Exclusive: Jackson Rathbone on ‘Eclipse’ and His Horror Directing Dream
After playing the rigid vampire Jasper Hale in two Twilight films, Jackson Rathbone (Dread, S. Darko) finally gets to loosen up and rip heads off in Eclipse, the third film in the series. It’s a welcome change for Rathbone, who told me over the weekend how much he relished the chance to dive deeper into Jasper’s past as a human and his violent life with the vampiress Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno).
(Jasper’s present day scenes had their perks as well. Rathbone gets to spar with his fellow Cullens and make heads roll in the fight against the newborns — and though he wouldn’t disclose the exact terms, Rathbone let slip what he did to make sure his kissing scene with co-star Ashley Greene made it into the script.)
It’ll be a busy summer for Rathbone, who also stars in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender, opening just days after The Twilight Saga: Eclipse hits theaters on June 30. But between promoting those films and reuniting with his cast mates to film Breaking Dawn this fall, the aspiring director hopes to shoot a short film and, one day, make his feature directing debut in the horror genre. In the mean time, he’s studying up. Read on to find out which recent gore-fest made Rathbone’s flesh crawl with approval.
So, Jasper Hale finally gets his moment to shine in Eclipse…
I don’t sparkle like a diamond in Eclipse, but Jasper gets to come out a little bit and do what he loves to do, which is to fight. To get in the middle of it all. It’s interesting, because filming Twilightand New Moon I was showing the darker side of Jasper; he seems withdrawn, like a pariah almost. InEclipse you can see why — his back story is the reason for the way he holds himself, the way he’s kind of afraid of his own instincts.
Is it then gratifying to be able to tell Jasper’s story more fully?
It is! I get to go back in time and show Jasper when he was a human in the Civil War era, and when he gets turned, what his life is like. It was a pleasure. It was fun. I got to ride a horse again; I haven’t been on a horse in like three years so that was pretty exciting.
Did you ride horses for fun, or did you learn for a particular role?
Just for fun. I’m from the South; we tend to ride.
Oh, right. You all have horses, don’t you?
Everybody in the South has a horse, didn’t you hear? [Laughs]
Speaking of the South, we hear Jasper’s drawl really come out more at times duringEclipse.
Yeah, at certain times — it’s one of those things, with Twilight and New Moon there was limited dialogue, and I kind of wanted to keep it to the way I would assume Jasper would carry himself at school, or around a new acquaintance such as Bella, where he wouldn’t reveal himself and would keep his accent in check. He’s already suspicious looking enough at high school to have a Southern accent in Washington. So the more relaxed and comfortable Jasper is, his accent comes out. That’s usually how I find most people’s accents come out, when they’re a little more comfortable and in a natural environment, and Jasper’s natural environment is… warfare.
That’s not the only perceivable change in Jasper in Eclipse — the way he carries himself once the threat of Victoria’s newborn army is known, he’s like a battlefield general preparing for war.
Yup, that’s another thing I was working on with David Slade. One of the things I tried to do in Twilightwas to be more of an old school gentleman, the way Jasper carries himself. Very upright and proper, if you will. With the actual warfare on the rise, and having to step back into his old commanding shoes, it was even more upright and more commanding in body presence. It was fun to try to work with that.
I’d also swear I saw Jasper blink once or twice this time…
You saw Jasper blink?? Oh my God. I didn’t do my job right! [Laughs]
What kind of notes did David Slade give you on Jasper in Eclipse that differed from the approaches Chris Weitz and Catherine Hardwicke took?
It was definitely interesting going from director to director. I loved working with Catherine Hardwicke, I loved working with Chris Weitz, and David Slade has added another texture to the franchise. It’s great, because it keeps each film fresh with a new vision, so to speak. He definitely had some great insights into all of our characters, coming from an outsider’s point of view. One of the things we talked about was the reversion back to Jasper’s old self; at the same time, he’s accepting Bella at this point in the story. In New Moon he kind of does it at the end of the film; his way of apologizing is saying how he wishes he didn’t have the need to kill her. With this third film, he’s finally kind of warming up to Bella and stands up to save her along with the rest of the Cullens. What was also interesting were the natural family dynamics that arise because Jasper and Alice are pretty much the only ones not turned directly or indirectly by Carlisle, and I think that’s a large part of the family dynamic that separates Jasper from the rest of the group. He feels a little more separate; he feels like he doesn’t need a father figure, per say, as does Edward. It was nice to have that chemistry and that play, and to talk with David about all of these ideas.
Does it feel strange to have this amount of insight into a supporting character because you’ve been with it for so long, as opposed to living with a leading character for a shorter time, as you did in Dread?
I always like to do a lot of background on any character I play; I like to know where the character has been, what they’ve seen, what they haven’t seen. Everything’s important, from the way that you walk, the way that you talk, the way you hold your head — it’s all of these subtleties in life that kind of make us who we are. The nice thing about playing Jasper is, most of the work is already done for me by Miss Stephenie Meyer, so it’s pretty sweet — I can go and pull as much from the books as possible and try to add my own texture. But I tend to put as much prep work as I can into every character that I play.
Going back to David Slade, one of the most stylistically striking and frightening scenes is Bella’s nightmare, in which she sees the similarity between Maria and Victoria and then wakes up as Jasper turns and comes directly for her.
It’s kind of funny to film something like that. I’ve found, especially from working on Dread and other horror and action films, that what seems like the most intense moments in the film are the most fun during filming, or something funny happens during filming. It’s odd because it’s almost a situational oxymoron. Here you are, attacking this girl and it’s supposed to be a scary moment in the film, but in actuality you’re just growling and lunging at a camera. It’s just funny! As soon as David said, ‘Cut!’ I burst out laughing.
There’s another moment Jasper fans will love, and that is when they get to see Jasper and Alice kiss…
It’s a really nice moment in Eclipse, where we get to talk about Jasper and Alice’s history together. Well, the sad truth of it is, I actually paid Melissa Rosenberg — I’m not going to say how much, but I paid her quite a large sum of money — to write in a kiss between Jasper and Alice. I don’t want to reveal too much but it’s a nice moment. I’ll just say I paid off the screenwriter to get that kiss.
Let’s talk about M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender — it opens right on the heels ofEclipse in a few weeks. How are you going to fit promotions for that and your various other projects into your upcoming schedule, especially since Breaking Dawn starts filming this fall?
Well, it’s definitely going to be interesting. The Last Airbender opens July 2 — so June 30 is Eclipse, July 2 is The Last Airbender, July 20 the live album for our band, 100 Monkeys, comes out. And sometime this year we start filming Breaking Dawn. I have a production company along with my manager called Patchmo Entertainment, and we’re gearing up on pre-production for our next film. The first film we produced, Girlfriend, along with Wayne/Lauren Film Company — that will be coming out on the festival circuit this year. Looking around, scheduling is the issue with these projects right now. So I’m trying to figure it all out.
Can we look forward to you making a return to good, old-fashioned blood-and-guts horror any time in the near future?
Well, I just went through the 8 Films to Die For, and there are definitely some gory films in that. I watched the unrated version of Cabin Fever 2, and damn — there’s some really nasty shit in that movie! But it’s one of those things. Honestly, the way I’d like to see my next horror film go is that I’d like to get a chance to direct one. I think that would be really fun, to play with people’s emotions in moments where you’re clinging to your seat and moments where you can get shocked back. I like the way horror films really work on an instinctual level; there’s something about the music, or the way things are shot — it’s very visceral. It’s supposed to affect you like that. I think that would be a good first step toward directing features for myself, and feature direction is one thing I really hope to pursue.
Have you been directing more after your music video for “Beautiful, More So?”
I’ve been trying to get some time together. I have this short film that I might do — if I can get the week off, I’ll be able to shoot it sometime in July.