Twilight’s Xavier Samuel tries on the best cotton suits of the season
A year ago, Xavier Samuel was another struggling Australian actor hoping to break it in America. Now he’s the face of the latest Twilight film, Eclipse. (He has his own poster here.) We got him on the phone to talk vampires
Xavier, you’re calling from Europe, I understand. Whereabouts?
I’m driving in a black-tinted car on the streets of Berlin.
That’s how you roll?
This is how I roll, man!
Nice. You’re in Berlin shooting—wait for it—a Roland Emmerich movie about Shakespeare. Is this the same Roland Emmerich who did Independence Day and 2012? Please tell me the Rose Theatre blows up at the end of this one.
No, but there is a lot of green screen, a lot of special effects. They’re really re-creating the London from that time. It’s going to be quite visually spectacular. I play the Earl of Southampton. He’s one of the only people that Shakespeare ever dedicated his work to.
So is Shakespeare gay in this movie?
There’s a lot of speculation about that. Historically, some scholars have theorized that Southampton was Shakespeare’s lover. But the film is about the authorship of the plays—who actually wrote them.
Who was it, then?
Maybe the Earl of Oxford. In this film, Shakespeare was some illiterate actor who was putting his name to plays he didn’t even write. It’s a thriller.
Speaking of thrillers: You’re on the poster for the new Twilight film, Eclipse. How did this happen?
I did the audition from Sydney. I put the audition down on tape and sent it over.
Actors are always putting themselves on tape. But they never actually get the role that way!
I’ve been doing that for quite a while—doing these auditions from Australia and sending them out. I don’t know whose desk they land on, or if anyone even watches them. To hear back was a surprise. I flew to Vancouver on a maybe. It was me and four other guys. And I was shooting before I knew it.
Were you a fan of the Twilight series? Tell the truth.
I watched the first film on the plane, on the way over to Vancouver. Then I went straight to the bookstore.
Funny. You play Riley, a hungry newborn vampire out on a rampage. Full disclosure: I read the book, and Riley’s only on one page.
Yes, I was flipping through the book, thinking: Where’s Riley? He’s whittled down to one line. But in the film, we venture into the world of Riley and watch him assembling this newborn army. It’s more action-packed. And it gives me something more to do, thankfully.
Do you get to inflict much damage on the world?
There was no neck biting. I threw a vampire off of a burning car. I also threw a massive log with one hand. The log was attached to a hydraulic system. It made me look really strong.
Is it hard to be the new kid in a franchise like this?
It is a bit like the first day of school. But I felt like part of the family.
Most of your scenes are with Bryce Dallas Howard—who plays the villain, Victoria. She was also new to the Twilight family. Did that help?
We bonded quite early. We just kind of hit it off from the very beginning, rehearsed a lot of stuff, and talked about this almost Lady Macbeth kind of relationship.
You’re intellectualizing Twilight.
You see that Shakespeare reference I just made? [laughs] But she manipulates him in that way.
I’m impressed. How was the green-screen work? Obviously you’re not fighting wolves.
The director would yell Action! and this guy puts a stick in your face. That stick is the wolf. They didn’t teach that at drama school. I must have been sick that day.
Last question: You’re one of many Australians working in Hollywood. Do you all know one another?
We have cult meetings at midnight, somewhere near the Hollywood sign.