There’s a new presence in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse – Xavier Samuel. The Australian actor portrays Riley, who leads the Newborn Army – made up of newly turned vampires whose strength and uncontrollable desire to blood is heightened to a frenzy. Overseen by Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is filled with vengeance over the death of her lover at the hands of Edward (Robert Pattinson) and the Cullen family, the Army is headed for Forks, and the vampires and Wolf Pack must join together to defeat it.
Xavier Samuel spoke at the press event for the film about joining this astonishingly successful franchise.
How do you feel about being part of the huge phenomenon that is Twilight? Are you prepared for the fame that comes with it?
It’s certainly a baptism of fire. It’s a wonderful introduction to American film. It’s quite a different experience, working on an American film and coming from an Australian context because you could make 100 Australian films for the budget of any number of American films. It’s really been a surreal experience, and it all happened very quickly.
I flew from Sydney to Vancouver, with four other guys, met David Slade, and then had enough time to go back to Sydney and get some more clothes, then fly back to Vancouver to start shooting. It all happened extremely quickly, but it’s been an exhilarating and wonderful experience. I’m very, very thankful.
Being new to the franchise, who was the most welcoming and how were you welcomed?
I guess playing a bad guy who is an outsider, and being a foreigner in an already established family, you’re a bit intimidated, but I’m so grateful to be accepted so warmly into the whole family. Everyone was extremely down-to-earth. I’ve also become very good friends with Bryce. We locked eyes at the airport. We just had a lot of fun, and it was great to hang out with those guys.
Since entering into the Twilight franchise, do your family and friends grill you about what happened on set and what the actors are like? Do you have to figure out what you can tell people close to you?
My mother has made it her personal mission to monitor all the information about me on the Internet. I’ve had a few strange requests, like, ‘Could you bring back a plastic cup that Rob sipped on?’ or, ‘Maybe you could sneak up to him quickly and take a lock of his hair?’
What did you do to establish your presence in the film?
There’s a lot of competition for who’s the most evil. I had a lot of conversations with David Slade (the movie’s director) about how to approach Riley and not delve into the clichés of the stereotypical vampire thing. We touched upon that he’s still got human blood pumping through his veins and he’s a tragic figure, in a way. He’s been manipulated, to a certain extent. That was coupled in.
He has this extreme hatred for humanity because that’s what he’s been deprived of. He’s extremely jealous, but he also has a heart. I just wanted to do justice to the complexity that Stephenie Meyer has created.
Because this film is darker, did it feel like you were making a horror movie, when you shot your scenes?
David Slade has such a firm grip on the dark side of the film, I can understand how that might be the impression of the film. He’s got a really edgy, unique approach.
What was the most challenging scene that you had to do?
I know it has so many devoted fans and, with that, comes a great deal of responsibility of really delivering your very best. The challenging thing is to always be on your A-game. Also, it’s hard to act with a piece of fur on the end of a stick. All that green screen stuff was interesting.
You have to create that world in your head, as opposed to actually having it there. And then, being bounced around on wires like a puppet was challenging.
Is this your first time in the States?
I’ve been dividing my time pretty evenly between Los Angeles and Sydney. They only let me stay here for 90 days. But, yeah, I auditioned online. I did a tape in Sydney, and I’ve been doing that for American projects for quite a while, sending them off into the ether and not knowing who’s watched them or whose desk they land on.
What do you have coming up?
There’s an Australian horror film that I did, called The Loved Ones, which is coming out. Watching the film is like peeking into a grotesque doll’s house. It’s really quirky and cool. And, I just got back from Berlin, where I did a Roland Emmerich film, called Anonymous, which contests the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays.
I play the Earl of Southampton, who’s a patron of the theatre and fights for what he believes in. He gets roped into a rebellion against the queen. There was lots of riding around on horses and going to the theatre!