By Kyle Buchanan Photos by Benny Horne
Always make a lasting impression
"I broke someone's wall the other day;" Ashley Greene boasts. I've just asked her whether she has to fight for the roles she gets as an actress ("Nine times out of ten, I do," she admits), but I didn't mean it quite so literally.
"I was in an audition, and the director said, 'Do you remember the scene in the script where you have to fight for your boyfriend's life? I want you to work yourself up and charge across the room like you're running to save him:" recalls Greene. "And after I did it, I couldn't compose myself and I just started crying. And then they asked if I wanted to do it again, and I did, and I ended up putting a hole through the wall."
She laughs. "I was like, 'I'll totally pay for it! I'm so sorry.'" Then she allows herself a proud half smile: "Got the role, so..."
It's hard to imagine the delicate Greene could get her fist through any wall- seated in front of me at a New York restaurant, a willowy brunette in a low-cut purple blouse, the only thing heavy about her is her eyelashes - but then, she's used to being underestimated. At 25 years old, she's co-starred in some of the biggest, most divisive movies of all time: the Twilight films, which are about to come to an end with this winter's instalment, Breaking Dawn: Part 2.
"Wait, she's in Twilight?" you're wondering as you take a look at the lithe, long-haired stunner in the pictures alongside this
feature. "Surely I would have remembered someone like her..." (It's OK. You happened to watch Twilight once on a plane, bereft of manlier options like Taken or The Fighter. We won't tell anyone. These things happen.)
In fact, Greene is the second female lead in the series, albeit not nearly as well-known for (nor hamstrung by) her role as the three principal stars: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. Call it the power of a bad wig: when Greene dons her frizzed-out flip to play Alice, the vampire BFF to Stewart's Bella, she disappears into that supporting character. When Greene takes the wig off, though, she becomes a long-haired ingénue in her own right, the most traditionally beautiful actress in Twilight's female-heavy ensemble.
She knows you have trouble reconciling the two looks. Greene likes to joke how every time she flies between New York and LA, passengers will intuit that she's an actress (well-dressed young women flying first class tend to give off that impression) and ask what movie they might know her from. When she answers Twilight, though, they still can't place her: "I have to tell them I wear a wig, and then they get it. But I think that's kind of lucky because I don't get typecast." She chuckles, adding, "Rob [Pattinson] is so screwed."
Greene and I have met up at a trendy New York restaurant called Isola and, at first, there are worrisome signs that she's going to be "that" kind of actress. While I ate a full lunch, she ordered a mere grapefruit juice. (Some actresses like to demonstrate that they have a robust appetite in front of an interviewer. Others would prefer not to get any leafy greens stuck in their teeth.) When I arrived at the restaurant, her publicist e-mailed me to warn that Greene would be an hour late, despite the fact that she was staying in the hotel above the restaurant. I replied to say that I was already seated at a table, half a mimosa in, and the publicist answered that Greene would be down in 20 minutes.
"Thank you for waiting, I'm so sorry;" she says as she finally appears, in full make-up, turning heads among the waiting staff. "My mom is in town, and she's leaving today."It proves surprisingly easy to forgive a beautiful woman her tardiness, especially one who invokes a beloved mother right off the bat. Greene's finishing up a whirlwind trip to New York - front-row seats during Fashion Week, coveted tickets to the series premiere of Saturday Night Live - and she's brought her mother, who lives in Florida, along for the ride. "You meet a girl who's in the industry and, usually; her parents are crazy;" Greene admits. "Stage mom, stage dad. But my parents could not be further from that." And that's the way she'd like to keep it, says this actress who employs six - an agent, a manager, a business manager, a publicist, a stylist and an assistant - yet pointedly keeps her family off the payroll. "I told my mom, 'You will never work for me, ever, because I cherish the fact that you're my mother and not my employee:" says Greene.
Coming from another actress, a sentence like that would seem awfully precocious, or even presumptuous. But Greene's got the direct, declarative manner of a former tomboy driven to keep up with her older brother n broke many, many bones... my poor parents. Thank God they have insurance"), and her straightforward candour is rather endearing. Where co-stars Stewart and Pattinson seem troubled and somewhat surprised by fame, Greene comes off like a working woman who prides herself on how well she's navigated it, a starlet who's studied all the angles and earnestly wants to impart her hard-won lessons. If you got famous suddenly; you'd want her to be your sponsor.
In this ravenous era of TMZ and Twitter, be cautious when feeding the beast (because the beast is always hungry...)
Hollywood is filled with young actresses who've crashed (their BMWs)and burned, and you get the sense that Greene has watched these party girls behave badly and decided, "That's not how I want to do it." Formerly a high-school cheerleader - yes, really - she now conducts her career with the clear focus and drive of head girl. She's specific even about what events she'll go to, since a starlet who's too social in this town can lose credibility: Fashion Week is a must (Greene is the face of DKNY), but she'll only attend a premiere or film festival if she's actually in the movie. "1 don't understand the significance of going to, like, an Xbox party;" Greene sniffs. "I love Xbox, but I play it at home, and there's no reason for me to go to a party for that. I don't want to be in the press because of that, and I want people to say; 'You're a good actress: not, 'I saw you at that party'"
These days, the business demands more than ever from young actresses, and much of it has little to do with acting. There's no off time, really: In between big-screen projects, a starlet is still expected to be omnipresent thanks to social networking and paparazzi. (Nowadays, Greta Garbo would have plenty of justification to pine, "I want to be alone," but no one would ever let her.) Greene has acceded to the new reality and collected almost two million followers on Twitter, but she's hardly a freewheeling microblogger. To her wary eye, the social-networking service is equal parts fan outreach and potential celebrity boondoggle.
"If I've had a sip of alcohol, I will not go on Twitter," Greene says, her grey-green eyes flashing. "That's the worst thing for an actor to do. That's where you get in trouble. I've seen so many actors where I think, 'Why did you tweet that?"' In fact, says Greene, "I told my friends and my family not to tweet at me, which sounds really stupid, but if I want fans to know that we went to a movie, I'll tweet it."
Clearly; privacy is paramount for Greene, though she admits it wasn't always this way. When she first arrived in Hollywood, she was happy to reap the benefits of incipient ingénuehood, especially when those benefits included rumoured romances with man-cubs like Joe Jonas, Chace Crawford, Kings Of Leon's Jared Followill, and Broadway star Reeve Carney. But when the tabloids take an interest in your relationships, it's hard to shake them. That's when the rumours start - and never stop.
"It's really frustrating whenever I can't go and do something because I know it's going to be on the internet," she says. "Like if I want to go to a friend's house, they'll be, 'She's dating him!' It's like, "Oh, am I dating my brother now? Is that what's happening?' Or when they write that I was with a 'mystery man', and I'm like, 'He's gay; by the way; so it is a mystery!'"
At the time of writing, the latest "mystery man" (incidentally; if you google "Ashley Greene mystery man" you'll get more than a million results) is her personal trainer, who she was photographed paddle-boarding with on a private beach in Malibu. "That literally made me nauseous and sick to my stomach," she says, her voice flooding with anger. Just a few weeks before that, her co-star Stewart was photographed by paparazzi while stepping out on Pattinson, and Greene is vehement about the snappers who follow starlets around 24/7. "When you don't know the paparazzi are taking pictures, it's creepy..." she says. "They're essentially stalkers. And then you have to explain to everybody who asks, 'Who's that guy?' 'Oh, he's my trainer: But they should not know that part of my life."
Still, how does a starlet navigate her social life these days? Greene sighs. "Dating is a hard, hard thing when you have this job. Sometimes I wish I could just go back to Florida and, like, date my home-town boyfriend."
Greene admits that when you meet potential love interests in the industry; it isn't always easy to discern their agendas. "Listen," she says, leaning in, "when I'm dating a guy and he says, 'I don't want press: and then says, 'Let's go to Katana for dinner:" She laughs ruefully. "I'm like, 'Really? You don't want to just walk down the street to some dive? You don't want to get photographed, but you want to go to a place where you know there's paparazzi?" (She's too classy to name the ex-flame she's talking about, but if you google "Joe Jonas Katana" you get more than two million results.)
You never know where your next job will come from (so apply for all of them)
Unlike Kristen Stewart, who's now offered big-budget roles and hardscrabble indies without having to read for them, Greene still goes up for auditions every week. She hates it. "Auditioning is terrifying," she moans. "It's not acting. It's just horrible." Still, Greene says she's developed a thick skin in an industry where things far beyond your control can determine whether a casting director responds to you in a room.
"Maybe I look like his ex-girlfriend!" she muses. "Maybe I look like his mom, who he hates. Maybe they wanted someone shorter, someone taller. That's the way that I try to look at it, because otherwise it's daunting and it's hard to be rejected twice a week. You go, you do it, and you let it go."
Greene also likes to note that out of disappointment can come opportunity. Scheduling conflicts kept her out of one film she really wanted, but producer Michael De Luca remembered Greene's audition and suggested her for a role in the new black comedy Butter, where she was cast as the daughter of Jennifer Garner and Modem Family's Ty Burrell. Another time, she landed the female lead in a Phillip Noyce film that fell apart when the male star dropped out, but then Noyce cast Greene in a TV pilot this past season, Americana, which was scripted by Michael Seitzman. That project wasn't made into a series, "But at the end of the day; Michaelis now writing for me and has me in mind and sends me scripts, and Phillip is actively looking for a film we can do together," says Greene.
Did the pilot indicate that Greene may seek a post-Twilight career in television? "It'll come back to bite me, but the only TV that I would realistically be comfortable doing is HBO or cable. They work four months," says Greene, who would have had to shoot 22 episodes a series if her broadcast show had been picked up. "It's like the new indie: you go and you do great work and then you're free to do other films.That's the most terrifying thing to me about TV; that you're just not available. You could get great reviews and get offered a ton of films, but you can't do them when you work nine, ten months out of the year for seven years."
Then again, Greene has spent most months since 2008 either making or promoting Twilight, so isn't that a time commitment akin to a television series? "Well, I didn't know that [when I was] signing on," she laughs. The phenomenon surprised her, and though the Twilight name often helps Greene get through the door, sometimes that next job is just out of reach for the same reason. "It's hard sometimes when people just say; 'Oh,we don't want anyone from Twilight,'" she notes. "Twilight has been amazing, but it's made things a little difficult because you have to prove yourself if you want these really in-depth films."
For now, Greene says her heart lies in independent movies. She had the lead recently in an under-performing horror film called The Apparition, but she's proudest of a small movie she made called Skateland, off of which she booked another indie, CBGB. She plays the daughter of Alan Rickman's character, and the director told Greene he'd never even seen her vampire movies. She loved that.
Originally published in the December 2012 issue of British GQ.