Ashley Greene, 'Twilight' Star, Looks to Life After Being a Vampire
"Believe it or not, I go through all of my fan mail," Ashley Greene promises. "It's something that takes a while. Whenever I’m off and I’m home, literally I have a girls night and we have wine and do dinner and answer fan mail. That’s what I do on my off-days."
The 25-year old actress is bemused, not boastful, about the influx of letters and gifts she receives in the mail on a daily basis. It's a guess -- but perhaps not a big leap -- to imagine Greene not suffering from a lack of attention in high school, but she certainly never expected to have such a massive, devoted following when she first auditioned for that tiny movie about bleeding heart, sparkly vampires. But then, no one could have predicted the Twilight Saga would become a $3 billion property.
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Greene, who in the films plays Alice, the friendly, pixie-cut sister of Robert Pattinson’s dreamy, tortured lead vampire Edward, will hit the promotional trail for the last film in the saga next month. The tour promises to be a rolling storm of flashbulbs and buzz, given the tabloid thunderclap of headlines created this summer by the troubled romance of the series’ leads, Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. While she’s avoided such microscopic scrutiny, the Twilight fanbase goes gaga for even the smallest bit players, meaning Greene, who has perhaps the most prominent role outside the big three (we wait for the re-emergence of Taylor Lautner) faces her fair share of paparazzi and attention.
As a result, the young actress is used to seeing her nights on the town splayed across the internet the next day.
"Anyone can take a picture, they can write something, and [the press] writes something new about you every day, and once it’s out there, there’s no controlling it," she sighs. "And before, the studios protected their actors; it's a different world."
But despite all the press, does anyone really know Ashley Greene?
The Jacksonville native, a childhood martial artist, has featured in a number of small, limited distribution independents, and has received the bulk of her daylight exposure silent on the cover of magazines and in fashion ads. She’s hoping the next year will be her big coming out party.
The weather on this late September day in New York mirrors that of the gloomy, Seattle-set vampire series, but aside from a few tipped-off photographers lurking outside a Soho hotel, it offers no gossip hounds or drama. She is sitting down to talk about a decidedly different project: the social satire Butter, in which she features as a frustrated teenager stuck in small-town Iowa, living under the roof of an amiable dad (Ty Burrell) and monster stepmother (Jennifer Garner). The film is out now on VOD and in theaters.
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"Despite what every male will say, I don’t necessarily think that she’s a lesbian," Greene laughs. "I think one, it’s experimental, and two, just looking at in Iowa, I think [Wilde’s character] is one of the first women that she’s met that is strong and smart and witty and is able to push her stepmother’s buttons."
If she does some small-time rebelling in Butter, Greene’s next big role -- and officially, her first post-Twilight lead -- is pure counterculture. While she yearns to star in an action flick and a period piece, she will first take lead in CBGB, the story of the famed birthplace of New York’s underground punk scene.
Greene plays Lisa Kristal, the daughter of the club’s founder, Hilly Kristal; the film condenses the long arc of the club, from its intended origin in 1973 as a Country BlueGrass and Blues spot, to its 2006 close, focusing in on the late 70s and 80s heyday that made it the center of the punk world. The movie also looks at the sometimes tumultuous relationship between Lisa and Hill, who is played by Alan Rickman.
“Hilly was very musically inclined, he was brilliant, but he didn’t really have a taste for commerce,” Greene explains. “And so his daughter, ironically enough, had to come in and be the businesswoman, and he was the one who was just flighty and concerned with bands."
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Greene got a major boost by the real Lisa Kristal’s presence on the set; she provided her young doppelganger with a sounding board and offered some insight that rock historians and the old punks still hanging on the Bowery would kill for, including private photos from throughout the club’s run.
The movie -- which reached for elusive punk street cred by shipping parts of the original club to the Savannah set -- has a massive cast cameoing as burning New York scene icons, including Malin Ackerman as Debbie Harry, Justin Bartha as Stiv Bators and Joel David Moore as Joey Ramone. Born long after those artists had their biggest moments, Greene went into the archives to immerse herself in the music that shook the East Village -- and the world.
"I mean, it wasn’t necessarily my first choice in music type," she admits with a smile. "I went through the entire script and every band that they mentioned, I went in and downloaded it and listened to it during the film process. I already kind of liked Blondie anyways, so that's an easy go-to. I actually didn't mind some of The Ramones. I have a lot of it, but I liked them."
Whenever the film comes out -- it’s due sometime in 2013 -- will provide a nice first test for Greene’s ability to take front and center in a major production. She has largely existed in the cradle of Twilight, with fans embracing her at least in part for playing a beloved fictional character, and susceptible to conflating her real identity with the traits of a made-up vampire.
While Stewart has made a successful foray into roles outside the saga, including this summer’s hit Snow White and the Huntsman and the upcoming adaptation of On the Road, perhaps the better blueprint to follow is that of Anna Kendrick, who jumped from a much smaller role in the Twilight series to marquee performances in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air and the new comedy Pitch Perfect. Despite some early concern, Greene is optimistic about her future, too.
"I went through a stage where it was frustrating because I thought, which is kind of true, you’re that girl from Twilight," she admits. "But you have to prove yourself. If you want to improve, you have to prove yourself. But if I really think about it, I feel like I’m ahead of the curve, more than I would be if I hadn’t had Twilight. I would have had to prove myself anyways. So yeah, I think it’s been 95 percent helpful."
Email: Jordan.Zakarin@THR.com; Twitter: @JordanZakarin