Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of talking about “Breaking Dawn,” the best-selling latest novel from Stephenie Meyer — which seems only right, since the eyes of Twilight Nation have been buried deep in its pages for the past few weeks.
But with the recent announcement that the “Twilight” movie has slipped into the high-profile release date that “Harry Potter” left wide open, this week’s “Twilight” Tuesday returns the focus where it belongs: the eagerly anticipated film that is now only 94 (!) days away.
Since I began meeting the cast, I can’t shake the thought that “Twilight” might become one of those “Breakfast Club,” “Diner” or “Dazed and Confused”-type movies that launch the careers of numerous young stars and then leave us all looking back, amazed that they all once acted together. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson obviously have big-time acting chops, and actors like Mike Welch, Taylor Lautner and Kellan Lutz are just a few of the others who seem like they could similarly explode if given the right project.
If I were a betting man, however, I’d place my money on Jackson Rathbone, a 23-year-old actor who also plays several musical instruments and has lived all over the world. In person, he’s a cool customer with an Elvis-like twang, radiating the kind of charisma that could make George Clooney look like McLovin. While speaking with him, I found a disarmingly intelligent star who took the “Twilight” world as seriously as any super-fan. (Speaking of super-fans, in the MTV Movies blog, Rathbone addresses the one issue that caused an uproar among Twilighters when he was first cast.) Read on, watch the attached video and judge for yourself if a star is being born.
MTV: Tell us about your character.
Jackson Rathbone: Well, I play Jasper Hale, also called Jasper Whitlock, or Jasper Cullen; I’ve got a lot of names. [Laughs.] Jasper’s from the Civil War [era], and that’s when he became a vampire. Since then, he’s been sort of wandering around; he’s got a great back story, but that takes place in the later books. In this movie, Jasper is very angry, and still very reticent about his lifestyle of not eating humans.
MTV: Every year, it seems, Hollywood gives us a ton of vampire movies. What’s going to make the “Twilight” movie different?
Rathbone: Well, most vampire movies are all about the gore and the action and the violence. This movie’s about the heart. It’s about what moves us as humans, and what is so moving to us that it is even encompassed beyond humanity. These are creatures — they’re not people, they’re not humans, they’re kind of the decrepit side of everything. They’re dead; there’s no oxygen. They can’t feel cold, they can’t feel anything, but they can feel emotions and what those emotions lead us to do. You can choose morality, or you can choose the life that nature has provided for you, which is death. It’s kind of a life-versus-death-story, but not so much in the realm of “you’re going to get killed or get to do some killing,” but whether you’re going to choose to love life and choose love.
MTV: Why, after all these decades of storytelling, do we still care about vampires?
Rathbone: Well, I think everybody wants to be a vampire. I used to want to be a vampire [when I was young]. It’d be great, you know? Run around at night, never die, kill people. It sounds like a great life!
MTV: Yeah, but is there more to it than just being able to live in a horror movie?
Rathbone: I think the appeal is the mysticism of it all. We’re searching for something beyond ourselves, and we find it in a lot of folklore, and a lot of these old stories that get tossed around about living forever and always being beautiful and young. That’s the allure of the vampire: You don’t age, you don’t have to worry about getting old, or never accomplishing something. Time is not a factor, and I think that most people, especially these days, are caught up in time.
MTV: And then, at the center of “Twilight,” is this great “Romeo and Juliet”-caliber love story. What can we expect to see from the work that Robert and Kristen have been doing?
Rathbone: Edward and Bella have the greatest sadistic, masochistic relationship there probably is, because Edward is putting himself through hell by being around her; all he wants to do is eat her. But he can’t, because of his morality. … Bella knows what she’s getting into, and Edward knows what he’s putting her through. So, you get these great characters who are so concerned about each other that they’re not concerned about themselves.
MTV: What is it, exactly, that makes them so enamored with each other?
Rathbone: It’s a love that is bred out of interest, almost. I mean, he can’t read her thoughts, which is something so beyond him and so beyond anything he’s come across in his life, so he’s intrigued. He’s so attracted to her. And she’s attracted to him and his ability to coast through everything and be so respected and admired. It’s like he doesn’t even try. … What Rob and Kristen have brought to these parts is this amazing lifelike [quality]; it’s never fake. It’s never put on. There’s this weight behind them, and you can see it the moment they call action.
MTV: Your character was a Confederate soldier back in the day. Have you done research into the period?
Rathbone: Yeah, I did a bit of research about the Civil War. I was always interested in it, and I did spend a bit of time [living] in Texas, so whenever I took Texas history, I learned a lot about the Civil War. I was lucky enough to have that background around me already. What I’ve focused on was the stoicism. … I never really grew up in the South, I grew up all over, but for my family values and all the Southern values: You don’t speak unless you’re spoken to; you keep a very calm demeanor; you try to keep everything as light as possible, but if things get heavy, it’s not like you’re not going to step up. But it’s weird to talk about the actual character elements of (Jasper), because it’s all so intertwined with the story of the third book, which is where Jasper begins to expand on his heritage and how he was turned and how he lived.
MTV: So, are you planting little seeds in “Twilight” that will pay off in the sequels?
Rathbone: Yeah, I’m putting it in, here and there. It’s nice. I can’t do too much with Jasper’s power. Jasper has the power to manipulate emotions. There’s a danger in that. There’s a danger in having that ability, because if you’re constantly manipulating emotions around you, there’s no reality around you. And because Jasper is able to distort reality, I wanted to steer away from that. I wanted everything to be as real as possible. So I’ve tried to make the choice for him not to use the power [for now], to be as stoic as possible, be as still and just concentrate on keeping himself at bay, especially in terms of the hunger.
MTV: I can’t help but notice that you’ve naturally got a Southern twang in your voice. Are you keeping that for the character, to show his roots?
Rathbone: I try to keep it as light as possible, because he’s been around for 200 years. He hasn’t been in Texas that entire time. … With Jasper, it would be too much to have that accent, especially when you’re pretending to be a normal kid. If he had a Texas accent in Washington, in Forks, I think people would tend to notice him a little bit more.
MTV: Are you signed on for the next two sequels?
Rathbone: Yes, I’m signed up to do all three. So, hopefully, all the fans like me in this one.
MTV: What’s the coolest thing about being a vampire?
Rathbone: The singular coolest thing, to me, would have to be the ability to just stay out of the sun. I’m not really a sun person; I’m not a beach bunny. I’m more of an indoor-sports kind of guy. You know, just sitting at home with a guitar, very simple. I’m all about nightlife. I live during the night, so that would have to be the coolest aspect for me.