Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Meet Julia Jones, 'Eclipse's' Lone Lady Werewolf

Among the new characters introduced in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is Leah Clearwater, the Wolf Pack's one and only female shape shifter. Understandably, Leah's more than a little bitter about her new lycan status; you'd hate life, too, if your werewolf boyfriend dumped you because he "imprinted" on your BFF and you were forced to join his pack (and hear his thoughts) for all of eternity.

That hostility leads to an amusing scene in Eclipse between Leah and Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), the human heroine of the Twilight Saga who thus far has never been taken to task for stringing along poor werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). Leah, as played by 29-year-old actress Julia Jones (Hell Ride, Jonah Hex), is as deliciously resentful as we'd imagined her, tormented by her experience on the losing end of her own love triangle with Sam and Emily and desperate to prove herself as a new member of the pack.

In person, Julia Jones couldn't be farther from Leah Clearwater, although she understands the reasons for Leah's hostility towards the world. I caught up with her last weekend to discuss her Eclipse character, her rapport with her co-stars, and her role in this week's comic book-based supernatural Western, Jonah Hex (unfortunately, I just learned that her scenes from the latter film have been cut). She had high praise for Twilight co-star Taylor Lautner, with whom she'll get to play more in the upcoming Breaking Dawn films -- and almost as much passion for the hours of real life wolf footage she watched to prepare for her Eclipse role. Although she agreed that being a werewolf would have its definite drawbacks -- namely, finding yourself naked in the woods after reverting back to human form -- she looks forward to helping Leah reach her full bad ass potential in future Twilight sequels.

Hit the jump for my conversation with Eclipse actress Julia Jones!

Describe the audition that landed you the role of Leah Clearwater.

I have had a relationship with the casting director, Rene Haynes, for a couple of years; she cast me in at least one other thing. I went in and I read for her and for David Slade, spent about 20 minutes working on the character and figuring it out, and I came back about a week later and read for Renee and David and some of the producers again. And then I waited a whole month and heard that I got it, and then I waited another month until I could tell anyone! So it was normal in the beginning, and then pretty bizarre.

What scenes did you read during the casting process?

It was a scene pretty much straight out of the book, Breaking Dawn. The scene where I come and tell Jacob that I want to join his pack.

That's one thing we're looking forward to seeing in Breaking Dawn -- seeing you and Jacob break off from the Wolf Pack to form your own separate pack. Did you get to know Taylor very well while shooting Eclipse?

Yeah -- we obviously worked together and we hung out a couple of times outside of filming, and I'd seen him around L.A. I adore Taylor. One thing I think people don't fully appreciate about him is how smart he is; I think there's been so much attention paid to his abs and how gorgeous he is and everything, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He's a really smart kid, and incredibly talented, committed, devoted…

The werewolves in Twilight are supposed to be so closely, supernaturally linked, that they can hear each others' thoughts. What did all of the members of the Wolf Pack do on set to build rapport during production?

We spent a lot of time together. The boys all work out; they all go to the gym at least once a day. And I probably had most of my meals with at least one of them while I was there. We went bowling, we went to movies… just normal kinds of fun stuff. We took walks. We walked a lot, because it was so pretty in Vancouver.

You and Boo Boo Stewart are new to the cast, playing new additions to the Wolf Pack who are brother and sister.

Boo Boo I think is in just one scene. I hope to [work more with him in Breaking Dawn]; that's a really fun one. I have a younger brother, also, so that's a dynamic I'm familiar with, and I love my younger brother so it would be fun to have one on screen for two more movies.

When we meet Leah in Eclipse, her entire body language is as hostile as her attitude towards Bella… what did you do to represent Leah's physicality, of a woman newly changed against her will into a wolf?

That's a really good question and nobody asks me about that. It was such a big part [of Leah]. That was, I would say, one of the biggest ways I kind of found her. The most obvious thing is, which it says in the book, that she's always frowning; she's angry a lot so physically, frowning was a part of it. Honestly, I watched wolves -- amazing YouTube footage of wolves -- and there's this program about this man who went and lived with wolves. He infiltrated this wolf pack and became the alpha of this wolf pack. It's long, and I watched the whole thing several times… there are things about how wolves move, and how they carry themselves, and their reactions to things, that I started to incorporate very subtly into how Leah carries herself.

The other thing about the physicality was that I think Leah has a lot of self loathing. The self-esteem issues that are warranted given all the things that she's going through -- those read in your body, too. Physically, it's like you almost want to hide. You're not comfortable with your body; you don't belong, you don't fit in.

Let's talk about some of those reasons that Leah's so bitter -- given her situation with Sam and Emily, I'd say her hostility is totally understandable.

She's so warranted! I can't think of another person, superhuman or human, who has more reason to be bitter and angry than Leah Clearwater. First of all, the love of her life has imprinted on her best friend, and she has to live with that -- she has to hear his thoughts of love for her best friend, and his thoughts of pity for her. I don't know which is worse, that or the fact that she's turned into a wolf. I think that might actually trump the heartbreak! But the story is that when the Cullens came, we started to shapeshift again and because there are so many Cullens, we went through all of the young males who had the right lineage. I had the right lineage even though I'm a girl, so I started changing also. Can you imagine? Something scary and physical happening to you? I wouldn't say that I break a nail and freak out, but I get a pimple and I freak out. I couldn't imagine changing into a wolf!

Especially if every time you did change, you shredded all of your clothes!

Yeah -- you shredded all of your clothes and you turn back and you're naked? Oh my gosh.

On the other hand, it's awesome to see a female werewolf back in pop culture.

It's super bad ass. I think maybe in future films it'll get a little more bad ass, but there's definitely a side to Leah that is super competitive, and really enjoys that she can just focus on being the fastest or one-upping the boys every now and then -- that's a way for her to take her power back and belong. She wants to just belong.

We also see you in this week's supernatural comic book Western adaptation Jonah Hex, in which you play Jonah's wife, whose death at the hands of John Malkovich propels him along his journey of vengeance. How much do we get to see of you, and in what context? [Note: Having seen the full film, it seems much of Jones's storyline was edited from Jonah Hex -- but there's always the DVD!]

A bit in the beginning, and then Jonah gets to a point where he can't go on. He has this gift of going into the afterworld, so I come back and help him on his way, in a way. I haven't seen it so I'm not sure how it appears, but she's a little bit of an omniscient kind of character. Really, she just knows him really well and she knows he's been doing all of these bad things and that's not who he really is, and he's in a position to do some good. She's sort of the person who knows him the best and who loved him, and who puts him on his way and lets him go. I think that was the hardest thing for me as an actor, dealing with the situation. You have to love him enough to let him go. When he comes to her it's almost like he's dead, he's going to die, and [Cassie's dilemma] is how badly she wants to keep him there. But she has to love him enough to say no, you have to go back and do the right thing.

Eclipse will be your third genre film in only a few years; is there something about working in genre movies that appeals to you?

I do like genre films. I like that there's a framework; it's clear what you can sort of draw on, and they have a certain type of following, a certain type of audience. I can get a lot from whatever genre the film is in, and from there you can expand and use your imagination.

Tune in for more exclusive interviews for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse all week!



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