How will civilization sustain itself without a Twilight movie to look forward to every fall? I for one will miss my annual trip to the theater each November to watch a Morrissey-looking vampire and shirtless werewolf fight for the love of an unhappy lesbian. One person with an even more personal take on the conclusion of the series is X-Men enthusiast, Civil War buff, and Twilight actor Jackson Rathbone (he plays Jasper Hale, neither the Morrissey-looking vampire nor the shirtless werewolf ), whom I spoke to during a recent press junket. Looking less pale and significantly less blond than he does in the films (Rathbone had to dye his naturally dark hair blond to match the character description in the books) the charming Texan talked about his illustrious ancestry, his action figures and what might be next now that Breaking Dawn has broken.
It’s been quite a ride since the beginning of the series. Is it hard to say goodbye?
It’s definitely an interesting feeling putting away the boots of a character you’ve been wearing for so long. I definitely had a wonderful, kind of intense moment on the last day of filming. We’d filmed for twelve, thirteen hours. It was cold and raining. It was 3:00am and I was in my trailer taking off my makeup, and I thought, “Wow, this is the last time I’m going to do this.” It was nice yet at the same time I’m like, “Oh, I’m a little bit nostalgic.”
How long did it take to get you into makeup?
It was about forty-five minutes every time. Although in Eclipse when they reveal Jasper’s scars, I was in the makeup trailer for almost four hours.
Is there a certain level of relief to have the whiteface period of your career seemingly behind you?
[laughs] So excited for that to be done! They paint your face white, they paint your hands white, if you touch anything the makeup is all over the place… it’s done.
Now that you’ve done five makeup-heavy movies, will a character’s makeup needs influence your choice in roles?
I do not envy Rebecca Romijn for her role in X-Men when she did the Mystique body paint, or Jennifer Lawrence [in the prequel] for that matter. That seems like hell. But to play a certain role, and it’s been done wonderful already but… [pauses, smiles] Nightcrawler was always a dream of mine to play, and that’s a lot of makeup right there.
So we all know about “Twihards.” Is your fanboy side X-Men?
Probably. Wait, yes, it is.
So we should put it out there to whoever is casting the reboot that you’re officially expressing interest in the part of Nightcrawler?
If they need a Nightcrawler, I think I’d rock that pretty well.
How’s your German accent?
It’s good! Don’t put me on the spot right now.
It’s interesting, man. The last couple films, ever since Eclipse, they kind of wanted me to let go with my Texas accent, have that come out a little more. I’m from Texas so that’s pretty easy for me, but I’ve been covering it up for so long that I was always like, “Oh shit.” I mean, I didn’t want to push it and have it sound so fake like [broad Texan accent] “Well, howdy boys.” So I’d just call my family, talk to my mom a little bit and fall right back in the speech pattern.
Speaking of your family… Your character is a Civil War soldier and it’s well known that you have some illustrious Civil War ancestors. Did you research your family’s Civil War past as part of your character history?
I did actually, you did your homework. I’m related to General Stonewall Jackson.
He had a very sad story. He was a very eccentric general. He was like the Patton of his time, and he was shot by friendly fire because he would take off and do his own scouting expeditions. He really wanted to understand the lay of the land and figure it out before he sent his troops into battle. Then, riding back one night without having told anyone that he was gone, someone saw him riding back alone and shot him. Also, there was a General Rathbone who was actually sitting with Abraham Lincoln in the box when John Wilkes Booth came and shot him.
Oh my god.
My homework did not uncover that exciting fact.
It’s a little farther off [in the family tree], it’s hard to find. Apparently, when John Wilkes Booth shot [Lincoln] and tried to run out, he turned around and General Rathbone was there to stop him. He stabs my distant relative in the leg, but couldn’t get out so he had to jump over the balcony. That’s how he broke his leg and you know, eventually, you know…
So your ancestor, by blocking the box exit, sort of aided the capture of Booth by making him jump the balcony where he broke his leg.
Exactly. If he could have just run out [of the theater] he could have gotten away! I did a lot of research on the Civil War. Ever since then I’ve been dreaming up a Civil War movie of my own because I love the genre, the timeframe, the sensibilities. There’s a lot of history there we don’t really know.
What about a Civil War/X-Men crossover? A.K.A. the most amazing post-Twilight project ever?
There you go!
What’s your relationship like with your Jasper Barbie Doll? Or do you prefer for me to refer to it as an “action figure?”
Oh yeah, I don’t care, call it whatever you want. It’s a plastic imitation this big.
Do you think it’s a good likeness?
Eh, I don’t think so…
Do you think the different hair color makes it more Jasper and less Jackson?
I’m actually really colorblind so it’s hard for me to say. I’ve always been a character actor, so I try not to look like myself in real life in any of my characters. It’s interesting to have a doll or action figure made of you. I have it from The Last Airbender too, and now Twilight. I have two action figures; that’s kind of weird.
And if our campaign for you to play Nightcrawler comes to fruition then you’ll have three.
That would be rocking. I could show that one to my son and be like, “Look at Dad!”
Have you already imparted the joys of X-Men to your son?
I mean, yeah, of course. To be honest, The Avengers was probably my favorite movie this year. I mean, aside from…
Right, favorite “superhero” as opposed to “supernatural” movie
Yeah, I love supernatural films, I’ve always loved vampire movies. I remember when I was first signing up to do Twilight, I was a little nervous about doing the movie because I was like, “I love vampire movies but these vampires don’t have teeth? I mean, they’re not killing people. Are people going to like that?” It turned out they do.
Who were your favorite vampires, pre-Twilight?
Pre-Twilight… There’s Dracula 2000 where Dracula turns out to be Judas from the time of Christ, with Gerard Butler. You can actually see Gerard Butler’s audition for that role on YouTube. It’s amazing. It’s fantastic, so physical. I don’t know what he’s doing but he’s so in it.
Your physicality is so distinct from the other vampires in Twilight. How did you develop the physical persona? Did you have any models or creatures in nature you studied?
In terms of Jasper’s physicality I studied the Alexander Technique when I was growing up, which teaches you it’s very important to breathe and keep that flow. A lot of actors hold their breath in weird ways and your emotions can’t get out, your body can’t work, you can’t focus. So I tried to put a lot of Jasper’s energy up here in the chest, to lead, move, and talk from. Very upright. I looked at a lot of Civil War photographs because there’s no video from back then, and you see all these generals, lieutenants, and people in the Civil War era standing very proper, hands behind their backs. It’s the human characteristic Jasper has held onto and I think a lot of the characters, their humanity is exaggerated in certain ways when they become a vampire. So I wanted him to be a little more stiff, very… not regal, but kind of upright and formal to separate him from the rest of the Cullens. He’s the newest to that group, having the conflict and really just wanting to… feast. I tried to make him very feral.
If I had my way from the get-go I would have had Jasper with a beard just around the edges, very Civil War. I dyed it blond for the screen tests but Catherine Hardwicke was like, “No, you’re in high school, you have to be clean-shaven.” I remember when I was in high school I grew a goatee as soon as I could, which is by the time I was a junior. It’s fun to grow facial hair and kind of play with it at that age. I studied a lot of feral children reports about how these kids were sometimes thought to be raised by dogs or how they communicate. As a child your brain is a sponge for many years, but after five or six years if you’re not taught certain things, it’s hard to keep learning if you’re not already learning. I wanted to have a lot of feral elements to his movements like a lion about to strike. I wanted Jasper to be a lion.
It looks like we’re out of time, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you if you have a favorite piece of Twilight merchandise, doll/action figure aside.
Favorite piece, I don’t know. Can I say my least favorite?
Oh yeah, that’s better.
When I was out filming a different movie, a buddy of mine replaced my pillow with a Jasper pillow case. So I came home one night really tired, had a few drinks. and went to bed. Then I woke up the next day, looked down, and was like “Jasper! What the hell?” Waking up to your own face on a pillow as Jasper. That was very weird.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part Two opens nationwide on Friday, November 16.