press on the red carpet, posing against the backdrop, and being whisked into the press area to sign autographs and greet the fans wedging themselves ever-tighter into the limited floor space in front of the barrier.

One case study I observed was Jackson Rathbone. He began at the front of the red carpet, which is where the flashier (read: broadcast) journalists were positioned. After charming his way through a few quick chats, he was snatched up by his publicist and hurtled against the backdrop for a photo call. He worked his way through what I came to recognize as his red carpet face repertoire, which ranged from handsome to dashing to debonair (although it paled in comparison to the full starlet posing course I witnessed Ashley Greene perform). After protests from the photographers that there was too much glare, he was dragged several feet further down the carpet for more photos. By this point, he was in front of our bedraggled little motley crew: the online press.

Jackson Rathbone. Photo by Erika Everett.

Moving quickly, Rathbone’s publicist said, “Okay, talk to one of them.” Eyeing my massive frame, she said, “You!” and steered him toward me. As I fumbled with my recorder and the publicist sternly inquired if I was ready, Rathbone looked at my SpinningPlatters.com press sign and said, “Spinning platters. That’s quite a talent! Can you do that?” As I opened my mouth to answer, the publicist shouted “Nevermind!”, yanking Rathbone away and pushing him into our press area to mingle with the fans. And so it went. He did return later, exclaiming, “Spinning plates!” I asked him my innocuous red carpet question of the evening: “What makes you geek out the way Twilight makes all these folks geek out?” “I guess The Rolling Stones,” he responded. “Once they go back on tour, I’ll be camping out.” So now you know.

And that was actually the most successful red carpet interaction I had with any of the stars. Reed’s trip to the online press area only lasted long enough to field one extravagantly awkward question from the endlessly entertaining Dino-Ray Ramos of The Finer Dandy. Here is his video report about the evening. I highly recommend it.

Greene never even made it down to our end. And Bewley’s time with us was sabotaged when he became too distracted by the comically over-sized flash of my Twi-hard photographer, Erika Everett, to do anything but stare at it. “That’s quite a nice flash you’ve got there,” the Brit said bemusedly. “What is it? Like, the world’s biggest butt plug?” And just like that he was gone, leaving us in a fit of flushed giggles. The flash actually proved quite useful whenever Erika was battling with the other photographers for shots, as all the actors stared quizzically at it at one point or another. Win!

But fortunately the red carpet wasn’t my only chance to get some quotes from these press-savvy little whippersnappers. Directly following the red carpet portion of the evening, we reconvened in a Fillmore balcony for roundtable discussions with the actors in groups of two. First up: Nikki Reed and Charlie Bewley. While most of these kids generally seem extremely polished and rehearsed for their interactions with the press, Reed was another matter entirely. Remarkably candid and not shy about airing her grievances, I dare say she was our favorite. And the goofy, very funny Bewley wasn’t far behind; the two had a delightfully teasing and genuine rapport.

*****

How have your characters evolved and changed over the years?

Nikki Reed: Well, the transition in the books has been different from the ones in the films, because we don’t have the opportunity to show as much of our characters. Obviously there’s friction between Bella and Rosalie, and then in this last film, Bella is basically offering Rosalie the biggest gift life can offer. So there’s a codependency there in that dynamic that I think is pretty cool. They both need each other for something.

Charlie, you also have Like Crazy out now. Were you able to dive into Drake’s rehearsal process with Anton and Felicity?

Charlie Bewley: No, I literally turned up for three days and shot my stuff out. It was strange, because I had to play this guy who’d been dating his girlfriend for six months at the time, and when you have an improv script, it’s strange because everything has to come out of you. So I made the decision going in that I was going to try to fall in love with Felicity. And it worked so well that after three days of shooting, I was on a plane to Phoenix, and I had this feeling like, “Aww! No, really?” I … I fell in love with Felicity Jones. I had to fall out of love with her over the next week. I was so pissed off.

NR: Crazy, effed-up actors, man. [laughs] Good thing we’re not doing any more movies together.

What was your favorite part of filming the finale?

CB: I can’t really go into too much detail about what happens in the second part, but needless to say, we were imprisoned in Louisiana for three months-

NR: “Imprisoned.” That’s definitely the word.

CB: So it was fun finding ways to keep ourselves entertained.

NR: My favorite part was working with Bill Condon. He is a joy, and I was a big fan of his before starting the filming process. We all feel really lucky to have had different interesting directors come in and give their perspectives and collaborate.

CB: Here’s an example of Bill. We were doing this scene with a bit combat in it in New Orleans, not to give too much away, and Bill comes up to me and says, “So Charlie, this is the first fight scene I’ve ever filmed. How am I doing?” [laughs] “Well, Bill – Oscar-winner Bill Condon – you’re doing alright!”

Charlie Bewley merrily signs autographs. Photo by Erika Everett.

What is your favorite scene in the movie other than the big three moments: the wedding, the honeymoon, and the birthing scene?

NR: Those are the iconic ones, but there’s a really cool scene between Taylor [Lautner] and I that got cut. It was iconic in the book. It was the scene where he’s hungry, and I take this plate and rend it into a dog bowl. Anyone who’s read the books will know it. I was so excited about that. He hits me in the head with the bowl and the food … Anyway, it’s not the in the movie. I don’t know if I’m not supposed to say it’s not in the movie, but it’s not.

CB: Speaking of which, I had this great scene as well that was in the trailer, but funnily enough didn’t make it to the final cut. I got to throw around this Russian girl. It’s wonderful! It really got to show the primal nature of the vampires. But I guess they’re saving it for the deleted scenes.

NR: Yeah, they gotta have something interesting on there, you know? We’ll be there.

Why do you think that vampires continue to have so much appeal and allure in our culture?

CB: There is that unknowing mythology behind it. They could be in existence, they might not be. Personally, I’m fascinated with what might be going on right now that we don’t know about, like parallel dimensions and time travel and all the kind of stuff. I’m obsessed with those things. I think maybe in a different sort of parallel of that, people are obsessed with vampires.

NR: That’s an interesting answer. I hadn’t heard that. I am not fascinated by that. [laughs] My brain does not want to think about that. It gives me a headache. I keep it simple.

CB: You’re not simple! Don’t downplay yourself. You’re a smart girl.

Speaking of which, I’m a huge fan of Thirteen.

NR: Thank you!

So I guess a have a three-part question: Is writing something that you’d like to continue pursuing? Do you still have a good relationship with Catherine [Hardwicke]? And when is the last time you were able to sit down and watch Thirteen? I know it was a very personal project for you.

NR: I am in contact with Catherine. We have a good relationship. She’s busy, I’m busy, but we’ll make it work. I write all the time. Thirteen was one of those things that came about at that time. If there were a formula for success or for getting things made, Hollywood wouldn’t be such a challenge. [laughs] I’ve written a number of screenplays, actually. Maybe they weren’t as good, or maybe I don’t know the right people anymore. I write on my blog quite often. Short stories are fun. It makes me feel really good. I’m working on a screenplay right now. I’m also working on a novel, and I just wrote a song for my husband, who’s a musician [American Idol contestant Paul McDonald]. So we’ll see. I write a lot. Writing makes me feel better than anything else.

And when is the last time you saw Thirteen?

NR: I hadn’t watched it for probably six or seven years, and then Paul wanted to see it, because other than Lords of Dogtown when it was on TV once, he hadn’t seen any of my movies. I won’t let him see the Twilight series. [laughs] So he watched Thirteen and I watched it with him. It wasn’t as intense this time around. There’s been some distance.

Nikki Reed signs autographs. Photo by Erika Everett.

Do you think the fans are ready for the maturity and intensity of Breaking Dawn – Part 1?

CB: Definitely. I think this one really does pay service to Stephanie [Meyer]’s writing. You obviously have those three big scenes that come into play, and you have a whole movie to really realize them. And what you’ll find that Bill has done is he’s given a lot of air to the scenes. He’s allowed them to breathe. And he’s allowed Kristen [Stewart] to really show how much Edward means to her. She has to go through the process of figuring out if that’s what she wants, and you get to see right into her soul every single time. I think it’s one for the fans, this one.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

NR: I can’t tell you. My karaoke songs are so inappropriate. That’s the way to sing karaoke, man.

CB: Bangles – “Eternal Flame.” And you know the hardest song – fact – to sing in karaoke is the B-52s’ “Love Shack.” It’s impossible to sing.

NR: I can picture you trying.

CB: I only tried it once. It was an absolute trainwreck.

How does it feel for the whole thing to finally be over? Is it bittersweet? Are you relieved?

NR: Here’s why I wish it could go on: it’s nice knowing you have a job. I’m just being honest. I know some people are trying to make this sound more dramatic than it is. It’s not like we were on a television show that got canceled out of the blue and it’s such a big shock. We knew how many books there were going into it, and when the fourth book was split into two films, we were actually given an extended bonus trip. I’m very grateful that we made it as far as we did, and I’m very positive about the future.

CB: I’d like to see it go on because, as an artist, you delve into these characters and you become them, and when you’re doing work that you really love, it’s because you’re doing a part of yourself. For me, Demetri is that. He allows me to explore parts of my personality that I don’t get to explore. Given that this is a sort of Cullen-focused and wolf-focused franchise, we don’t actually get to be in it that much-

NR: Neither am I, and I’m a Cullen.

CB: Well, you have your moments! I saw you in Eclipse. You had that crazed look on your face when you pushed the doors open-

NR: You saw that? You were into that?

CB: I was!

NR: Did you see the longer version?

CB: No!

NR: Oh. That’s the only one I saw.

CB: Did your really go to town?

NR: We did. That continued.

CB: So anyway, what I’m saying is: Volturi spinoff, please.

NR: And maybe I could become one of the Volturi!

CB: Exactly. You could imprint on Demetri.

NR: Oh god.

Ashley Greene and Nikki Reed. Photo by Erika Everett.

Were there any scenes that you were dreading to film?

NR: A lot of the scenes that are outdoors. Well, the battle, we were dreading it for different reasons. Material-wise, I actually felt very prepared. I worked with my acting coach for eight weeks leading up to it. I felt very comfortable. We had, like, 35 new actors join, and I’m pretty sure Bill did individual rehearsals with every single one of us, which none of the other directors did. So I felt really comfortable in that sense. I was dreading to film it because of other conditions, like weather or location.

Like, we shot this battle scene in the second movie over six weeks in this warehouse filled with fake snow that was giving everyone eye infections. So, you dread it for different reasons, like being out in the cold. The wedding was absolutely beautiful, but what no one sees, especially for the girls, is we’re standing in 25-, 30-degree weather, and it’s rainy and it’s muddy and you’re walking in your beautiful dress. But with the material, I felt really confident in Bill and I really trusted what he was doing.

CB: I don’t think I’ve ever had a moment that I was afraid to do. I’ve never had to cry or anything. If I ever had to cry, I would dread that moment, because you have to go to a place of severe vulnerability.

NR: That’s hard for you, isn’t it Charlie?

CB: It is!

NR: Maybe if it had been on that plane ride back from Felicity…

CB: You didn’t see me crying in the back of the jet today?

NR: Are you serious? I saw you back there, and it looked like you were just on your iPad.

CB: No, I was crying. My dog’s just died back home.

NR: Really?

CB: [pause] No. Well, yes it has, but that wasn’t what I was crying about. [laughs] I was crying because of the beauty of life!

NR: Oh, now he’s just lying.

CB: You know what? That says more about you than it does about me, Nikki Reed.

Are there any other vampire-themed TV shows or movies you’d like to do, or any specific roles within them that you think look fun?

CB: I almost got cast as Stefan on The Vampire Diaries very shortly after I got the Twilight role.

NR: Really?

CB: Yeah, and thank God I didn’t, because to be honest, I’d never want to do a lot of TV like that. It’s like jail time. I’m not a 9-to-5 guy, and to me, that’s the closest that it gets to a 9-to-5 job in the acting world.

NR: I’m a 9-to-5 gal and I would love to be on a television show.

Would you like a part on True Blood or something like that?

NR: Oh, sure! Right now what I’m fighting for is Dexter. There’s no role right now, but I’m waiting. I love Dexter so much. I can’t sleep at night because of it. I have an episode waiting on my DVR when I get back.

*****

And so concluded our time with Reed and Bewley. Moments later, we were sitting down with tween idols Jackson Rathbone and Ashley Greene. As we joined their table, Rathbone tended to some family business on his phone. “Well, someone I don’t know who I’m related to,” he clarified. “Funny how many of those came out after Twilight,” Greene smirked. “I have a lot of family members.” Chatting with Rathbone and Greene was like a study in contrasts to Reed and Bewley. While they seem to share a genuine affection for each other, they are much more meticulous in their media-facing presentation. Rathbone is unfailingly positive in every comment, while Greene recited her answers with the practiced wording and speed of someone who’s already heard every possible variation on each and every question you could ever think to ask her. She did seem to experience a moment of frustration when I asked her about one of her upcoming projects, but it vanished within moments of its appearance. I have no idea.

*****

Jackson Rathbone charms the fans. Photo by Erika Everett.

Jackson, you’re going directly from this massive promo tour into a big European tour with your band, 100 Monkeys. How are you feeling about that?

Jackson Rathbone: Yeah, actually, you’re right. That’s going to be crazy. I don’t really believe in down time or free time. [laughs] Or maybe I can switch that around: I think all of my time is down time or free time, because I love what I do. So I’m never bored and I’m never complacent. One of my favorite poems is “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot, and it’s all about how a man wishes to change his life but will never do it. I’ve always taken that as a cue to never be complacent.

Ashley, you have LOL and Butter coming out. Are you excited that your fans will get to see you in new roles?

Ashley Greene: I am, yeah. LOL is really great because it’s a completely different role than Alice. She’s a different kind of high school girl. And the film really addresses modern-day technology, the trials that kids are going through right now with the instant ability to put pictures online and stuff like that, and the struggles of adults to relate to kids about it. So yeah, it was a really fun one to do. I think kids will like it a lot, and Miley Cyrus is in it, and she’s in that demographic. Butter is a little bit older, but our fan base is so vast that I think a lot of fans will connect with that, too. It’s a comedy, it’s a little dark. It’s about butter-carving in Iowa, which is actually a big thing. I didn’t even know it existed. But that one was really fun. The cast is just incredible.

How have your characters evolved over the years?

JR: It’s a constant evolution, which I think is one of the things that attracted us to the roles in the first place. It’s lovely to be able to play a character that moves and learns and grows, even though we’re playing these immortal characters trapped in a certain look and age. With Jasper, when we first see him he’s a little freaky, and doesn’t really know how to deal with humans around, but he’s trying to embrace this lifestyle because he loves Alice and wants to be a part of this family. And then in New Moon he screws up and tries to kill Bella. Eclipse sees him kind of rising up. And now in Breaking Dawn – Part 1, we actually get to see Jasper smile, which is awesome. That was really fun to play. And I get to take this lady [gestures to Greene] out on the dance floor, so that was fun too.

AG: Jasper gets to smile and Alice gets to stop smiling for the first time.

Ashley Greene. Photo by Erika Everett.

Where did you learn to dance, Jackson?

JR: Where did I get my sweet dance moves? It’s a secret. I was with Nicolas Cage looking for that national treasure and I unearthed this tomb of sweet dance moves. [laughs] No, I did a cotillion back in Texas when I was growing up, and they taught us how to waltz, line-dance, two step. I was also a cinephile then; I fell in love with the movie Swingers, which has this little swing dance at the end, and after that I just wanted to watch anything I could about swing dance. So I rented Swing Kids and all these other films. I taught myself from the movie, and I just kinda kept it up.

If you could play any other character in the Twilight films other than your own, who would it be?

AG: I would be Victoria, because I really liked her character. I know she’s a villain, but there are some things you can relate to with her, like that someone destroyed her life partner, so you can kind of understand why she’d want revenge. I feel like villains are so layered and there’s always so much going on beneath the surface. There’s always a reason for why they are the way they are. So I think that would be an interesting thing to do.

JR: I would be Jacob’s dad, because he just gets to sit the whole time. There’s such long hours on the set! Sometimes you’re there for 14 hours-

AG: Are you kidding me? You would fall asleep.

JR: I know, it’d be awesome. I’d just tilt my hat down.

Ashley, you have Apparition coming out with Tom Felton [Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter films]. Did you two have an opportunity to compare notes about your experiences starring in the biggest franchises of your generation and all that’s come with it?

AG: [mutters angrily under her breath, loudly taps cup on table while answering] Yeah, we did talk about it, because you know we always say that the bond that was created between all of us on Twilight is due in large part to the fact that there aren’t a lot of people who have been through the same kinds of things, so he was someone who was another person who I could relate to and talk to about the whole thing, so that was really fun, and he’s just – it’s always so nice to see people who can be a part of this whole massive phenomenon and go through all that but still just be so sweet and so down to earth, and he’s just such a phenomenal actress, uh, actor, and such a phenomenal person, so it was a pleasure working with him.

And you also have A Warrior’s Heart coming out with Kellan [Lutz]. Was it fun working with him in a non-Twilight capacity?

AG: Yeah, that was really fun. Kellan is one of my best friends, so I’m always game to be on set with him. I already love my job and I love what I do, but to be able to go to set with one of your best friends is kinda like the cherry on top.

Ashley Greene signs autographs. Photo by Erika Everett.

I hear you guys punked Bill Condon. Is that true?

AG: Yeah!

JR: I don’t think we can talk about that yet.

[they whisper to each other]

AG: Ah, gotcha. [to press] Nope, didn’t happen. You don’t get to see the punking until Part 2. Although I may have already talked about it tonight.

JR: Ahh!

AG: I’m sorry!

JR: But it’s gonna be awesome. Just wait till next year.

*****

And so ends my wild Twilight adventure. As we gathered our things and prepared to leave, I lingered on a bit, thinking of my own dear Twi-hard friends and wondering if I should swallow my pride and go ask for an autograph. Just then, a publicist came bearing down on Greene with a massive stack of Breaking Dawn movie posters. As Greene exhaled and pulled the cap from a big black marker, I decided to just leave her alone.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, November 18.

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