Interview: Last Day Of Summer's Nikki Reed
Itís far too easy to just associate an actress with her biggest project at the moment and thatís exactly what happened and what is happening to Nikki Reed. Back in 2003 she was just the newcomer who wrote Thirteen and today sheís simply Rosalie from The Twilight Saga. Not that either is anything less than a fantastic accomplishment, but Reed has quite a lot going on in her career and those projects are certainly deserving of attention as well.
I was fortunate enough to chat with Reed about her upcoming non-Twilight release, Last Day of Summer. In that Vlad Yudin-directed film she plays Stephanie, a young woman taken hostage by a disgruntled fast food employee played by DJ Qualls. Quallsí character may be acting like a deranged lunatic on the outside, but deep down heís just a lonely guy who wants to be treated fairly. Clearly the two donít mesh well and thatís got a major effect on how he handles his hostage situation.
Itís an interesting piece on a number of levels, but most notably for its stars. Not only is it unusual for Qualls to take a leading role and a more serious one nonetheless, but having fallen into the Twilight hole myself, itís quite nice to see Reed portray a person sans fangs. She holds the experience near and dear to her heart for the challenge it posed and because it gave her the opportunity to work with a close friend. Reed also took the time to address some of her upcoming projects. Click here to find out what she had to say about the next installment of The Twilight Saga, but stay right here to find out about Last Day of Summer and her latest venture, directing music videos.
Were you approached for this role or did you audition?
Reed: I actually was approached. DJ Qualls and I have been best friends for I donít even know how long, since I was a kid, 14, 15, many many years. In fact, we just bought houses half a mile away from one another so we could be closer, thatís how close we are. So he was offered the role initially, for Joe, and they couldnít find Stephanie and he told the producers that he thought I was the one for it and they actually resisted.
They thought that I was just sort of too, I guess pretty. But I hate saying that because it implies I view myself as that or thatís a word I would use to describe myself, which it isnít and so I actually had to fight for it. I went in and I said, ĎYou guys just think that because I play roles that are that.í I play characters that are pretty, I play characters that are sort of intimidating and confident, but that doesnít necessarily mean that Iím that. I think itís kind of interesting that you can actually convince the audience that you are the character you play even in terms of aesthetics because the truth is, and I think after you see this movie you sort of realize, that Iím not intimidatingly beautiful and I donít mean that as a put down to myself; Iím just not conventionally pretty and thatís the truth. I just happened to have been cast in roles like that for many years.
Howíd you meet DJ? Did you meet on a set?
Reed: DJ and I met through mutual friends many years ago and then we did a movie together called Familiar Strangers when I was like 18 or 19 and then we did this movie. So weíve worked together twice, but we just met through friends years ago and we just really connected on some kind of amazing level that doesnít happen very often in this industry. And I mean a real friendship; we see each other every couple of days and I bring groceries to his house and heíll come over with movies, like real friends, not Hollywood friends. [Laughs]
Is that what made you so determined to get this job, to work with him?
Reed: I liked the concept, I liked the project, but yes, of course. I think DJ is immensely talented and he also suffers from being pigeonholed at times just being the funny, goofy guy, the silly looking guy and heís so much more than that.
Yeah, I was going to say itís unusual to see him in this type of piece. Most of the films Iíve seen him in, heís the comedic relief, so itís nice to see him in something more dramatic and in a starring role for that matter. Did he take to all of that easily?
Reed: Yeah, I remember him being excited about the opportunity to have a leading role in something where he wasnít just playing a goofy guy and he took it very seriously. When youíre friends with someone, you donít always realize the depth of their talent until youíre sitting and watching them work and I think we both had moments like that on the set. There were a number of times where I would go up to him after and go like, ĎAre you okay to talk now?í And he would say, ĎYeah, that was so incredible!í
How was it filming in so few locations? Youíre character in particular is really just in one; did that make it easy to stay in character, staying in the same environment?
Reed: No, I think we were really comfortable with the project; we had extensive rehearsals and weíve known each other for so long. I think when youíre comfortable, itís easy to feel like you can step away from your location and your zone. So on this particular set I didnít feel like it was scary to leave that area.
You had extensive rehearsal time? Thatís a luxury most small films donít have. Was this not a quick get-in-and-get-it-done type of project?
Reed: It was. It was such a quick indie, get in, get it out [project] that we had to rehearse because if we didnít, we would have no idea what was going on. [Laughs] Sometimes itís scary to make a movie this fast because you never shoot scenes in sequence and in chronological order and it just feels like - What am I doing? What scene is this? What moment is this in this movie? What is this coming before and after? Ė especially with the dynamic between Stephanie and Joe. Theyíre really crucial to get the timing right with when you think she starts to trust and him and open up or when sheís just manipulating him and trying to get him to think sheís doing that, so there are a lot of scenes that can feel repetitive or redundant if you donít have a very specific thought process with what sheís feeling as opposed to what she was feeling three seconds ago. We had to rehearse and have really detailed notes so that the day we got there it was like, okay, I know whatís happening. I know what Iím thinking. I know whatís going on right now
Your character goes through a major transformation. She goes from being taken hostage to just hanging out with the guy. How did you manage that and make it seem realistic?
Reed: Yeah, exactly. How do you convey that in a realistic way? How do you make that believable that that could possibly happen? This is not a testament to all psychopaths who want to go in and shoot their bosses; Iím not trying to say that theyíre all good-hearted, well-rounded people that are just having a bad day and thatís acceptable. Itís not acceptable. But with Joe, thatís the beauty of filmmaking, you can sort of manipulate things a little bit and in the case of Joe, he isnít a bad person, heís just frustrated and misunderstood and hates his life. It just goes to show how quickly that can change with human contact or someone else caring about you or loving you and I think, if anything, itís a message on how to treat people. And I do think Stephanie, at one point or another, invests enough trust that one possibly can in that circumstance, I think she does invest that in him and itís always in the back of her mind, but I think she does believe sheís safe, at least towards the end.
So how was it working with Vlad? Heís only a first time narrative director. Did that show at all?
Reed: Vlad is really wonderful. He knows what he wants and being a producer on this movie I really saw what DJ and I contributed tonally. It was interesting to really feel like youíre part of the process and be acknowledged for that because Iím kind of an obnoxious actor in that I love to look through camera lenses. If I can have the opportunity to go into an editing room, itís like the golden ticket for me. All I want is to learn about everything else in the filmmaking process. I just directed a music video which just came out and thatíd sort of be the area of the field that Iím going to move into, I hope. And so with this film it was nice for people to acknowledge that that was okay. I didnít have to ask anymore if it was okay for me to go and scout locations.
Whatís the music video?
Reed: It came out a couple of weeks ago, itís for an artist named Sage and the song is called ďEdie Sedgwick.Ē You can go on YouTube if youíre interested in seeing it. I also have a blog called IAmNikkiReed.com and I did a post on that, you can see it there. I financed it myself, Iím proud of the video for what it is given the money and the time that we didnít have. [Laughs] Itís interesting and itís artsy, itís cool, itís clearly my first video. Iím just a believer in keeping all of the creative brain cells moving and working even when youíre not working because the inevitable loneliness and boring drought in the actorís world, it can eat you alive. I have friends come over and we read plays out loud and I make paintings and I just do things all the time just so I donít ever feel like Iím sitting around.
Well, with Thirteen on your resume, you should have no problem branching out and doing more behind-the-scenes things.
Reed: No, thatís not the case. Sometimes you realize that things in Hollywood, the way that the stars align and things happen in a very perfect way, thatís rare. It doesnít actually work like that. It definitely sparks interest and opens a lot of doors, but youíve got to fight really hard and I do and I write a lot and Iím a believer that things will come of that.
I agree. Why not reunite with Catherine Hardwicke again? Between Thirteen and Twilight Iíd imagine you two would make a great pairing again.
Reed: Yeah! Absolutely. Iím sure at one point or another. The wonderful thing about Catherine and I is that thereís a genuine mutual respect and now Iím not the only one because the world has seen her work. I truly believe in her and I think sheís just so gifted and so talented and I guess I can confidently say now that she thinks the same of me because she keeps putting me in her movies and thereís no reason for that other than she thinks Iím talented and thatís really flattering. We donít really hang out in our personal lives. In fact, Iíve spoken to her once in the last year and a half via e-mail; sheís doing a movie somewhere and Iím proud of her and happy for her, but we have a really great working relationship and so Iím positive that at some point or another I will be working with Catherine again.
Other than The Twilight Saga, what do you have coming up?
Reed: I just finished shooting a movie called Catch .44 with Bruce Willis and Forest Whitaker and Malin Akerman and in terms of projects before Twilight, thereís a second video that I directed at the same time, simultaneously when I did the first one that was just released, so weíre working on editing that and releasing that.
Thatís with the same artist?
Reed: The same artist, yeah.
Thatís great. Congratulations!
Reed: Thank you very much!
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