20
Jul
10

Chaske Spencer, Alex Meraz and Julia Jones share a Wolf Pack bond in ‘The Twilight Saga: Eclipse’

 

Take some vampires (good and bad), some werewolves and a love triangle involving a human, and what do you have? “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” the third movie in the series. A crucial part of the story is the Wolf Pack, a Native American tribe of werewolves that lead a peaceful existence except when they have to battle against enemies. In “Eclipse,” the Wolf Pack joins forces with the good-vampire Cullen family to save human teenager Bella Swan (played by Kristen Stewart) from being killed by evil vampires who are out to get her.

Bella’s connection to the Wolf Pack is her close friend Jacob Black (played by Taylor Lautner), who is part of the werewolf tribe and who is in love with Bella, even though she is steadfastly devoted to her vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen (played by Robert Pattinson). At a Los Angeles press conference for “Eclipse,” Wolf Pack members Chaske Spencer (who plays Sam Uley), Alex Meraz (who plays Paul) and Julia Jones (who plays Leah Clearwater) sat down for a candid interview about their characters and how the “Twilight” franchise has changed their lives.

Julia, how was it joining the Wolf Pack and being one of the few female members?

Jones: You know, it happened really fast. All of a sudden you’re kind of thrown into this group of boys and, for me personally, I was a tomboy growing up so it felt really familiar. I have a younger brother who’s about the same age as some of them. And so there was something that resonated initially. But over the course of filming and some of the press that we’ve been doing, it’s like home. It just feels like family now, and it’s great.

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Were you a fan of the first two “Twilight” films? Did you know about it since you were thrown in so quickly?

Jones: I have a lot of friends who are big fans. I had never read them before, but I actually had a very good friend of mine was telling me about this role of Leah Clearwater in the “Twilight” movies. She said, “They’re going to make a movie out of it, and it’s you. This is going to be your role.” And you know, it’s something you hear and it just went in one ear and out the other. Like, “That’s sweet. She wants the best for me” or whatever.

And then when I got the call for the audition, I’ve never had this happen before but it was about this time last year and I was watching, I think, the Boston Celtics/Lakers game at some crazy place. I get this call for this audition and all I heard was, “You have an audition on Monday for Leah Clearwater in ‘Twilight.’”‘ And I had this visceral reaction — my heart started beating really fast and I had to breathe. I don’t know, it was very strange. And then I went to work.

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For the guys, how was it working with “Eclipse” director David Slade this time compared to working with “New Moon” director Chris Weitz?

Spencer: They’re both really good directors. With David, he’s very precise in what he wants. He knows exactly, and so did Chris. But what I liked about David is it’s fast; it’s quick. I like working with different directors, it keeps you on your toes. He’s a sweet, charming man. I’ve seen his movies, the vampire [film] “30 Days of Night.” I saw that about a year before that. Yeah, with him it was just real fast. It was really fast, for me anyway, my experience with him.

Meraz: I enjoyed working with him for the fact that I experiment doing short films, and being a filmmaker and seeing his process he’s very much a filmmaker and not so much just a director. There’s moments where he threatens to just actually get the camera himself and film it. He’s so involved. He always has a camera wrapped around his neck and he’s documenting the whole process. So that was really exciting to see, and inspiring.

And Chris Weitz, he’s just incredible. I mean, he’s such a gentleman and for me, entering this phenomenon that is “Twilight,” it was really great to have someone at the helm like that to just kind of guide us into it smoothly. And now that we’ve transitioned into another film, we kind of know the gist. We know where to go with it, and David was just a great person to take on the franchise.

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What was the hardest scene to do and why?

Jones: Actually, I think the hardest scene was also the most fun for me. There was a scene towards the end of the film in the midst of the big battle, and it was raining and it was cold. There were so many characters in it so it was pretty chaotic on set, and it all had to happen really, really fast.

I think it was a scene that was originally scheduled to be completed in two days and it wound up taking at least twice that time to finish. And it was chaotic and it was demanding physically, and it was demanding because you were freezing and wearing very little. It was also demanding emotionally. That was the challenge, but after a certain point you just sort of enjoyed yourself because really it doesn’t get better than that. You’re with a bunch of great people and a gorgeous place doing what you love.

Meraz: I think the hardest scene is the scene she’s talking about. We’re running and it’s raining, and there’s about a foot of water …

Jones: Tell them what happened to you.

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Meraz: So I figured, my background’s in dancing, and I feel like I’m really good on my feet. I told the rest of the cast, “All right you guys, it’s slippery out there. Don’t put the weight on your heel. Go on the balls of your feet. You’ll be able to dig into the floor better and you’ll get more traction.” So we have to cut the corner, and everyone else does it great.

And then me, of course, I slip and fall around. I’m like with mud all over, water everywhere. I get out and the scene that they used. You’ll see it. There’s a scene where Jacob gets his back crushed and we run up to him. And if you look at me, I’m in the back, I have a smirk on [my face] because they used that take, the moment after me slipping, so I’m trying not to laugh.

Jones: I just remember getting where we all run out at the same time and we get to our mark, and I remember just being kind of like, “Where’s Alex?'” And then Alex appears and I see he’s like all muddy, and I hear David say, “That’s it! That’s perfect!”

Meraz: It was real.

Spencer: It was real. I heard you! When we were running out … I heard you slip and fall.

Meraz: It was more of the F-bomb.

Spencer: I heard the F-bomb.

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Do you feel the “Twilight” franchise has created more opportunities for Native American actors outside of the franchise?

Spencer: Yes, it has. It has. What I like about it is it has brought us to pop culture in a way that’s never been done before in film. We’ve been around for a while. I’ve been working for like 10 years, and these two have also been around and working, and what I like about it is it’s finally brought us to a place where we’re not always playing with the leather and feather. That’s how we paid our dues.

And it’s kind of up to the media as well to accept us as other than being just the mystical figures and put on the leather and feather, and speaking like in an accent all the time, because I’ve done that so many times. And the kids are more accepting of us than anything else. That’s what’s really cool.

Jones: That’s also what excites me is that we’re being put in front of primarily children and people who are in the process of defining their ideas of what Native Americans are. I think that’s probably the most valuable aspect of the way that Native Americans are portrayed in this film. Because I still feel a lot of adults and in the media trying to figure it out. Like, I’m not an actress yet. I’m a “Native America actress.” And it’s not quite normalized to most people who grew up watching movies, like most Native movies, like “Dances With Wolves,” “Geronimo.”

Meraz: And speaking more on that is it’s in a contemporary setting. Like Chaske was saying, leather-and-feather period piece, we don’t have bows and arrows. We don’t even have clothes though.

Jones: It’s a step in the right direction.

Spencer: It’s a give and take.

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Have you heard from any Native American tribes, and in particular the Quileute tribe?

Meraz: The fascinating thing about portraying a tribe that actually does exist is that the stuff Stephenie [Meyer, author of the “Twilight” series] had taken from the tribe, she kind of mixed it in the realm of fantasy. But now a lot of people are going to Washington State, they’re going to La Push where the Quileute tribe actually do reside, and they’re learning more. They’re forced to ask questions, learn more about the culture.

And I think that that’s great that they’re getting a spotlight to introduce and to tell the story, the real creation story. That’s important. I think that fans are so into it that they want to learn where this germinated from, the root of where the wolf pack comes from.

Spencer: And all over Native country we’re getting feedback. It’s like they’re saying, “It’s about time.” We’ve got mad support from our people on the reservations. It’s just opened up a whole different door to us. And also, it’s a little pressure, too, because it’s almost like we have to be role models now. It’s something that kind of scares me as well, because that’s a big load to take on.

Jones: It is so gratifying to hear from people who look up to you and see you in these places that they never thought they could ever dream to be. It’s emotional. You really feel like you’re opening up people’s minds who otherwise thought that they couldn’t dream big. And that’s such a huge opportunity. It’s such a gift.

Spencer: Statistically, we’re not supposed to be here. We grew up on reservations and I don’t know if any of you have visited them, but it’s a Third World country there. You know, there’s a lot of poverty, lot of alcoholism, lot of drug addiction. So we’re very fortunate to be here, and we know that. We’re very lucky and grateful to be here.

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Julia, you’re in “Jonah Hex.” Can you talk about your role in that and how was that to film?

Jones: That was also an incredible experience. My character’s name is Cassie, she’s [Jonah Hex’s] wife. She and our young son are killed early on in the film, and that’s sort of what motivates Jonah Hex. He gets very bitter and he goes around killing. He’s a bounty hunter.

That experience was so great because I was on set with Josh [Brolin] and with John Malkovich, and with Michael Fassbender, who is an incredible actor. And I was not there for very long, but I left.The timing was awesome too, because I had sort of come off of this and then I had done a play, and then at the end of this experience, it was like, “This is what I want to do. This is exactly the kind of thing, these are the kind of people, this is the type of set and the feeling that I want to have.”

So to have that in my mind at this point when all of a sudden I do feel opportunities coming as a result primarily of “Eclipse” and “Twilight,” just feeling like having an idea of where I want to go, that’s really what “Jonah Hex” [and] the experience of making that was good for me.

Meraz: That doesn’t say much about us. She’s filming with us and, “I don’t like that, but I like this.”

Jones: Alex!

Meraz: I’m just kidding. We always tease each other.

Jones: Sometimes he goes a little too far.

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Is there something about the creation of the Wolf Pack that is featured in the movie that is true?

Meraz: It’s taken from an actual creation story, but it’s a bit turned around, you know? The mythology of the creation story is that the descendants of the Quileute came from wolves but they weren’t able to transform back. And that’s the part that Stephenie took and she made it into, used it in the book that we can transform back and forth. But she did a lot of research on it, even the name.

I believe there’s a certain creation story and mythology that in La Push the first Caucasian/white man that had ever been on the reservation, his last name was Swan. So she used little things like that, which I find really interesting that she did her homework.

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Can you elaborate more on the love triangle between Sam, Leah and Emily?

Spencer: What happened was that when the vampires come back, Sam Uley … he becomes a werewolf and he didn’t know what was going on with him. He didn’t know why this happening, and so he went through it all by himself. He had no one there to guide him. And what happened was that he was dating Leah, but there was this thing called imprinting, which is when you imprint on someone, that’s your mate, that’s your soul mate. And it happened to be Emily, her cousin.

And what happened is that as Sam was going through all these changes, there were other members of the tribe that were going through the same thing so he helps guide them through it and pretty much is like a coach or a sponsor of some sort to help guide them through. And that’s what he does with Jacob in the books. And when he was going through these changes, one of the things unfortunately is he mauls Emily. That’s why she has the scars on her face. So there is the love triangle between them, and you’ll see some in the movie as well, where she gives me some dirty looks from time to time.

It’s a wonderful story. I liked it, and that’s really what attracted me to Sam is that I like the fact that there’s this tragedy there. He didn’t want this in the beginning. No one would ever want that, and he had no choice. I think that separates us from the vampires as well, because at that last minute some of them have a choice. He didn’t have a choice. I like that character.

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So Sam feels for Jacob’s predicament?

Spencer: Oh yeah, he does. He has to, yeah. And actually, Jacob is the rightful alpha male. He doesn’t want it, so he gave it to me. I’m the unfortunate one who has to lead the pack, you know? Sam’s the unfortunate one who has to lead the pack, and as you continue with the books, you find out what happens. So that’s the story of Sam, Emily and Leah.

Jones: It’s also interesting because one of the major aspects of the wolves is that we hear each other’s thoughts when we’re wolves. So it’s almost like there’s this whole other world that’s going on. It’s in subtext in the film. I mean because I don’t know how you could possibly portray people reading each other’s thoughts, but there’s so many layers operating for all of us on what he’s thinking. I can hear Sam’s thoughts about my best friend, and I can hear his thoughts of pity toward me.

Spencer: Wouldn’t that suck? In real life, that would suck.

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How did it feel to join a franchise with such a big fan base?

Meraz: It’s like jumping into a hot pan. You just know you’re going to get cooked, and hopefully it’s cooked well. It’s definitely exciting. I felt a great deal of responsibility. Going back on what we were talking about with being representatives and being role models for Natives, I used to go around to reservations and teach health and wellness conferences and teach art and dance, so I knew that I was going to be looked at as a role model, and that was scary to know that.

But I just made sure first that I could represent myself in a good way. I tried to prepare for it as best as I could. And just made sure I read the books, did my homework, and luckily enough made some really great friends along the way which helped just to make me really comfortable with all the fame or whatever that came with it.

Jones: I was terrified. I still sometimes am. But in the beginning it’s just almost like you’re a certain size in your life and then all of a sudden you get much, much smaller. Like the rest of your life, every other aspect it’s much bigger than you actually are. You have to just accept that and enjoy it because you’re a part of something that means something to so many people. And I think that the thing that made it, I don’t know, easier the fastest I found that the cast, we all are so committed to our characters and to telling these stories.

I was so surprised instantly at Taylor and Kristen’s sort of grounded-ness. They were the first two people I met. I just feel like over all really, really grounded and I think it’s because we just show up to work and we really care, and we want to do the best we can. I feel like that bonds us and makes work fun, and there’s a lot of work. That also took away the fear.

Spencer: It’s easy to work with this cast. Some of them have been working for a while, and some of them it’s their big break, and they all know that. What I like about it is everyone’s humble. Everyone really knows this is a gift we got. This is something that doesn’t come around too often. And when I joined this franchise, I knew it was going to be big but I didn’t expect this. No one really gives you a book on how to do this, how to operate in this level.

So I definitely, before I went in, put up boundaries and know what I want to talk about and what I don’t want to talk about. And there are ways to keep your life private. There are ways to do it and to conduct yourself, and to do good work. Because in the end, we’re just actors. We’re very lucky actors. This is a great franchise and it’s going to be an amazing pop-culture phenomenon as it is, but eventually the next thing’s going to come along. We’re trying to have good opportunities to get a hold of those opportunities. It’s a fun ride. It’s a fun ride to be on. I mean I have some amazing opportunities and amazing experiences. I get to share it with these two, so I’m pretty good.

Meraz: [He says jokingly] I, on the other hand, I got the book “How to Make It in Hollywood 101.” You can get it at the library.

Spencer: It was written by me, wasn’t it?

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Julia, you and BooBoo Stewart were the new additions to this seemingly tight-knit group of actors. Does the Wolf Pack have any hazing rituals either on or off the screen?

Jones: I would say every five minutes someone was being hazed in the wolf pack, and it was me half the time. Hazing rituals? Alex, that is definitely your department.

Meraz: No, no. What it really is, when someone gets cast in these select few roles, you know they’ve gone through a lot. Because there are so many people who want to be in this franchise that instantly you’re excited for them, really. When BooBoo and she got cast, even Xavier [Samuel], you just know that it was like “American Idol.” Thousands of people were going out for it. The first reaction is you take your hat off: “Good job. Congratulations.” And then you just kind of get to know them more, but I don’t think it’s really hazing. Me personally, I just tease people a lot. That’s the Paul thing.

Spencer: In “New Moon,” it was just boys. It was just us, and we tease each other a lot to keep us humble as well. The ego gets too big, we’d cut each other down.

Jones: I kind of always have this feeling that there’s something in my hair.

Spencer: Or something on your back.

Jones: I was always feeling like things were touching me.

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For “Breaking Dawn,” is there anything that you hope your character gets storyline-wise that doesn’t get cut out?

Spencer: Like, more wolf pack. I think they’ve been really good about keeping storylines. And the fans, too, and Stephenie’s on set so they’re really good at keeping… And the fans obviously really like the movies because they’re keeping a pretty straight line on it. But I think “Breaking Dawn” is going to be really the same thing. They’re going to do justice by the fans.

What Native American legend you read about or heard about as a kid would you love to just play the part or see made into a movie someday?

Spencer: The character I would say for me personally, I’ve always had a fascination with Crazy Horse. He’s from my tribe, Sioux, and I’ve read so many books about him. That’s something I would really like to bring to screen. I don’t want to be Crazy Horse. I think I’d like to direct it. It’s just one of those movies that a lot of people don’t know about. He’s such a mythical figure and a warrior and a leader that he just fascinates me as a character, fascinates me.

Jones: Sacajawea? Has there been a movie made on Sacajawea? She’s been in a couple movies but …

Meraz: “Night at the Museum.”

Jones: That doesn’t count. There aren’t very many notable Native American female figures historically. That’s the way that it’s been. Pocahontas and Sacajawea. I’ve heard of stories of family members of mine that are interesting, but it’s not quite the same for the girls.

Meraz: I never thought about it. I’ll start thinking about it.

Source: Examiner

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