By Christina Radish
Ashley Greene initially had plans for becoming a model. But, after being told that she was not tall enough to walk the runways, the 5'5"
Florida native decided to take a commercial class, and quickly fell in love with acting. After a move to
Los Angeles, she began working in film and television and, when Twilight was brought to her attention by her manager, the 21-year-old knew that she had to play Alice Cullen.
Ashley Greene at the premiere of "Max Payne" held at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. on October 13, 2008.
Greene recently took time out from her hectic schedule to talk to MediaBlvd Magazine about the highly anticipated film adaption of the hugely successful Young Adult vampire novel by literary icon Stephenie Meyer, hitting theaters on November 21st.
MediaBlvd Magazine> How did you end up moving out to
L.A. and getting into acting?
Ashley Greene> I moved out to
L.A. when I was 17, almost 18. I wasn’t really that involved with theater, in high school or middle school. I fell into acting. I was thinking about modeling, and the manager and people that I was talking to about modeling were the ones who were like, “Why don’t you take an acting class or a commercial class because you’re not tall enough to model. If you model, you’re going to have to do Cover Girl or Maybelline, or stuff like that, so you’ll have to do commercials.” So, I took a commercial class and an acting class, and the teacher who I was taught by was just so passionate about it. He was amazing! I fell in love with it, instantly. I was like, “This is so what I want to do! I don’t want to model.” I was really passionate about it. I guess my parents saw that and they were really supportive, which everyone was surprised by. I was 17. I graduated early and I was like, “I want to go act,” and so, I did. I had all my credits. I didn’t really need my senior year. So, I moved out to
L.A. It was the first time I had been here, so my mom came out for a week and I got my apartment and everything set up, and it went from there. The first two years was just about getting my bearings. If I did book something, it was little stuff, here and there. But, I had good people around me and I stuck it out. The next year, I started booking stuff that was still guest starring and co-starring roles, and smaller parts in film, and I did a little telenovela. Then, I switched management, and Twilight came along. Everything happened at a good time. If everything that’s happening for me now, happened a couple years ago, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it because I was so young. I’m this little girl from
Florida. It’s been an interesting journey, but I’m really happy with the way everything has worked out, timing wise.
MediaBlvd> How did you get involved with Twilight? Was it just a regular auditioning process, or was it a different kind of process than usual?
Ashley> It was a long process. It was four months of auditioning. I went in and, originally, my management said, “You’re going into this casting office and they’re really tough, but they’re really good. Don’t mess up. This is a book series. It should be good. If it does well, you could do a couple films.” I really didn’t know what a big deal it was, but I knew it was something. They were like, “You need to do a good job,” but there were no sides. I had no idea what was going on. There was no script. There was no breakdown. So, I postponed my meeting for two days, and read the entire first book. And then, I went in and auditioned and, surprisingly enough, I got a callback and was like, “Oh, my God, this is great!”
MediaBlvd> Was it always
Alice that you had auditioned for?
Ashley> I went in for Bella, originally. I went in for her two times and met with Catherine Hardwicke, but I wasn’t right for that. And then, they brought me back in for
Alice. I was super-excited. I had read all three books by then because I liked the series so much. And then, I didn’t really hear anything. It went really well, and then I went home for Christmas, thinking I hadn’t gotten the part. I was upset about it. I cried about it. It was just one of those parts where I was like, “This is my part!” I wanted it, even from when the first time I went in. And then, I ended up getting a call and they were like, “Hey, by the way, you got the part!” I was super-excited. I called my mom and dad, and they cried. They were so excited. It was cute. It was one of those monumental things in your life. There are some parts where you’re just like, “This is my part, and nobody can do a better job,” and that was this. One of the greatest things I had on my side was that I fit the character description, minus the height. That worked in my favor. I hadn’t really done a lot of big stuff before, and that was part of the hesitation in them hiring me, but it worked out. I worked really hard. Everybody really stepped their game up.
MediaBlvd> For those that are still somehow unfamiliar with what Twilight is, can you talk about who you play in the film and how your character fits into the story?
Ashley> Alice Cullen is the sister of Edward, who’s in love with Bella. She’s a very happy-go-lucky character. All of the vampires have extremely different personalities, in our family.
Alice is just happy to be alive. She came from a not-too-great place. She was in a mental ward because she had premonitions and could see the future, in the 1920's and ‘30's. That was unacceptable then, so rather than assessing it, they just threw her in the mental ward. She was saved, and she got to go into this family, who accepted her and loved her. That’s why she’s so happy and thankful, and really has this intense love for her family. Whenever you cross over to the vampire world, it heightens all of your senses, so the premonitions turn into her being able to full-on see the future. The first book is very important, just because this whole ordeal happens where the bad vampires come in and are trying to kill Bella.
Alice can see the future and see what they’re going to do, which helps the Cullens keep her safe. When she meets Bella,
Alice can already tell that they’re going to be great friends, so
Alice is the first one to embrace her. She ends up becoming best friends with Bella, when most of her family can’t stand her. She’s a fun character. She’s a fashionista and she loves to shop, so picking out and dealing with wardrobe was really fun.
MediaBlvd> What was it like to work with the others actors who play the Cullens? Did you do any bonding prior to filming, so that you could appear like a family on screen?
Ashley> When we got flown out, we had two weeks of rehearsal time, before the cameras actually started rolling, to get to know one another. We got trained in baseball and wirework, and had all these classes together, so we did get to know each other. It was a young cast, so that helped, as far as us bonding and being on the same level. Everyone was surprisingly really cool. There was no drama. I think we were all so happy to be there, even though everyone has different personalities. I don’t think one of us is the same, but we had a blast. We’d work all day together, and then get off set and go out to dinner or play music. A couple of the guys are musicians, and so we’d go watch them play. We just bonded as a family. The cool part about being able to do the next couple of films is that we do get along so well. It’s nice that we’re all going to get to work together again. There’s no one person that we can’t stand. There are no love triangles and no drama, or anything like that. We got lucky!
MediaBlvd> Did realizing that these books have such a huge, devoted following freak you out at all? Have you had any strange experiences with fans already?
Ashley> I’m wondering what it’s going to be like, when the film comes out. As of now, it’s really cool. Kellan and I went to the
Sex Drive premiere, and the fans were already there, waiting for us, even though the movie hasn’t come out yet. It’s really cool. It’s really neat. It doesn’t get out of hand. Right now, we’re all having a blast with it.
MediaBlvd> As an actor, when you’re playing a character who’s a vampire that sees visions of the future, how do you find something to identify with, since you can’t draw from personal experience?
Ashley> I read a lot of poetry and I watched a couple of films, for the premonitions. Our vampires are so unconventional that it was tough. We don’t have fangs and we aren’t evil. The nice part about being on location and not being around anyone is that you can at least get a little bit in character. We’re really nice vampires. Maybe that actually made it a little easier because we didn’t have to get into an evil mode. Our family, in particular, involves ourselves with humans and society, so a lot of it is about us trying to fit in and be normal.
MediaBlvd> In filming the scenes where Alice has visions, did you do anything physical at all? As an actor, do you think about the visions your character is supposed to be having, in that moment?
Ashley> Yeah. We did a couple different takes on it and tried a couple different things because they weren’t sure what they wanted, but it’s more subtle. You definitely have to envision the whole thing, so that it does come off well. The thing about acting is that you actually have to do it and feel something. I had this whole thing in my head, and went through it. I added in a couple physicalities because me just thinking about it isn’t going to come across. It’s the magic of production.
MediaBlvd> In what ways do you think you’re like Alice, and how are you different from her?
Ashley> I can definitely understand the intensity behind protecting her family. I am really close to my family -- my mom, my dad and my brother. My mom and dad are still together, and I had a very solid foundation and upbringing. They’re really supportive, and I love them to death.
Alice is the same way with her family. She would do anything to protect them. That was really easy. She’s always happy. And, of course, I get the shopping. Every girl loves shopping. I can’t really relate to seeing the future, although I have deja vu, like no other, all the time. I don’t have premonitions or see the future. As a character, she’s kind of perfect. I try to be optimistic and make people happy, and just enjoy life.
MediaBlvd> Would you want to be able to see the future, like Alice can, or do you prefer not knowing?
Ashley> It would be cool, if you could turn it on and off. Success is always greener on the other side, so at this point, I would say yes. It would be fun!
MediaBlvd> Had you been a fan of the vampire genre at all, prior to this, or is this your first exposure to it?
Ashley> One of my favorite movies is Interview with a Vampire, so getting to play one is cool. I love the whole vampire thing. I loved Underworld. It’s awesome, and it’s really neat. There’s a whole vampire thing going on now. There’s True Blood and Cirque du Freak (out in 2009). I’m part of the trend!
MediaBlvd> Were you disappointed that you didn’t get to wear fangs, or were you relieved that you didn’t have to figure out how to get used to talking with them?
Ashley> It’s great that it separated us and made us different, and it goes with the whole fitting into society thing, but I would have loved to wear fangs. Everybody loves to wear fangs! If we had put them in two weeks before production, everybody would have learned how to talk. You get used to them. It’s like having a retainer. I’m not complaining, but it would have been neat.
MediaBlvd> Was it intimidating at all to take on a role that’s so beloved by so many readers? Did you feel a lot of pressure to get her look and her mannerisms right, or did you just focus on creating the character your own way?
Ashley> We felt a little bit of pressure. The great thing about it was that Stephenie Meyer was there for some of it and, if she approved, then you were good because she wrote the book. That took a little bit of the pressure off. I’m still nervous to see what people think. The biggest thing for people was the look of the character. Everyone was really concerned about my height and my hair, and stuff like that. As far as my performance, I think people will be pretty happy. I did a lot of research on it and tried to keep it true to the book, but the fun part of acting is that you do create the character. I just incorporated both.
MediaBlvd> Did they have you do anything specific to have you appear shorter than you are?
Ashley> I got to wear flats the whole time because I had to be short. The guys needed to be taller, and Nikki was supposed to be like 5'10". I got lucky with the whole thing because all they did was put me in flats.
MediaBlvd> What was it like to film on location in Portland,
Oregon? Did it help get you into character?
Ashley> We all agreed that the weather was a little bit challenging. We shot there because that’s where the book is set. We just dealt with the weather. It was tough. Our stand-ins had the easiest jobs ever because we never used them. We always needed to be on set because the weather could change at the drop of a hat. The baseball scene was freezing. Within the course of two hours, it went from being sunny to being cloudy to raining to hailing to being sunny again. We were like, “Jesus! Could it just stay like that for an hour?” But, it was cool. It was part of the experience. It was freezing, so it took me a minute to get accustomed to what the weather was like. We had to stop shooting a scene because my lips turned purple and I was shaking. I was like, “I’m from
Florida. I can’t deal with the cold!” That was rough. Other than that, it was gorgeous. When it was sunny, it was a beautiful place to film.
MediaBlvd> How involved were you with the stunts? Was the training extensive? Had you ever done anything like that before?
Ashley> I’d never done that, and now I’m itching to do an action film. They trained us for it. We did this whole cat exercise, which was embarrassing. We had a dance teacher there to help us with movement. Jackson, Kellan and I got to do wirework, where we had to jump off a balcony for the fight sequence with
Cam. That was amazing! It was such a rush! It was so fun! Jumping off the balcony with wires was a free-fall. It was kind of like the
Disneyland. It was this free-fall, minus the actual encasing. It was really cool! It was so exciting! By the end of the day, we were like, “I want to do that again!” It was a play day, while at work. We’re signed for a second and third film, and I hope there is a ton of wirework in them because it was so amazing. I heard they’re doing Wonder Woman, so that would be cool. I would love to be Wonder Woman! She gets to fly all the time.
MediaBlvd> Had you been familiar with Catherine Hardwicke’s previous work? What was it like to work with her, as a director?
Ashley> Every teenage girl is familiar with Thirteen, so I knew who Nikki and Catherine were. She’s really great, working with younger people, because she’s done a lot of independent passion films. I was really nervous because Twilight is a huge deal, and she made us comfortable. She is really energetic. She’s eclectic and different, and it was really fun working with her.
MediaBlvd> What was the experience of meeting Stephenie Meyer like? Did you get to talk to her about your character at all?
Ashley> We were nervous meeting her, at first, because she made these characters. That was a little nerve-wracking. But, she is literally the nicest person ever. She’s just so sweet, and she made us all really comfortable. We sat down and had dinner, and I got to talk to her about the character. I tried to not do that too much, but we sat down and talked about
Alice a little bit, and it was fun. We had a cast dinner with her, not too long ago in
L.A., and that was really nice. She’s great to be around.
MediaBlvd> What has been the most surprising thing for you so far, in being a part of the whole Twilight phenomenon?
Ashley> The most surprising thing has just been the amount of passion everybody has. The movie hasn’t come out yet. Usually, as an actor, you get the attention after you’ve released a couple big films. It’s interesting to have that happen before.
MediaBlvd> With this being the highest profile project so far in your career, are you prepared for all the attention you’ll receive?
Ashley> I was worried that it wasn’t going to be that great, just because of the whole thing that happened before with my physicalities. But, I’ve gotten fan mail and it’s been positive so far. You never know until it happens, so we’ll see.
MediaBlvd> Have you done any projects since finishing Twilight?
Ashley> I did a film called Summer. I think the projected release date is in January. That was a stark contrast to Twilight. It was really dark. I play this hard-edged, troubled girl that ends up leaving her mom, who’s addicted to drugs. I get in this huge fight with her, and I leave to go find my father. I’m alone and I hitch-hike. While I’m trying to find him, I get involved with this crazy family. This guy ends up kidnapping me and locking me down in the basement, so I have to deal with that, and seeing people being killed and doing things that I don’t want to do. You see this hard character slowly start to break down and go through a lot of stuff, mentally as well as physically. And then, she becomes determined to try to get away. It was really fun. It was a good character to play. It was a little difficult, at times, because it’s hard to be in that dark of a place, but I think it’s going to be good. I’m really proud of it. The people I was working with were great. And, now I’m filming something called Skateland, which is an independent film. I’m starring opposite this guy, named Shiloh Fernandez, who’s an up-and-comer as well. That’s a little lighter. It centers around this guy’s life, and it’s more of a story about the troubles that people go through, growing up, the problems they face, and the hardships of teenage life and becoming an adult. I’m excited about it.
MediaBlvd> When you take on darker roles, is it easy for you to turn that on and off, or is it hard for you to shake off, at the end of the day?
Ashley> I’m glad that I was on location. When you’re on location, it makes it a little easier to transform and become the character, because it is tough. I haven’t had to do one in
California yet. It’s a little easier to become the character, when you’re basically living in a hotel. I didn’t talk to my mom, pretty much the whole time I was there. There are moments when you get a little into it, and it is a little dark and scary, at times. My friends are probably like, “Where the heck did our friend go?” But, it’s fun. That’s why I act. It takes me a good week or so, when I get home, to snap out of it.
MediaBlvd> If the visibility that you’ll get from Twilight leads to more film work for you, are there types of projects or roles that you’re hoping to do in the future, that you haven’t gotten the chance to do yet?
Ashley> Yeah. Much, much more in the future, I definitely want to do stuff like Charlize Theron. She’s had a really good career. She got to do Monster and
North Country, and those were really inspiring roles. She moved people with her performance, and I think that’s what every actor wants to do. She plays very strong female characters, and that’s what I’m trying to do as well. I want to stay away from the typical high school characters, like the hot girl and the mean girl. That’s boring. You don’t get to transform. I don’t want to stick to one genre or one role. I just want to take part in a bunch of different roles and become a bunch of different characters. I definitely want to do an action film and be a superhero, I want to play a villain, I want to do a period piece, and I want to do a love story. We’ll see what order they come in. I want to do a little bit of everything. The hard-edged characters are a little more difficult for me to pull off because I have an innocent-looking face. But, hair and make-up, and coaching and attitude always helps. I want to be able to transform and be a chameleon, and do a bunch of different things, on a bunch of different levels.