As the third installment of the Twilight series, Eclipse, hits theaters this month, actress Elizabeth Reaser, the Bloomfield Hills native who portrays vampire Esme Cullen, spoke with Hour Detroit about the making of Twilight and the vampire phenomenon. Reaser plays the adopted mother of Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), discusses life on the set, working with Robert and Kristen Stewart, and why she believes Team Jacob (Grand Rapids native Taylor Lautner) has such a loyal following.
Oprah has compared the Twilight phenomenon and popularity to that of The Beatles.
Oh, wow. I didn’t know she did that. That means something, coming from Oprah. I can’t really say that I agree with that, because I am inside of it. I can’t imagine it having the scope of something like the Beatles, but that’s incredibly flattering.
Had you read the books before you were cast?
No, I didn’t even know it was a book when I auditioned.
What made you decide to seek the part?
I didn’t even have a script … it was all really top secret. I just read the material that they gave me to audition with. I just thought, ‘Wow, these are weird domestic vampires making pasta and meeting this non-vampire girl.’ Also, I was a huge fan of Catherine Hardwicke to begin with, so I would do anything with her. In the beginning,
Did you have any inkling of how successful the movies would be?
No, I didn’t think it was going to be this successful. I was thrilled to be a part of it, and I thought, ‘If this goes anywhere, maybe we’ll get to do another one.’ That being said, after meeting Rob and Kristen and seeing what they were doing, I thought: “These kids are really amazing. We might have some life here.”
How is it working with Rob and Kristen and the rest of the cast?
It’s been really fun. It’s been a wild ride. Some of our lifestyles have changed along the way, but in terms of the people, no one has changed. When we’re hanging out on set, it’s like the first movie, except we have better snacks.
Can you describe a typical day on the set?
[It] starts really early, since we have so much makeup and hair issues to deal with. It’s really intense prep time, until we even get to the actual set and start shooting.
Do you have a favorite memory on set so far?
There are so many of them now; they have kind of all blended. I’m thinking the last one that is about to come out. Shooting all that action stuff was really crazy. I remember Jackson [Rathbone] and I were on these treadmills attached to the back of a truck and they were pulling the trucks at like 30 mph and we’re running as fast as we can. We’re supposed to be running side-by-side yelling at each other, and it was really, really crazy. Jackson and I were basically getting our ass kicked all day. It was pretty wild.
What’s the best part of playing Esme, the adopted mother of Edward (Robert Pattinson), Alice (Ashley Greene), Emmett (Kellan Lutz), Rosalie (Nikki Reed), and Jasper (Jackson Rathbone)?
I really love the character. I think she’s an incredible woman. She lost her own child in her human life. She was one of those women who was meant to be a mother. She’s incredibly fortunate to have these kids to love and this family to be with. I think it makes her really happy and inspires her to be a great mother. I love that. In terms of the actual actors, it’s sort of funny. They’re not that much younger than me.
So it’s not very maternal in terms of our actual relationships. What’s your favorite scene you filmed in Eclipse?
There’s some great stuff with Jackson in flashback and Nikki [Reed] in flashback. Jasper [Jackson’s character] and Rosalie [Reed’s character] both have scenes when they are seen as humans. Now that’s incredible. They’re both amazing and they look amazing. I loved Xavier’s [Samuel’s] stuff. He opens the movie and he’s incredible.
Obviously you’re Team Edward, but, in your opinion. what’s the draw to Jacob?
I think he just incredibly loyal and loves [Bella]. He’s selfless, strong, and kind. It’s a very authentic thing that grew out of a friendship, so there’s something special about that. He represents all these incredible things in a man, as does the Edward Cullen character.
When you walked the red carpet at the last two premieres, what went through your head as the fans surrounded you?
Try and stay calm. It’s so much stimulation. I’m completely shocked every time. This time around, I will be more prepared and last time, for New Moon, I was more prepared. It’s mind-blowing. The best part is that all the fans show up, so it’s not like me parading around getting my picture taken; it’s actually meeting the fans.
Any interesting encounters with fans? How do you handle the paparazzi?
I don’t deal with that as much as some of the other people and cast do. I have a really low-key lifestyle. When we’re on location, it’s a lot crazier with the paparazzi.
Would you agree that your career took off after your role as Jane Doe in Grey’s Anatomy?
That was a big break for me. Since then, I have definitely felt that there have been more opportunities — or better opportunities. It’s day by day; it never gets any easier.
How was it working on Homework with Emma Roberts and Alicia Silverstone? Do you have a release date?
That was amazing. That was one of the funnest times I have had on set. We shot in New York. Everyone in the cast just completely bonded and fell in love … the producers, the directors, everybody involved, the crew. We were running around New York, and it was the most beautiful script. It was one of those dream experiences.
I have two more Twilight movies beginning in the fall. Between now and then, I don’t know. It just depends on timing.
Do you get the vampire craze?
I do understand … I’m obsessed with True Blood. I was watching old episodes last night.
Do you visit home often?
I do. I consider [Bloomfield Hills] my home. I’m never anywhere else for very long. My base is really Michigan.
What are your favorite places to eat when you’re home?
I like to tool around, walk around downtown Birmingham. I eat at home a lot. I am obsessed with Phoenicia. Café Cortina, [I’ve been there] a million times. Giorgio’s in West Bloomfield. I love Deli Unique [for] the bagels, breakfast, and omelets.
Best place to shop?
Linda Dresner, for sure. Somerset — I could spend all day there.
My girlfriends and I [go to] some places in Royal Oak we like. I like to get a drink at The Townsend.
What’s the thing you miss most about the Mitten?
My nephews, for sure. I miss sort of driving around. There’s nothing like it.