This interview first appeared in Issue 20 of Wonderland, Nov/Dec 2009.
“I really thought people would know I was joking,” says Jamie Campbell Bower, a new addition to the Twilight film franchise who recently sparked a false nudity story about his character’s family of vampires’ appearance in New Moon. “I was at Comicon and the guy from MTV who was interviewing me was like, ‘So Rob [Pattinson] and Taylor [Lautner] get their shirt off in the movies – any chance of you getting your shirt off?’” he recounts of the moment the story started. “And I though ‘alright, I am going to roll with this’ and was just like, ‘Yeah, actually. Yes. We are all naked’,” he laughs. “I feel really bad because Chris Weitz, the director, had to write an apology note and I was like, ‘Oh God! What have I done? I’ve ruined everything… I’m never going to work again!’”
Fortunately his actions did not cost him his role and he seems confident he will be back to reprise his character, Caius, for the later installments in the series. As a member of the Volturi – an order of Vampires that act as the law keepers to the Vampire community – Campbell Bower is joined on screen by Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning who play Volturi leader, Aro, and mind meddling bloodsucker, Jane respectively. He describes the Vampiric family as having a sense of malice about them though he jokes they are “not villains, but educated leaders who believe in tradition – so they’re more like the Royal Family… [laughs]. Michael Sheen would definitely be Liz and Christopher Heyerdahl [who plays Marcus] would be Philip.”
Although many Twilight fans have been left disappointed that the naked scene was fabricated, Campbell Bower is only too keen to expand upon his own realisation of how the Volturi would make their entrance.
“It would be like that scene from The Dreamers,” he jokes. “Me and Michael Sheen in a bath together and Dakota walking in saying ‘Oh! Sorry… sorry about that’, [adopting an assertive voice] ‘No, that’s fine. Hop in!’ – we’d all be there, smoking pot [laughs].”
Having discovered a thirst for performance at a young age, Campbell Bower began getting involved with school productions and the National Youth Music Theatre, and by the age of fourteen decided acting would be the career for him. He later met with an agent Simon Beresford who sent him to audition for Tim Burton’s gothic musical Sweeney Todd.
“My first meeting, I met Susie Figgis, the Casting Director. And my second meeting – when I was actually reading – was in front of [Burton],” he recalls. “I was thinking, “Oh my God this is sooo bizarre – I should be in school right now. This is freaking me out!” Then on the same day I had to sing for Stephen Sondheim, the musical director and then about a week later I got a phone call saying I got the part. So that was the beginning of the end!” he laughs.
“[On Sweeney Todd] I was eighteen years of age, fresh-faced, wide eyed and at work with all these amazing actors. People were saying, ‘Hit your mark!’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah,’ but inside I was going ‘What does that mean? What am I meant to be doing? What’s the mark?’ – I sort of blagged my way through a lot of it but it was a really good learning experience.”
Although the acting world is something Cambell Bower clearly enjoys, he does admit he is still adjusting to the Hollywood environment – in particular, the world of Twilight. “It’s interesting to see how the whole Twilight world works. It is very strange – I still find it very, very weird. Just because I don’t think I would have been so obsessed about something like that in my entire life – that obsession with a particular work of literature. [Filming New Moon] was really fun but also really scary,” he confesses. “I don’t have an impact on the world and then you go in and you work with Rob and Kristin [Stewart] and Dakota and Michael – all these phenomenal actors who have made such an impact on the world and are so great at what they do. It’s kind of like, ‘Fuck! What am I doing here?’ But they’re really nice and very much eased me into it.”
And whilst Campbell Bower has enjoyed his time working on the vampire movie, he is pretty confident he will be able to remain relatively anonymous despite the films success, unlike Twilight lead, Robert Pattinson.
“I’m still able to walk the streets of London without people pushing me into taxis,” he laughs. “The whole thing that’s going on with Rob is that he is a really great actor and he portrays his character fantastically. People were obsessed with the books before the film even came out and obsessed with the character of Edward and I think that’s still what people are obsessing over.”
There is another fantasy-novel-turned-film-franchise that Campbell Bower has also recently managed to get involved with – Harry Potter.
“It’s a scary prospect going in to do Harry Potter. Terrifying. But it’s really cool to watch how much money they put into it and how amazing they can make it. Leaveston Studios is now Potter Studios – I don’t think another film has been done there for years. But all the people who are working on Potter also worked on Sweeney – which is really nice.”
Campbell Bower will be appearing in flashback scenes as one of the series key characters, Gellert Grindelwald – one of the few magicians to challenge the magical abilities of top wizard, Albus Dumbledor (played on screen by Michael Gambon) as well as being the only character to capture his heart.
“I’ve had scenes with a young Michael Gambon – not actually Michael Gambon, but a guy that’s playing young Michael Gambon,” Jamie explains of his experiences on set. And despite playing on screen lovers, he cannot remember his co-stars name (it’s Toby Regbo).
“That’s awful,” he gasps. “He is my lover – but we were only on set for one day.”
So was Campbell Bower a fan of the novel series?
“I was, yeah. But I was much younger when the first book came out and then I kind of lost interest and became more interested in girls. I was like, ‘Books are boring! Girls are much more fun. Fuck this Potter bollocks! I’m off to go find myself a lady!”
And how did that go?
“Badly. Really badly.”
So with Potter and Twilight both in the pipeline, can we expect to see Jamie Campbell Bower in more franchise films?
“I think what’s great about franchises is that you know you’re in a job for the next few years and I think that security would be absolutely phenomenal but in another way I do like having no idea of what’s going to happen next. I could be off for a job for months and then I get another one that’ll take me to a completely different place and it’s a completely different story and it’s all very new and exciting and it gives me a lot more chance to sort of work in developing a character. I’d like to do a franchise where I could be involved from beginning to end.”
Away from the world of franchising is the upcoming film, London Boulevard, where Campbell Bower is again joined by an array of high profile actors including Colin Farrell, Kiera Knightly and Anna Friel.
“I am a big fan of Anna Friel!” Jamie states somewhat protectively. “She’s lovely. I think she’s awesome,” he declares, having become a strong admirer of the actress since watching her in a recent production of Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Of his role in the film, he says excitedly, “I get to play a character called Whiteboy who has fallen in with this drug world that he doesn’t quite understand and is kind of like a posh boy being a rudeboy. He’s got dreadlocks and gold teeth, rings and gold chains and the like…” This character description sounds so different to the actor’s current appearance that suspicion of another Jamie Campbell Bower joke could only be natural.
“No I am actually being deadly serious – this is true,” he insists, laughing. “This is really true.”
Words: Seamus Duff
Fashion: Way Perry