Staci Layne Wilson / Horror.com: I know that Twilight is this huge phenomenon, but I have not read the books. I think I’m out of the demographic… It’s a teen paranormal romance; is that how you would sum it up?
Michael Welch: Right. Twilight is more than anything a high school love story. One of the participants in that [love story] is a vampire. Complications ensue. Probably not your demographic.
Q: Me personally, no, but Horror.com has a lot of teens and 20's people on the message boards. Now, Catherine Hardwicke, she knows kids: she directed Thirteen which was such a critically acclaimed hit. Is she bringing some of that angst into the Twilight world?
Welch: Yeah. Catherine is a teenager at heart for the rest of her life, I think. There are very few like that. I think Larry Clark is another one like that. Marilyn Manson in his own right [is like that]. I would put Catherine Hardwicke right there. I think that’s something she will just naturally bring into anything that has teenagers or kids in it. I don’t think that’s something she can get away from. I didn’t play one of the vampires. I was just one of the high school kids who has a crush on Bella, so I got to work with her in the realm of what you’re talking about – just sort of creating a real high school situation.
But, yeah, it was fun working with her.
Q: Yeah, I can imagine. I’ve also talked with Kristen Stewart quite a few times, so I can see that having a crush on any character played by her wouldn’t be too much of a stretch acting-wise. She’s so funny and smart.
Welch: It wasn’t difficult at all. I’ve mentioned this before in other interviews: there is something that’s just inherently mysterious and interesting and honest and deep about Kristen that makes it very easy to play off of that and react onto that. It’s something that can’t be described. It’s sort-of that inherent “it” factor whatever that means. I never really knew what that meant, but I think if it means anything, it would apply to her.
Q: I’ve seen her at work. We were sent on a set visit to Canada a few years back when she was shooting The Messengers. She was extremely proactive in her role in that when she was doing her scene, she asked, “Would my character really say that?” and she was taking quite an interest in that. So, when she was working with you, does she also try to draw you into that and try to make it as real as possible?
Welch: Yeah. Absolutely. She would always try and make it as good as it could possibly be, and that’s the mark of any true artist or any true actor. I mean, it’s inspiring to work with people like that because it makes you want to work harder and make it as good as it can be as well. Even though she was only 17 years old at the first half of filming, she’s the star of the movie, so she really was our leader. Any star really sets the precedence for the rest of the cast in any project. She’s all about just creating good work, and I’m all about that, too, so it was great working with her.
Q: For those of us who are not intimately familiar with the book or the movie script, could you just give me a little run down of what Twilight is about aside from the fact that this young girl risks everything when she falls in love with a vampire?
Welch: This girl moves into an unfamiliar town. She doesn’t really want to be there at first. You know, nobody likes to be the new kid. She seems to share this sort-of deep, really unexplainable connection with this boy right off the bat and their relationship develops over time. He eventually reveals to her his situation, and that he has to suppress his urges to want to feed on humans, and they, the Cullen family (the vampires), go and feed on these animals. For some reason, his urge to feed on this girl is extraordinary, and it confuses him at first. It’s strange and confusing and frightening, but he also feels a connection with her, so he has to work through that. He explains that to her, but she feels that she’s in love with him, so they try and work it out. Then there are conflicts with the other vampires. They’re not happy with this. They don’t want this relationship to develop.
Eventually, this other bad vampire, James, sees Isabella as prey and goes to get her. Edward is not happy about that and they battle. The other dynamics involved are the other high school kids, which I’m a part of, and we sort-of represent normalcy – what Bella’s life could be if she just went the regular high school route which is complicated enough without this extra little vampire element. That’s basically it. It’s really about these characters and their relationships and how they evolve over time. Now, I haven’t read the second or third books yet because I didn’t want to get ahead of the story in case we were going to be making more movies, so I don’t know where the story goes. With the first book, it’s really about developing the relationship between Edward and Bella, and that’s really what the first movie does.
Q: It brings to mind this movie (I don’t know if you saw it) called Blood and Chocolate with Agnes Bruckner. It’s sort-of the same thing, but with werewolves. I understand that you are a vampire fan, and you wanted to do this role because it involved vampires. What is it about them that lures you in?
Welch: Oh, gosh! I just think that vampires are such interesting characters because on the one side, it seems like it would be really cool to be a vampire. It’s really sexy in a lot of ways, but at the same time, what a God-awful existence that must be, so miserable and lonely and long. So there’s this natural conflict that comes up inherently in any vampire story. I love, for example, how Interview with a Vampire sort of got into that. It got into the psychological aspects of what it actually must be like. I like the mystery and the darkness about it. I’ve always been a night person, so maybe that has something to do with it.
Q: That would be one less period of adjustment for you if you were ever to meet with the sharp end of a fang. So, what are some of your favorite vampire films?
Welch: It’s so interesting that I’m such a big fan of vampires, but I’m not really informed about the vampire world. I’ve probably seen more zombie films than vampire films. It’s just that the whole idea has always been appealing to me. Let me think about that.
Q: Definitely. If you love vampires, you should check out Werner Herzog's remake of Nosferatu starring Klaus Kinski. It’s a good one. And, of course, you mentioned Interview with a Vampire which is by Neil Jordan. He’s a brilliant filmmaker. I think he did a great job on that.
Welch: You got me. I definitely should check out more [vampire films] because it’s fascinating to me.
Q: I think the ones that are made with the approach of the psychology of the vampire, and particularly if it’s a real filmmaker like Neil Jordan or Werner Herzog, [are great]. You should seek them out just for your edification.
So, what kind of things have you heard about the Twilight adaptation? I’m sure that message boards and websites and MySpace comments are blowing up all over the place. Do you check that kind of stuff out or do you stay away from public opinion?
Welch: Yeah, I have checked it out. I’ve been very proactive about introducing myself to the Twilight on-line community. That’s one of the first things I blogged about. I asked for advice. I asked for any recommendations. Pleasing the fans is always my first priority because the fans are so dedicated to the piece, as they should be because it’s a really well-developed [story]. So, yeah, I do pay attention to what they’re saying. People, for the most part, seem to be fairly happy or seem to think that I’m similar enough to [my character], Mike, where that wouldn’t be too much of a stretch or too much of a problem. I am very similar to Mike in a lot of ways. I could have very easily been Mike if I had grown up in a different situation. So, yeah, their opinions are very important to me. I try to stay in touch with that as much as I can.
Q: Now, in the world of the film, does Mike encounter the vampires? Does he have any conflicts with them? What is his interplay with the supernatural world?
Welch: Mike, along with the other high school kids, don’t get involved with the supernatural, at least not in a way that’s conscious to them. We’re really just there to compliment Bella and her story, particularly in the film which obviously has to be a condensed version of the book. So really, our job is to contribute to her story in any way we can and add some relief because it can be a very intense story at times. I really always felt that our job was to be real and be funny and add some flavor, but we don’t contribute to the story itself too much. We’re really just there to add flavor and spice to Bella’s story.
Q: Is there comic relief in the movie or is pretty much straight?
Welch: Absolutely. I don’t know how they’re going to edit the film. Depending on how they want to put it together, I think they could splash in different flavors of what we were doing. I think our little group was probably the most comic relief. I don’t know that there’s a whole lot of comedy outside of the high school kids. We’ll see what direction they want to take it in, but I do think that it’s important to keep in the sort-of typical high school elements because I think it’s important to the story.
Q: You’re also in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.
Welch: That’s right.
Q: [laughs] I was going to go see that, simply because I was getting razzed about that because I kept getting from my friends: “All the boys love Staci Layne!” I was intrigued. I heard in that one, she’s a killer. Is that correct? Are you a victim, or what’s the story on that?
Welch: I don’t want to give anything away…
Q: Is that the mystery?
Welch: …anyone could be the killer, so I won’t get into that, but I will say that it’s a movie that we made years ago and for whatever reason it hasn’t come out yet. There were a couple of attempts to try and get it straight to DVD. The director, Jonathan Levine, made a second film called The Wackness which is doing very well. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about it. My girlfriend said it was better than Juno. Mandy Lane is a very good movie, and I would see why people would have a difficult time marketing it because it doesn’t really follow the typical slasher formula even though it is a slasher movie.
Again, it’s about the dynamics of high school, but it takes a very cynical, raw approach, and just sort-of takes all the meanest elements of high school and puts it together in a way that I think was done really well. At one point, a reviewer called it closer to Larry Clark than the OC. You know, nothing wrong with the OC, but I think that was a good description. I can see why they are having a hard time marketing it, but I think it’s good. It’s really good.
Q: Yeah, I can see how that could be misconstrued. Also, in the case of Twilight, [I can see] where people might think, “Oh, well, you know it’s a teenagers' movie and there just happen to be vampires.” Can you talk about why an older audience might also appreciate the film, because I think with Catherine’s Thirteen, even though it was about kids, it got a lot of critical acclaim from adults as well, I understand?
Welch: I think that kids today are getting more and more sophisticated, so I think that you’re going to see kid’s programs and movies and things like that start to maybe get a little darker and a little more interesting for everyone. I just saw that movie Wall-e, and oh my God, it was fantastic, but it was kind of scary.
I don’t really want to do the Harry Potter comparison because that’s what a lot of people are doing, and I don’t think it’s very similar, but I think that’s a good example of something that was originally perceived as this kid’s novel, but as it’s come out, it’s become clear that it’s the kind of thing that anybody can enjoy. I think that Twilight has that same sort-of flavor. It’s definitely got something for everyone.