SANTA MONICA, California — Cam Gigandet is a jerk.
Actually, he’s not at all. In real life, the 26-year-old fast-rising Hollywood star showed up at the MTV studios recently with a broad smile on his face, happy to talk and eager to please. He’s charming, funny and good-looking enough to make every man jealous and every woman swoon.
But onscreen, nobody plays a better A-hole. From “The O.C.” to the recent “Never Back Down,” Gigandet has been bullying pretty boys, kicking butt and staring down his inevitable comeuppance. In November, he’ll be seen terrorizing the love-struck duo of Edward and Bella in “Twilight,” as the merciless vampire James.
On this “Twilight” Tuesday, we shine the spotlight on the man you’ll soon love to hate for his most extensive interview yet. Discussing everything from rolling around in honey with Robert Pattinson to his favorite Starbucks drink, Cam was happy to show us that in real life he’s far more genial than jerky.
MTV: So, Cam, what made you decide you wanted to become an actor?
Cam Gigandet: Oh, wow. Well, in my high school years, it was all football — it was just about sports. Then I moved to L.A., just randomly on a whim, when I was 19. I was on my own, just hanging out. And slowly but surely, people said, “Hey, you should try this class,” or, “You should try this.” Once I actually went, I loved it, and I kind of knew in that moment that’s what I wanted to do.
MTV: And seven years later, you’re an overnight success.
Gigandet: [Laughs.] Yes.
MTV: Are there any favorite movies or actors that inspired you?
Gigandet: Yeah, there’s been so many. When I moved down here, Marlon Brando had such an effect on me. He was who I admired, who I strived to be. … He was the main influence for me.
MTV: When “Never Back Down” came out, a lot of people saw it as “The Karate Kid” for a new generation. Now you’re playing another great bad guy we’re all going to hate. So is it your goal to become this generation’s William Zabka?
Gigandet: Wow. [Laughs.] How do I even reply?
MTV: Well, I mean that as a compliment. People look back at the ’80s, and they remember that guy as the king of the jerks.
Gigandet: Of course. But when we were working on “Never Back Down,” what we didn’t want to do — and this comes out in the movie — is make him a pointless jerk for no apparent reason. … Through all the bad guys that I’ve played, they’re justifiably bad — they have their reasons. It’s been important to me.
MTV: Obviously, one is a vampire and one isn’t, but do you see any comparisons between Ryan from “Never Back Down” and James in “Twilight”?
Gigandet: Well, it depends on how deep you dig. If you look really far, then you’ll wonder, “Why?” If you answer the questions: “Why are they both doing this?” “Why is he going after her?” “Why is James going after Bella?” Well, maybe he doesn’t understand what Bella and Edward have — he doesn’t understand love. The same could be said for Sean [Faris]’s character [in “Never Back Down”] and how Ryan sees that. And so both of those characters are lacking one thing, and that’s love. So in that way, they’re similar.
MTV: They also seem to share this attitude that women exist to be forced to love you and forced to submit to you.
Gigandet: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. That’s the only way they know, for whatever reason, and they go about it differently. James, he goes about it very differently than Ryan, but what James also has is this obsession for [cruelty]. On top of his need for love, he has this obsession for breaking that which he doesn’t understand, even if it’s breaking apart Edward through Bella.
MTV: It would seem as though playing someone like that in a Stephenie Meyer novel — with such strong female characters — wouldn’t bode well for you.
Gigandet: It doesn’t. The odds are against me. Rachelle [Lefevre]’s character in the movie is actually my love interest, so to speak. But how I treat her, it’s not about love.
MTV: Did you audition for James?
Gigandet: Well, I went out for James, because that was the role that I loved and wanted. Then a couple weeks later they said, “I think we’re going to go somewhere else.” So I was like, “Is there anything you guys have for me? Anything at all?” And so I went in for Kellan Lutz’s character. Once I went in, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I like this character, but I just have to play James.” … We waited a little bit, and after about a week, we heard back, and they were like, “OK, we’ll give him the job.”
MTV: Did you know at the time that James only gets one movie, and everyone else gets three?
Gigandet: Yes, I did.
MTV: And you were still cool with that?
MTV: You explained to us recently that during your fight scene, you and Rob were covered in chicken and honey. Care to elaborate on that?
Gigandet: Well, obviously, vampires don’t bleed if they get cut. So we’re in the middle of the fight, and Robert is biting me, and what we needed was something that looked meaty — that sounds gross — something that looked like flesh. [Laughs.] And yet, we needed something, like a liquid of some sort. … So we started off with chicken, and it was just getting everywhere. We were running out of chicken, and eventually after that, we actually replaced the chicken with Swiss cheese — seriously. And he can’t have it in his mouth at first, so we had to stick it on my neck and push it in. [What fans will see] is layer upon layer of Swiss cheese and honey upon more honey, all over my neck. Yuck.
MTV: Well, at least you guys didn’t have to worry about going to the craft-service table. When they called “cut,” you could just take a bite out of each other.
Gigandet: Sure, yeah, I had my snacks right there. It was perfect.
MTV: In the movie, James has a lot of trinkets on his person. Can you explain some of them to us?
Gigandet: Ah, my pieces of flair, yes. Before we even started, the wardrobe people brought hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of boxes of jewelry. Catherine [Hardwicke] and I would go through every little piece and basically find a story of where James had them, found them, got them — we would make a story for every piece we got. We had almost 10 rings [and] my security badge [which looks like] wings, I guess. What [these items] did for me was get me closer to who James was and where he came from.
MTV: We had a fan ask on the Web site the other day: What’s your favorite drink at Starbucks?
Gigandet: Oh, I can answer that easily — a green-tea Frappuccino with whipped cream, grande. Sometimes a venti, if I’m really thirsty.
MTV: If James were somehow allowed to come back in the sequels, how would he do battling a werewolf?
Gigandet: That would be tough. You know, he lost to Edward, so he can’t be that much of a badass.
MTV: There are old stories of Anthony Hopkins sneaking into theaters when “Silence of the Lambs” was playing. He’d wait until a scary Hannibal Lecter moment in the movie, then tap a viewer on the shoulder and say, “Hello,” just to freak them out.
Gigandet: No way. That’s crazy!
MTV: In November, “Twilight” fans everywhere will be scared to death of James. So would you ever do that?
Gigandet: Yeah, I would. I might make a little appearance at a theater near you.
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