The enormous success of the “Twilight” franchise has made celebrities of not only Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson — the actors at the center of its love triangle – but also its many standout supporting players, including Ashley Greene. As the series winds down, however, the actors are looking to stretch, and strike out more on their own. Greene’s latest film, “The Apparition,” represents a new stab at leading lady status in a big studio movie, coming on the heels of an engaging turn in last year’s tender period piece teen ensemble, “Skateland.” In it, she plays a young woman who discovers that she and her boyfriend (Sebastian Stan) are being haunted by a presence that was conjured years ago, during a university parapsychology experiment. For ShockYa, Brent Simon recently had a chance to sit down and talk to the pleasant Greene, both in a small roundtable setting and also one-on-one, about “The Apparition,” what first drew her to Los Angeles, the conclusion of the “Twilight” series, and what else is on tap for her. The conversation is excerpted below:
ShockYa: “The Apparition” is a fairly classically constructed spooky movie. Do you typically get scared by these types of films?
Ashley Greene: Yeah, I’m such a wuss. (laughs) I used to watch a lot of horror films when I was a kid and at certain point I think reality set in that, “Oh, this stuff can actually happen, and someone had to have thought of this to actually write about it, and whoever that person is scares me.” But now that I live alone and not at my parents’ house, I think it’s even a little more frightening. And I think as an actor you kind of want to make things as realistic as possible, and kind of force yourself to believe in these things, so it was definitely a darker time in my life (while filming).
ShockYa: You filmed in large part at Studio Babelsberg in Berlin. Did you have any creepy moments on set?
AG: Luckily we were working probably 16 hours a day, and it was an hour’s drive to Babelsberg and an hour back to our hotel, so when I hit the pillow I passed out – which is probably a good thing, because otherwise I do get a little weirded out and freaked out about that stuff. We probably averaged about five hours a night of sleep on that film.
ShockYa: You share the screen some with Tom Felton, who of course is part of another huge franchise, in the form of “Harry Potter.” Did you exchange any funny franchise fan stories with him?
AG: (laughs) No, but I guess they’re pretty similar – lots of screaming people, and just kind of the intensity of it all, and the zero-to-sixty experience of it was what we talked about, coming from not really doing much (beforehand) and becoming part of a book series and then it just exploding. We chatted some about just how you kind of become family with these people.
ShockYa: What’s been your strangest fan experience — some have asked you to bite them, I understand?
AG: Oh yes, we get that. I mean most of the guys get that — the guys get more of the crazy requests than the girls do, (and) because Alice (Cullen) is so bubbly and lovable and kind of that best friend, [my experience] mainly consists of hugs and pleasant compliments. But the guys get some crazy requests, and biting is definitely one of them. (laughs)
ShockYa: This is an exciting new time for you, obviously, a new chapter, with “Twilight” coming to an end. Is it exciting, or more terrifying – how do you see it?
AG: It’s exciting. I mean, I think the unknown is always a little scary, but I think that’s part of life and it’s what keeps us going and I’m excited about the future. It’s sad that “Twilight” is ending, because it has been such a big part of my life, but the exciting part is that it’s afforded me a lot of opportunities. So I feel like I would be crazy to dwell (on it) and not kind of grab the reins and go with it.
ShockYa: I’m always a bit amazed when I hear stories of 17- and 18-year-olds leaving home and moving out to big, bad Los Angeles. And yet that’s what you did, right, all the way from Florida?
AG: I graduated early. Basically I went to half of my senior year because I wanted to experience it. But then I was like, “OK, I’m done with this. [Acting] is what I want to do.” My parents were supportive, but said I had to get an agent and manager and all that stuff. My mom says that she knows now never to challenge me, because I’m pretty determined. They would say, “Yeah, you can do this if this happens,” and then, somehow, I made it happen! I did all the work and was ready to go. Well, my mom kind of had to convince my dad, because letting your 17-year-old daughter go to L.A. is not easy. But they said, “We raised you, we know you.” I’ve always been pretty responsible. They said, “You have a year, don’t mess around, and after a year we’ll bring you back to college.” They gave me the benefit of the doubt, and it always happened that right before I would have to go home I would book something so I could pay my rent. (laughs) I took as many classes as I possibly could, because once I moved to L.A. I was like, “I have no idea what I’m doing.” I wasn’t classically trained. I took an acting class and really fell in love with it, and knew it was what I wanted to do. So I took a lot of classes and auditioned a lot and heard no a lot, and somehow ended up here.
ShockYa: You were also modeling, though, right? Was it an exploration of both or were you already more drawn to acting at that time?
AG: My mom put me in these modeling classes to actually help with etiquette and self-esteem and stuff like that, and they had an acting class there and that’s where I first took that. I modeled in L.A. so that I wouldn’t have to go home, so that I could pay my rent, essentially. Modeling was never really a passion of mine and I really am not a huge fan of it, because that’s a really cutthroat, tough industry. I enjoyed cinema, but I really had no idea until I was about 15 that this was what I wanted to do. I was always extremely competitive and I was always a performer, so I guess that part of it makes sense, but it was still kind of out of nowhere. My parents had always said, “You can do anything and be anything you want,” and so when I said an actor they were like, “Reaaaally? That’s what you want to do? We always assumed that your brother would move away and you would stay home, but it was the complete opposite.” It shows that parents don’t know everything.
ShockYa: You mentioned the auditioning, which is a real grind, and of course a totally different skill set than delivering a performance on set for camera. Have you found a certain comfort level with it?
AG: It’s terrible. Listen, it is what it is. I do not like it. It stresses me out, it definitely stresses me out. I think you turn into a little bit of a perfectionist with that, and there are so many variables that I get a little in my head sometimes and I think with acting you can’t do that — you lose your freedom. It’s taken a while, but I’m definitely better at it than I used to be. I just go in now saying what will happen will happen, and if it doesn’t go well there will be another one, but it’s definitely uncomfortable because once you’re on set you’ve done your prep work and you’re familiar and kind of have your bearings. But when you go into an audition you feel like someone’s judging you essentially, and that there are a thousand other girls that want the same part. You never know quite what they want.
ShockYa: Is research of a big tangible benefit for you, or does it depend on the project?
AG: Definitely, I do a lot of prep work before I get to set, because I want everything done. I want all questions answered and to know exactly where I am before I get to set because it allows you to let go a little easier — at least me. But I think in this craft pretty much everything and anything is helpful. Anything you watch and see, any skill set could one day be used in this industry because you never know what roles you’re going to get.
ShockYa: Is there any experience you’ve had most emblematic of that?
AG: Well, I’m extremely athletic, so that’s always helpful. With any action film I always do my own stunts and stuff like that. (laughs) And I think one of the more helpful things is that when I got to L.A. I had never really had my heart broken and never been around people quite like the people in L.A., and as much as it sucked it was actually a great thing because until you actually experience heartbreak how are you supposed to know how to put it out there on screen? That’s what it is for me — it’s not that you have to go through every experience to be able to portray it on screen, but I do think that it comes down to a couple emotions and different feelings. And listen, feeling worthless or not good enough is something that you can use in a ton of different scenarios. When I first got here I didn’t have much to pull from, and now I have a whole well.
ShockYa: The school of hard knocks.
AG: (laughs) Definitely.
ShockYa: You also have “Butter,” a comedy, coming out this fall, and then Randall Miller’s “CBGB,” a historical dramedy of sorts in which you’re playing a real person. I imagine with “Twilight” and something like “The Apparition” it’s easy to get pigeonholed with genre filmmaking. Is that a career goal of yours — to be assertive about branching out into other genres?
AG: Well, luckily with Alice I didn’t experience being typecast and pigeonholed because I think that she’s such a non-traditional vampire. She’s very bubbly and contagious and positive, and this best friend that everyone wants to love. So that’s a pretty good thing to walk away from, with people liking your character. And she doesn’t really look anything like me, which is also helpful, so I wasn’t too worried about that. I think the biggest thing is people being able to see other sides of me, and that me being Alice in “Twilight” isn’t just a fluke. Because people are saying, “Yeah, she’s great in that, but what else can she do?” And so there’s not a particular genre I’m looking for, I’m pretty much open to anything – it just depends on whether when I read the script it excites and inspires me, and I can say, “Oh my gosh, I could do a million things with this character.” That’s what it’s about — being able to do different things and show different sides.
ShockYa: Finally, Alice gets to show a bit more of a proactive side in the “Breaking Dawn” finale, right?
AG: Alice in “Breaking Dawn” is kind of extremely proactive, and she kind of has to — well, not that she alone saves the day, but she has a hand in that. She’s extremely protective. You’ve definitely seen some of it before — she’s very loyal and trustworthy — but as nice and as perky as she is, you get to see that animalistic side of her whenever you mess with her family, which is always fun.
NOTE: “The Apparition” opens this Friday, August 24.
Written by: Brent Simon