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Even Twilight’s Bad Vampires Have Fans

November 26, 2008

Even Twilight’s bad vampires have fans

Jamie Portman Published: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 © Canwest News Service 2008

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Edi Gathegi may play a villain in the film version of Twilight, but he’s a villain that fans of Stephenie Meyer’s stories adore.

And when his casting as Laurent, the suave vampire with a taste for human blood rather than animal blood, was first announced, those fans weren’t happy. Gathegi freely admits the reason for this hostility. He was the wrong colour.

“I saw that the fans were sort of disgruntled about my casting because Stephenie doesn’t necessarily have an African-American in the book,” he says cheerfully. But he quickly found a solution to the problem.
“Laurent is described as being ‘olive-toned’so what I did was to address the issue head-on. I said: ‘Listen, she describes this character as being olive- toned. But there are many different types of olives. Black olives anyone?'”

That ended the controversy.

“The next day, the fans read it and they became instant supporters and believers.” Suddenly, as far as the Twilight cult was concerned, black olives were the only olives in the world, so he was perfect for the role.

Montreal-born actress Rachelle Lefevre, who plays another homicidal vampire named Victoria, was struck from the beginning by the possessiveness fans showed towards all the characters in the books – even those, like herself and Laurent, who end up trying to destroy the heroine Bella and her vampire boyfriend, Edward.

When she was cast she already possessed an abundance of the flaming red hair that is Victoria’s hallmark, but she and director Catherine Hardwicke knew they had to get her wardrobe right as well.

“Catherine and I were in a room with racks and racks of clothing, and we started talking about it and telling each other what we thought about the character, based on the books,” Lefevre remembers. “We got as much information as we could.

She obviously had ideas and I had ideas and this whole thing unfolded in this three-hour fitting where I was in all sorts of crazy things – leather pants, jeans, cut-off shorts, all kinds of crazy outfits. What we made sure of was that we had a story for every outfit. Everything had a purpose. I really felt involved in the costume process.”

Lefevre – recently seen in the Canadian film Fugitive Pieces – is looking pretty striking herself this morning: black jacket, T-shirt, shorts, high heels, gold pendant necklace, tons of red hair. Gathegi, sitting next to her looks positively normal in a T-shirt, jeans and baseball cap. On the other hand, his character is certainly flamboyant on the screen.

“The book was the source material,” explains Gathegi. “That’s where I started from and did my own personal research and imaginative work. It was never going to make it in the film because it was just too much, but I was trying to model parts of my character after Monsieur de Saint-George who was this famous French black man and renowned lover and a general of the army. He was like a Renaissance man, very regal.”

Gathegi took this concept as far as he could on screen. “Laurent is French and he’s 300 years old so he’s got some style and he’s got some class. These vampires have been around a long time. They’ve got the best fashions, they’ve read the best books, and they’re highly evolved and highly sophisticated superior beings.”

But Laurent and Victoria are also dangerous nomads – and enemies to the Cullens, the more peaceable family of vampires who have accepted lonely high school student Bella (Kristen Stewart) into their circle. Before the quartet of books end, both Laurent and Victoria will have tried to kill her. Stewart and Robert Pattinson, who plays her vampire boyfriend Edward, may be the stars of the movie which opened last weekend, but supporting players like Lefevre and Gathegi have gained their own fanatical fan followings.

At last summer’s Comic-Con event in San Diego, Gathegi walked on stage to be greeted with screams of “marry me – I want to have your babies!”

Another cast member, Taylor Lautner, who plays a sympathetic Indian youth, discovered that some enterprising groups was marketing thongs with his name on them.

Lefevre remembers attending a friend’s birthday party at a bar in Los Angeles, and when she went outside at 1 a.m. two young women approached her and breathlessly asked if she was playing Victoria.

“I was like – oh my god, it’s one in the morning,” Lefevre remembers. She wondered how she had been recognized. “At that point, they hadn’t aired clips from the film. Nobody had seen anything. There had just been the Internet with our photos. I thought – oh my god, is this is what is happening now . . .”

Both are proud to be part of the franchise, even if they bring menace to the proceedings. One of the highpoints of Twilight comes when they invade a friendly baseball game being played by the Cullen family. And both love the spin that best-selling author Stephenie Meyer brings to the saga in which there’s nary a fang to be seen or, for that matter, a coffin, and in which vampires can go out at all hours.

Lefevre points out that the books do not create some sort of alternate universe.

“Vampires live among us in this world,” she stresses. “I can’t get away from the thought of how well Stephenie has an explanation for absolutely everything that it would make it possible to have this virus, this infection, whatever it is, and still live in the world. For me, it opens up all kinds of new possibilities for the genre.”

Gathegi sees Twilight as “more of a romance story than anything else, with the vampires as a backdrop. The mythology is completely different. There are no fangs or garlic or anything like that. So I think it’s bringing heart to a dark world.”

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