'Twilight' Star Jackson Rathbone 'Front And Center' In 'Girlfriend'

'It's going to be a very dark and offbeat performance,' writer/director Justin Lerner tells MTV News.

Twilighters who find themselves on Team Jasper probably have only one complaint when it comes to Stephenie Meyer's franchise: They want more of the peaceful-one-minute, violent-the-next vampire who attacks Bella and sets the "New Moon" plot into motion.

[movieperson id="1017548"]Jackson Rathbone[/movieperson], the actor behind Jasper Hale, is set to remedy that grievance with "Girlfriend," a romantic drama that will find the actor leaving the world of vampires behind but continuing to play a character that viewers will find both trustworthy and potentially dangerous.

" 'Girlfriend' is the chance to see Jackson front and center as the kind of character where, at any moment, we're not sure if there's the potentiality to cause harm or to be a good guy, but in a more gritty, realistic indie film," writer/director Justin Lerner said in a recent conversation with MTV News.

Lerner, who will be making his feature-film debut, describes "Girlfriend" as a "harsh, modern-day take on the 'Beauty and the Beast' fable." That's not to say we'll see Rathbone as a hirsute monster, nor that the film has any Disney-esque aspirations. Rather, the movie is a real-world story set in Middle America that will bring Rathbone into a "very bizarre and unconventional love triangle," Lerner said.

The project got off the ground when Lerner met Rathbone's 100 Monkeys bandmate Jerad Anderson during the Sundance Film Festival in January and eventually showed him the "Girlfriend" script. Anderson passed it along to Rathbone, they both loved it and decided to produce the movie together. Lerner and his crew are gearing up for a four-week shoot in Boston in September, working around Rathbone's commitment to the third "Twilight" film, "Eclipse." Casting for the other roles — including Rathbone's female love interest — is still in the works.

With an ever-increasing public profile and commitments to the "Twilight" franchise and M. Night Shyamalan's "The Last Airbender," Rathbone could easily continue making strictly big-budget movies. But as the actor explained in an earlier interview, he's relishing the prospect of diving into all aspects of a film's production.

"I get to play a part in ['Girlfriend'] and have a little bit more say behind the scenes, behind the camera, which is really interesting," Rathbone told us. "It's what I've always really wanted to get into."

Lerner also pointed out that the indie flick will give Rathbone an opportunity "to do things he hasn't done in a film before — really push himself into emotionally difficult places."

"Jackson's going to play a morally complex character," Lerner said, "a charming and dangerous lead, jealous and diabolical, where you're not going to know if you love him or hate him. That kind of complexity will be interesting for him to tackle. It's going to be a very dark and offbeat performance."

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