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It’s far too easy to just associate an actress with her biggest project at the moment and that’s exactly what happened and what is happening to Nikki Reed. Back in 2003 she was just the newcomer who wrote Thirteen and today she’s 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. Qualls’ character may be acting like a deranged lunatic on the outside, but deep down he’s just a lonely guy who wants to be treated fairly. Clearly the two don’t mesh well and that’s got a major effect on how he handles his hostage situation.
It’s 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, it’s 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 don’t 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, that’s how close we are. So he was offered the role initially, for Joe, and they couldn’t 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 that’s a word I would use to describe myself, which it isn’t and so I actually had to fight for it. I went in and I said, ‘You guys just think that because I play roles that are that.’ I play characters that are pretty, I play characters that are sort of intimidating and confident, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m that. I think it’s 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 I’m not intimidatingly beautiful and I don’t mean that as a put down to myself; I’m just not conventionally pretty and that’s the truth. I just happened to have been cast in roles like that for many years.
How’d 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 we’ve worked together twice, but we just met through friends years ago and we just really connected on some kind of amazing level that doesn’t 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 he’ll 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 he’s so much more than that.
Yeah, I was going to say it’s unusual to see him in this type of piece. Most of the films I’ve seen him in, he’s the comedic relief, so it’s 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 wasn’t just playing a goofy guy and he took it very seriously. When you’re friends with someone, you don’t always realize the depth of their talent until you’re 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, ‘Are you okay to talk now?’ And he would say, ‘Yeah, that was so incredible!’
How was it filming in so few locations? You’re 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 we’ve known each other for so long. I think when you’re comfortable, it’s easy to feel like you can step away from your location and your zone. So on this particular set I didn’t feel like it was scary to leave that area.
You had extensive rehearsal time? That’s a luxury most small films don’t 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 didn’t, we would have no idea what was going on. [Laughs] Sometimes it’s 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? – especially with the dynamic between Stephanie and Joe. They’re really crucial to get the timing right with when you think she starts to trust and him and open up or when she’s just manipulating him and trying to get him to think she’s doing that, so there are a lot of scenes that can feel repetitive or redundant if you don’t have a very specific thought process with what she’s 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 what’s happening. I know what I’m thinking. I know what’s 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; I’m not trying to say that they’re all good-hearted, well-rounded people that are just having a bad day and that’s acceptable. It’s not acceptable. But with Joe, that’s the beauty of filmmaking, you can sort of manipulate things a little bit and in the case of Joe, he isn’t a bad person, he’s 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, it’s 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 it’s always in the back of her mind, but I think she does believe she’s safe, at least towards the end.
So how was it working with Vlad? He’s 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 you’re part of the process and be acknowledged for that because I’m 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, it’s 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 that’d sort of be the area of the field that I’m going to move into, I hope. And so with this film it was nice for people to acknowledge that that was okay. I didn’t have to ask anymore if it was okay for me to go and scout locations.
What’s the music video?
Reed: It came out a couple of weeks ago, it’s for an artist named Sage and the song is called “Edie Sedgwick.” You can go on YouTube if you’re 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, I’m proud of the video for what it is given the money and the time that we didn’t have. [Laughs] It’s interesting and it’s artsy, it’s cool, it’s clearly my first video. I’m just a believer in keeping all of the creative brain cells moving and working even when you’re not working because the inevitable loneliness and boring drought in the actor’s 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 don’t ever feel like I’m sitting around.
Well, with Thirteen on your resume, you should have no problem branching out and doing more behind-the-scenes things.
Reed: No, that’s not the case. Sometimes you realize that things in Hollywood, the way that the stars align and things happen in a very perfect way, that’s rare. It doesn’t actually work like that. It definitely sparks interest and opens a lot of doors, but you’ve got to fight really hard and I do and I write a lot and I’m a believer that things will come of that.
I agree. Why not reunite with Catherine Hardwicke again? Between Thirteen and Twilight I’d imagine you two would make a great pairing again.
Reed: Yeah! Absolutely. I’m sure at one point or another. The wonderful thing about Catherine and I is that there’s a genuine mutual respect and now I’m not the only one because the world has seen her work. I truly believe in her and I think she’s 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 there’s no reason for that other than she thinks I’m talented and that’s really flattering. We don’t really hang out in our personal lives. In fact, I’ve spoken to her once in the last year and a half via e-mail; she’s doing a movie somewhere and I’m proud of her and happy for her, but we have a really great working relationship and so I’m 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, there’s a second video that I directed at the same time, simultaneously when I did the first one that was just released, so we’re working on editing that and releasing that.
That’s with the same artist?
Reed: The same artist, yeah.
That’s great. Congratulations!
Reed: Thank you very much!