The Leader of the ‘Twilight’ Wolf Pack: Chaske Spencer

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Chaske Spencer is not a household name. In fact, when I hang with my neighbor and friend, it is more likely that someone will recognize me than the face seen by millions and millions. Chaske is a movie star who is well-known or, at least, well-seen as the head of the wolf pack in the Twilight movie series. Once in a while, at brunch, I’ll ask him to make that werewolf face and make him recite a line from the flick … he never goes for my bait. He just smiles that movie star smile and laughs that hearty movie star laugh. His star is on the rise and I suspect his anonymity will soon be lost. There are movies in the can and in the works and TV things being talked about. He is, like, 6’5,” good looking, of Native American heritage, and might be the nicest person I’ve ever met.

This Thursday he will have his debut photography show at the Dream Hotel, 210 West 55th Street, up on the roof. I will be there. I have been trying to get him to Monday night Bingo for a year and if he gets me uptown then he better show up for Murray Hill and Linda Simpson’s Monday Night Bingo extravaganza…or else. Chaske is half my age and twice my size and I’ve watched him turn into a bad, bad wolf many times….. so it might be a fair fight.

Let’s get the elephant-in-the-room question out of the way… I know you as a friend, a brunch and Bingo buddy (soon), but to a great many people you are the leader of the wolf pack in the Twilight movie series. Tell me about your film career and how it affects your normal routine for good …for bad?
Yes, brunch pals and hopefully go-to bingo pals soon. My film career started about a decade ago. My first film was a movie called Skins. The director was Chris Eyre. Since then, it’s been a slow climb to the working-actor mountain top. When I landed Twilight I was broke and hadn’t been able to land a job in two years. I actually thought that if I didn’t get this I was going to pack it in… call it a day on the acting career. For the good part, I’m working a lot now. I have three films lined up. They should be out next year. I also, just got back from Australia. I was filming a pilot called Frontier for NBC. I don’t let my career affect my normal life. I keep pretty low-key. It’s just a job that I like to do. I’m pretty lucky.

Have you always been a photographer? Tell me about your work, especially shooting rock bands. Which ones have you shot?
I’ve always been fascinated by photography. I wanted to be a painter but I found out that I don’t have the patience for painting. I like the instance gratification of a really good photo. I started taking photos as soon as I moved to NYC, when I was 22. I was using a Canon film camera. I bought it for very cheap at a pawn shop in Calgary, Canada. At the time I needed to spend money on food and rent, not film. So, photography sat on the back burner for a time but, since I’ve been working and traveling, I take my camera everywhere with me. I have a digital Canon Rebel. I started shooting bands a couple of years ago. My roommate at the time, Adam Morse, plays bass for the Five O’Clock Heroes. I started going to their shows and taking photos of them. I’ve also shot this band called Roma. I like going to clubs and finding bands to shoot.Chaske Spencer  You are a Native American. How did you grow up and how did you end up here? Also, tell me about your charity work and let’s throw Michelle Obama into this mess of a question.
I grew up on a couple reservations in Montana and Idaho. I moved around a bit. My parents were teachers and taught on Indian reservations. They did the best they could raising me with a strong since of self. But, living on a reservation I saw a lot of poverty and addiction. There is not a lot to do there, so I would get into some trouble from time to time. Nothing big; just regular teenage shit. It wasn’t until I started to go to an all-white school that I noticed how different things were, how the living conditions on a reservation are pretty much that of a third world country.

After high school, I tried to do the college thing. But I failed at that. I wasn’t doing much with my life. I was just hanging out in bars, getting drunk, and smoking a lot weed. One night I just decided I couldn’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. I decided I wanted to move to NYC. I bought an airplane ticket to NYC. I had saved some money from working some shit jobs.

But the weekend before I was ready to fly out, I got drunk and put my dad’s truck into a woman’s fence. I had to postpone my flight, and repairing the fence and her yard took all of my cash. So I ended up coming to NYC with only $100.

I look back on it now and I’m glad I left when I did. I was getting out of hand with the partying in a small town. My charity work comes from seeing a lot of bullshit that goes on in a reservation. I try to use the spotlight of the media to bring social cause to the forefront that wouldn’t normally be picked up by the mainstream media. One of the causes I’m in involved in is Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move. It’s to help inform people about eating healthy and getting exercise.

Where will the film world take you ideally, and where will photography take you ideally?
I don’t know where the film world will take me. I hope just to keep working. I love what I do. I’m a pretty lucky guy that gets to have a job that I already love to do. I learned a long time ago that you really can’t make a plan. Life takes you where you’re supposed to be. As a photographer? I hope that I can capture some really beautiful images. I hope one day to shoot some amazing landscape for National Geographic, or do a photo shoot with someone like Waylon Jennings. I love faces that tell a story.

You’re having way more than 15 minutes of fame, but I know you as this shy, polite guy. Is there a hunger for the limelight and loot? What else is driving you?
I’m not big into the limelight stuff. I found that out after the media blitz of Twilight, that the spotlight is not my thing. It’s a part of the job, and I can live with that. But it does make me uncomfortable. I try to keep a low profile while I’m in NYC. I do notice I’m getting more and more noticed in my hood. I do love making movies though. It’s like joining a circus. Playing pretend and having fun. And being a photographer is an outlet I have. It keeps the boredom away. Keeps me being creative. I had an acting teacher tell me once, “Don’t be an actor. Be an artist.” I try to live by those words in everything I do.

Robert Pattinson Has A Type: The Riley Keough-Kristen Stewart Resemblance

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What happens when you stick Elvis Presley’s granddaughter Riley Keough into a car with Twilight star Robert Pattinson? A whole lot of dating rumors and an obvious immersion of a type.

When the two were spotted this past weekend driving back to his L.A. mansion (afternoon rendezvous?), it became clear that Pattinson is moving on to Kristen Stewart: Part 2. The same-shaped face, dainty features, understated beauty, and tossed-to-the-side tresses make this romance the sequel every Twilight fan is going to hate. 

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Watch the First Bloody Trailer for Neil Jordan’s ‘Byzantium’

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Before the Twilights and True Bloods of the world, there was Neil Jordan’s 1994 Interview With a Vampire. And after almost a decade, the writer and director is back with a new blood-soaked story with Byzantium. Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, the film gives a dark spin the classic vamp tale, focusing on an undead mother and daughter (played by Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan) attempting to live in a modern world while satisfying their carnal and insatiable thirst for human blood.The official Tribeca synopsis of the film reads:

For the past two hundred years, Eleanor’s story has been held captive, silenced by her protective “sister” Clara. Demure Eleanor longs to purge the history that made them into nomadic sanguivores. When the gruesome past comes haunting, they are forced to move to a small seaside town. Clara quickly secures a haven for them in the dilapidated Byzantium Hotel, while Eleanor finds solace in the companionship of a local boy. The bond proves dangerous when Eleanor deems him trustworthy, revealing the truth of who she is and how she survives. As Clara and Eleanor become more exposed, the body count begins to rise, resulting in a wild hunt for blood. 

Byzantium fuses the polished and alluring with the vicious brutality that accompanies all great vampire films. Jordan skillfully weaves romance with the gothic and gory, producing a seductive story with stunning spectral scenes. 

Check out the trailer below and see the film when it makes its way into theaters June 28th.

‘Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 2’ Sweeps The Razzies

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Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 went out with a bang: the last film in the vampiric series swept the Razzies last night, taking home seven "anti-Academy Awards."

Kristen Stewart picked up the Razzie for Worst Actress, Taylor Lautner for Best Supporting Actor, and Bill Condon got a Razzie for Worst Director. Launter and MacKenzie Fox, who plays Bella and Edward’s daughter Renesmee, won Worst Onscreen Couple. And the whole cast can share the glory of winning Worst Film and Worst Ensemble Cast. 

Twilight didn’t hog the entire awards show, however: Adam Sandler won Worst Actor for That’s My Boy and Rihanna won Worst Supporting Actress for Battleship

Alas, none of the winners made it to the Razzies to pick up their awards — unlike Sandra Bullock, who famously accepted her Worst Actress award for All About Steve in 2010 and Halle Berry for Catwoman in 2004. Perhaps the cast of Twilight was too busy rolling on their piles of money. 

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

The 50 Most Embarrassing Songs You’ve Shared On Facebook

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Every several weeks, I like to play a little game. I log on Facebook and scroll down the sidebar minifeed, where my best friend’s Spotify song listenings always pop up. She works under the alias of her work’s company name since she’s their main FB promoter, which is both highly protective and also dangerous. Around 11am, I take a gander at the list and, without-fail, there it is: a Twilight soundtrack song or a Gwen Stefani power piece. Sometimes an obscure song from Creed.

This is when I hop on Gchat and start a conversation like, “So weird, but remember that song by the guy with the long hair that goes ‘when you’re not with me, I’m free,’ and in the music video he’s singing on a canoe in a drowning village? It’s been stuck in my head all morning.” And she goes “OMG! ‘My Sacrifice’ by Creed! I was just listening to that. That’s crazy!” And this is when I crack up at my own morning entertainment and vow never to tell her my little trick.

Two authors also find amusement in such twisted things: Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks, the co-authors of a book about the creation of MTV that has become such a hit that a movie adaptation is in the works. They’ve pulled together a list of the fifty most embarrassing songs we’ve shared on Facebook. Yes, songs like “We Are The World,” and Susan Boyle’s “Hallelujah” do top the list. And the entire list can be listened to on loop on Slacker Radio’s new “most embarrassing” station. Don’t worry, no one will know.

Is your most embarrassing shared song on here? Take a look.

1) Chris Brown, "Strip""

2) Train, "Hey Soul Sister"

3) Susan Boyle, "Hallelujah"

4) Nickelback, "Rockstar"

5) Pitbull, "Dont Stop The Party"

6) Limp Bizkit, "Nookie"

7) Artists for Haiti, "We Are the World"

8) Jason Mraz, "I’m Yours"

9) Owl City, "Fireflies"

10) Bon Iver, "Holocene"

11) James Blunt, "You’re Beautiful"

12) Hammer, "Pumps and a Bump"

13) Starship, "We Built This City"

14)  U2 "Vertigo"(#14 for obvious catorce reasons)

15) Jessie J, "Price Tag"

16) Barenaked Ladies, "One Week"

17) Sting, "Fields of Gold"

18) Black Eyed Peas, "My Humps"

19) Spin Doctors, "Two Princes"

20) Simon and Garfunkel, "The Sound of Silence"

21) Five For Fighting, "Superman (It’s Not Easy)"

22) Flo-Rida, "Whistle"

23) Deep Blue Something, "Breakfast at Tiffanys

24) Bon Jovi, "It’s My Life"

25) Colbie Caillat, "Bubbly"

26) Enrique Iglesias, "Hero"

27) Counting Crows, "Big Yellow Taxi"

28) Creed, "With Arms Wide Open"

29) Ja Rule, "Always on Time" (f/Ashanti)

30) Toby Keith, "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue"

31) Crash Test Dummies, "Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm"

32) Paris Hilton, "Turn You On"

33) Dynamite Hack, "Boyz n the Hood"

34) Ed Sheeran, "Wake Me Up"

35) Madonna, "Give Me All Your Luvin"

36) Eamon, "Fuck It (I Don’t Want You Back)"

37) Rascal Flatts, "What Hurts the Most"

38) Aaron Carter, "Aaron’s Party"

39) Kreakshawn, "Gucci Gucci"

40) Miley Cyrus, "Party In The USA"

41) 3 Doors Down, "Kryptonite"

42) Frank Sinatra ‘My Way"

43) REM, "Shiny Happy People"

44) Paula Cole, "I Don’t Want to Wait"

45) Justin Timberlake ‘Sexy Back"

46) Hinder, "Lips of an Angel

47) Akon, "Lonely"

48) Genesis, "Illegal Alien"

49) Katy Perry, "I Kissed a Girl"

50) John Mayer, "Your Body Is a Wonderland"

 

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Pop-Culture Parody Musicals Are as Meta as We Get

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Growing up in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, I had really weird taste in music. Sure, I liked whatever the Top 40 pop hits were, but I also belted out showtunes, and I had every word memorized of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s song parodies. Through his ode to food “Eat It,” I learned how badass young Michael Jackson was. Likewise, I would never have known what “MacArthur Park” without the cheeky "Jurassic Park.”

In a 2003 interview with NPR, Yankovic mused on how his fellow artists would respond as he prepped each album of song parodies. “At this point I’ve got a bit of a track record,” he said. “So people realize that when ‘Weird Al’ wants to go parody, it’s not meant to make them look bad… it’s meant to be a tribute.”

While it seems as if “Weird Al” has hung up the accordion for the time being, there are plenty of creative teams who have adopted that same motivation of writing silly lyrics to poke fun at pop culture and elevated it to the next logical incarnation—the musical. In the past few years, more and more pop culture parody musicals have popped up on the Internet, in universities, and even off-Broadway. They’ve launched the careers of stars like Darren Criss (who played the starring role in A Very Potter Musical), and even famous folks like Joss Whedon (with Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) have joined in.

Pop culture has passed into an incredibly self-reflective and meta phase. We can’t watch a TV show or political debate without immediately reacting through GIF form and then scrutinizing our reaction. We’re compelled to interrogate the highbrow and especially the lowbrow works that capture our attention. But it gets boring and one-dimensional to use the same medium that we’re discussing in our analysis. We’re constantly turning our opinions over and over, seeking out the smart new angle that someone hasn’t thought of. Enter this new breed of musical.

We’re lucky that many of these productions have tested the waters in New York City, where you can stage an outrageous parody for even just a weekend. In the past year, I’ve taken in four shows that probe the boundaries of good taste and challenge the books, actors, and even religious institutions they mock. Last Christmas, I joined the throngs of theatergoers laughing so hard they were crying at Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s The Book of Mormon. Since the, I’ve also giggled my way through song-and-dance parodies of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, its offspring Fifty Shades of Grey, and the ‘90s thriller The Silence of the Lambs.

Whether each show’s attack is sweet or snarky, there is indeed that sense of tribute that Yankovic mentioned—cheeky nods to the genre of musical theater itself, or a hat tip to the impact Clarice Starling or Anastasia Steele has had on pop culture. In fact, 50 Shades! The Musical pokes fun less at Ana’s whirlwind romance with Christian Grey, and more at the way Americans have gobbled up E.L. James’ erotic fanfiction.

“I think anything that is so popular that everyone knows about it, you can start to home in on certain details,” said Emily Dorezas, one of the 50 Shades co-writers. “That’s why, as soon as the presidential election starts, everybody can laugh at the same things about the different candidates. Fifty Shades of Grey is just this brand that doesn’t go away. Even if you know nothing about it, you know everything about it. Part of what we’re doing is making fun of the phenomenon of it. [Audiences] can laugh at that because they’ve seen it in their house, with their wives and girlfriends.”

Twilight: The Musical employs a similar shorthand: They’re betting on audiences’ familiarity with the movies so that they can skewer not only Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, but also Robert Pattinson’s insanely dramatic delivery and Kristen Stewart’s penchant for lip biting. The more layers you can work through, the better you’re rewarded, like when Edward and Bella’s literary contemporaries Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger pop in to declare a wizards-versus-vampires war.

When you’re addressing the young adult fiction booms of the past fifteen years, of course you have to poke fun at the consumers who waited in line at midnight for the new books and movies. But how do you mock a solid film classic from the ‘90s that’s entirely straight-faced and even rather terrifying? You make it self-aware.

What most struck me about Silence! The Musical (which has existed online and onstage since 2002) is that it follows the movie beat-for-beat. I was especially aware because I had watched the film for the first time just a few weeks prior. Aside from the addition of a lamb chorus—paralleling the ancient Greek chorus and performing the same duty of commenting on the action onstage—the musical starts and ends where the movie does. Watching it, you’re delightfully surprised to realize that it is kind of ridiculous to start a movie with Jodie Foster huffing and puffing through the woods near Quantico, and that most of Anthony Hopkins’ dialogue is snarky one-liners. The cast turns even the most innocuous phrasing into a punchline; currently, Pamela Bob amps up Clarice’s unfortunate lisp to an art form.

The decision to do a shot-for-shot spoof had less to do with the movie itself and more with how co-writers Jon and Al Kaplan write all of their parodies. “We’re very detail-oriented,” the brothers said of what began as a collection of songs and evolved into a screenplay. “We focus on details and blow them up. It’s meant to be a love letter to the movie; we want to tailor it to people who are big fans.” It helped that Hunter Bell, who wrote the book for the stage show, and original director Christopher Gattelli had the same M.O.: “They love the movie and wanted to focus on the details—sometimes different details [from us].”

To be fair, the brothers were wary of audience reaction to some of the songs. But when the original movie brings Lecter and Clarice together after another inmate comments on her vagina, how can you not give Lecter a love song called “If I Could Smell Her Cunt”? However, it wasn’t until Book of Mormon opened in 2010 that the Kaplans felt more secure about their bawdier musical numbers.

“I think we’re proudest of Lecter’s song,” the Kaplans said. “It’s not the typical song you would expect from him, the ‘liver and fava beans’ number. It’s the moment where the audience really has to buy into the concept or not buy into it. It has to be well performed; Lecter has to really sell it as a love song. We’re also proud of Buffalo Bill’s song ‘I’d Fuck Me’ because it came late in the game. We felt like we had already written our Buffalo Bill songs.”

”I’d Fuck Me” represents perhaps the closest adherence to the source material. Our audience was on the edge of their seats during this swirly burlesque number because we all knew the iconic sequence from the film and were waiting with bated breath to see if David Ayers would attempt the infamous dick tuck. When he did, that prompted the most cheers out of any point in the show. Honestly, we wouldn’t have respected the creative team if they hadn’t included that moment.

Each of these shows has unlocked a new take on the source material through the medium of the musical. The visual nature of a stage show has been most beneficial for 50 Shades! The Musical. One of the book’s most ludicrous elements was Anastasia’s “inner goddess,” the subconscious manifestation of her repressed horniness. Sadly, she was absent from the New York production, but Dorezas said that she showed up in Chicago in “a scene with Christian and Anastasia, [where] the inner goddess comes in and basks to have this whole moment to herself,” and that she’ll appear in future iterations.

Some of the most fun that the 50 Shades! The Musical cast and creative team had was subverting the audience’s expectations of the characters’ appearances. For the past year or more, fansites have cast achingly smoldering types like Ian Somerhalder and Alexis Bledel for Christian and Ana, but what makes Chris Grace and Amber Petty’s portrayals so refreshing is that neither are stereotypical beauties. They play up the comedic contrast between the prose and their onstage looks and behavior.

“It was totally a conscious decision,” Dorezas confirmed. “I don’t think anybody’s gonna be 100 percent satisfied with whatever Christian Grey they choose [for the movie]. We just wanted to go the complete opposite direction, but Chris plays it so sexy, and he owns it! There’s a certain point where it’s like, ‘This is our Christian Grey, and everyone in the audience is sold on it.’

”It’s always my favorite when he walks onstage for the first time, ‘cause you see the audience pointing at each other like, ‘Oh my God, this isn’t what you said!’ I know they think Ryan Gosling is gonna come out there. I think in Chris’ mind, he thinks he’s Ryan Gosling. And Amber as Anastasia—she’s so funny. We wanted it to be more of a wink at these characters, not the actual characters. I think if we went for super hot and sexy, we’d lose funny.”

Similarly, the writers grappled with the first draft because if they gave in to the temptation to absolutely skewer James’s admittedly ridiculous novel, they wouldn’t be able to keep an audience. “I think the first round, we felt like there was just too much punch and not enough heart to it,” Dorezas said, citing their shared experience in the comedy world. “We wanted the audience to want these two people to be together outside of a bondage/S&M situation.”

The parody can’t just be about the content; the creative teams must also consider conventions of musical theater itself. One of the first big laughs in The Book of Mormon is “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” a seemingly joyous African chant that brings to mind The Lion King’s “Hakuna Matata” but actually translates to “Fuck You, God.” Mocking religion was one thing, but dragging the esteemed medium of musical theater into the mix? That’s when audiences realized that no one was safe.

In the New York production of 50 Shades! The Musical, the inner goddess got sacrificed in favor of a big, Les Miserables-esque ensemble number. “We just had to find another place for the inner goddess, ‘cause we all were like, ‘Ah, we want this moment where everyone’s having doubt and not sure what to do,’” Dorezas said. “There’s a nod to Phantom of the Opera in the show, as well. We definitely put little things in there that even if you’re not a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey, if you’re a fan of musicals you’ll appreciate the moments as well. If some of the moments are too insidery—you don’t know who Jose is when he walks in, you don’t know Christian is against type—there’s still something for you.”

The Kaplan brothers’ nods to musical theater occur more in the fabric of the musical’s choreography: “It’s just integrating little homages here and there. There’s A Chorus Line in ‘In the Dark with a Maniac,’ [with] the dance move that Clarice does before she shoots Buffalo Bill. There’s also [elements from] The King and I.”

Now, a lot of the musical theater greats are dead and can’t defend themselves against this mockery. But how about the creators of the books and movies parodied? Despite the hard-R nature of Silence! The Musical, the Kaplans said that several of the people involved with the movie found it uproariously funny.

For one, director Jonathan Demme decided to celebrate his twenty-year crew reunion by going to the show. “We sat behind them, and they were laughing their heads off,” the Kaplans said. “It was a real kick… We thought he was gonna be a really serious guy, just sitting there scowling, but he’s got a real sense of humor.” They can’t vouch for Jodie Foster’s reaction, since she attended a different show. However, “Anthony Heald, who played Dr. Chilton, was very enthusiastic, said he would love to play his character in a future reincarnation of the show. Anthony Hopkins, as far as we know, hasn’t gone.”

”We did look toward Silence! The Musical a little bit in terms of what they were able to get away with,” Dorezas said. Because the original production of 50 Shades! The Musical debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, they’ve been caught up with UK copyright laws, combined with the reaction from James’ people. “For the UK opportunities that we are currently discussing, we could change some things around with the show that would make it fall under safe parameters,” Dorezas said. “If the parody laws change in our favor, then we would not have to do that. We have an idea of what we can do, but we’re kind of waiting to see how it changes.”

Musical parody reinvigorates seemingly played-out stories because it’s such an unexpected medium. It’s likely that the first time you saw Clarice Starling or read about Christian Grey, you never dreamed that either would break into song. These pop culture parody musicals crack these seemingly solemn characters and give them the added dimensions to ensure their endurance in the zeitgeist, whether they’re twenty or two years old. As the Kaplans confessed, “We never thought we’d be talking about this eleven years after the fact.”

Follow Natalie Zutter on Twitter.

Here’s What Not to Get Your Significant Other for Valentine’s Day

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Let me just clarify something: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with reading and loving fluffy vampire lit. Reading anything at all is (usually) ultimately good for you. There is, however, something wrong with impressionable teenagers being marketed a major book and movie franchise idealizing an abusive relationship and said teenagers thinking that’s okay. But there’s already enough on the Internet both intelligently criticizing and tearing down the Twilight series at large, so today, we’re just going to focus on this one really terrible piece of Twilight-inspired merchandise, and with Valentine’s Day around the corner, there’s going to be a lot of awful crap like this for sale.

Wall decals are kind of a hit-and-miss enterprise anyway, but this one is just a particular degree of terrible. I could understand wanting birds or swirly patterns or fleurs-de-lis or whatever, or one of those Fatheads of a sports team you like maybe (but not an actual athlete because who wants Kyle Beckerman on their wall gross) stuck to your walls, but a life-size silhouette of vampire in broody teen body form/girlfriend abuser Edward Cullen that stands in a broody pose over your bed watching you sleep? What? No. Of course not. Why would anyone buy this? Here’s the description, from Etsy seller vinylfruit:

“Let everyone know what team you’re on by giving Edward a home! Or you can keep him to yourself… put him on the back of your bedroom door so he can be intrigued while you sleep! He’ll be keeping an eye out for any roving carnivorous vampires searching for a snack, while reminding you to ‘Be Safe.’”

It’s not exactly clear what’s the creepiest part of this. The silhouette wall decal so it always looks like someone is standing menacingly over your bed and providing fairly high octane nightmare fuel, the fact that it’s supposed to be watching you sleep, the fact that it’s depicting a popular character who perpetuates textbook symptoms of domestic abuse, the ominous and almost threatening “Be safe,” or the fact that this is all supposed to be romantic? Romantics of the world, if your partner is really into Twilight, that’s fine, whatever, and I’m not going to tell you how to live your life, but please don’t drop $60 on a gift that says “Happy Valentine’s Day, baby! Here’s your Stockholm Syndrome!” 

Stage and Screen Actor Lee Pace Talks Shop

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Lee Pace had me at “Hello.” Or, rather, the film equivalent, which was 2006’s The Fall. Spectacularly strange and visually arresting, that movie made an instant devotee out of me. Though the tall, dark, and handsome actor had been in the biz for a few years prior to this weird and wonderful discovery, I’ve followed the 33-year-old’s trajectory ever since—and re-watched The Fall more than a few times.

Fast forward to 2012, which has been especially packed for Pace, featuring roles in Lincoln, Breaking Dawn: Part 2, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Indeed, it’s safe to say that he’s had a good year, especially considering all three titles hit theaters (for all intents and purposes) simultaneously. This triple whammy of sorts simply must bode well on the success scale. 

From indie flicks like A Single Man and Ceremony, to blockbuster franchises, this guy’s got that special something that attracts casting directors and keeps crowds captivated. Beyond the big screen, New Yorkers can currently catch Pace as Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini in Terrence McNally’s Golden Age, a play directed by Walter Bobbie with performances through January 13 at Manhattan Theatre Club. Age audiences are granted a backstage pass to listen in and look on, taking in behind-the-scenes goings-on during opening night of Bellini’s last opera, I Puritani, at the ThéâtreItalien in Paris. Part comedy, part drama, the two-and-a-half-hour-long performance paints a living picture of what it might have been like to be there. 

The charming and approachable Pace was sweet enough to take time before taking the stage recently to talk about a few things. From his privileged yet hectic career to memorable moments, from his stance on New York to his “heartthrob” status, Pace provides a refreshingly sincere look at his life. 

So, you’ve had a super busy year…
It has been a busy year. I’m really feeling it now that the year’s coming to an end. These movies came out this past month and now we[’re] doing eight shows a week [for Golden Age]. It’s been a lot of work, so I’ll to be looking forward to a quiet new year. But, it’s been great. It’s good to be busy. There’s nothing I like more than being busy. Good characters to play and good people to work with. There’s been a lot of that this year, so I couldn’t be more grateful.

Is there any reprieve during the holiday?
Theater schedules through the holidays are relentless. I guess I figured we’d still be doing eight shows a week, but it’s tough. There’s so many shows. But, it’s good. It’s a privilege to be able to do the show for people. That people want to come is awesome.  

Given your recent roster, are there any standout moments of 2012?
Shooting scenes with Steven Spielberg in the Congress (sic) [for Lincoln], that was pretty incredible. Big scenes, lots of extras, a couple cameras moving. You really feel like, Wow, I’ll remember this. It kinda doesn’t get better than this. Then, I went to New Zealand to work on The Hobbit for a couple months. To be on those sets, which [were] equally incredible, and to collaborate on and play a character that is the product of so many people’s imaginations—Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and the costume designers—[was] very, very special. 

Any funny stories that you recall?
Funny things happened, but I always forget them. I am such an idiot. 

[Laughs] Okay, any instances on stage where you feel compelled to burst out laughing?
We really like each other a lot. All of the guys [in Golden Age] shar[e] a dressing room. We have so much fun during the half hour, talking. Ethan Phillips is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and he keeps us going all through the half hour, so there are times I’ll look at him on stage and remember a joke he told and I have a hard time not laughing. 

I can imagine. What’s it like portraying a real life character versus a fictional one?
Both Fernando Wood [of Lincoln] and [Bellini of] Golden Age are based on real men. You want to have a certain respect for who they were. You want to find a connection to the real person. Understand them from an actor’s point of view, which is different from a historian’s point of view and different from a writer’s point of view. 

For sure.
In Golden Age, it’s a character. It isn’t a biopic of Bellini. This is a work of art. Terrence McNally is using the character to tell a story. I see it as my job to connect the dots between Terrence and me and Bellini, who wrote this beautiful music. I tried to figure out what it was about him, who he was, the details. There’s so many things that go into making a character.

I bet. Your Bellini also displays distinct mannerisms, tending to twitch and putter a bunch…
[Laughs] Twitch and putter. I’ll remember that tonight when I’m twitching and puttering. [Laughs]

It’s not intended as an insult!
No, he is very twitchy and putter-y. Where I started with my research was listening to the music and really trying to understand that music and believe that that music was coming out of me, that I’d written it. Before I started, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to create something like that, to write music as complicated as this music. Just trying to get myself into that headspace, being backstage listening to it, that’s where I really started working out the physicality and how I moved. It kind of grew from that, so that the nervous energy finds its way into keeping the beat with the opera. He’s not a neurotic man. He’s concerned about how this artistic effort is going to be received by a discerning audience of people that he respects. He wants to do something that will be meaningful to them. It’s all about the music. He takes this opera that he has created extremely seriously. 

As you do your own work…
On the good days! No, I do. When you work with people like Daniel Day-Lewis, Steven Spielberg, and Peter Jackson, you see how they take it seriously. It’s meaningful. They’re so talented. On set with Steven Spielberg, everyone felt how much that story meant to him, the story of the 16th president. Everyone on that set felt it and [was] inspired by it. And that’s how we all found ourselves on his page, because he’s inspiring. 

Wish I could have been there! So, theater versus film? Is there one you prefer?
They’re very, very different. I can’t say I prefer either one because I love both for different reasons. In film, you have very little time to get it right. And it’s not even about getting it right, because it’s important to let go of that way of thinking about it. You get what you get and move onto the next setup, onto the next scene. On stage, George C. Wolfe, who directed me in [the play] The Normal Heart, called it the actors’ revenge, because you have to step onstage every night and tell the story yourself. You just have to do it yourself. 

In a movie, you turn over your performance to the director and the editors to edit and to layer in sound and everything else that makes the performance emotional or funny or whatever. In theater, you have to land the jokes yourself. You have to understand what’s funny about it. You have to kind of feel the audience. What they’re about on any given night. With a movie, you don’t have that. You can’t do that. In The Hobbit, we can’t feel what the house is going to be like before we do it. 

Of course not. So, onto something still loftier, what’s been the greatest challenge of your career?
If I could name a challenge, it would be laughable compared to the challenges so many other people face. It’s the “funnest” job in the world. I guess the biggest challenge I could say these days is just taking it seriously. When you’re in your thirties, the parts get good for men. You get really interesting characters. That’s what I’ve noticed. Complicated men dealing with complicated things. Seeing that there’s so [much] more to investigate about the way people are, and communicat[ing] those things to an audience, that’s the challenge. You want [the] stories to be good and you want them to be truthful and that’s a challenge. 

Seeing as this is an NYC-centric outlet, where exactly are you based?
I’ve been living here while I do the play. But, I live outside the city now. I live up in the country. It was a new move. I’d lived [in New York City] for a long time, since I was 17. 

How do you like living off-island?
I like it a lot. I love New York City. I’ve spent my adult life in New York City. I have a really complicated relationship with New York City, as every New Yorker does. You can’t go through almost 15 years [here] and not have a complicated relationship with it. Part of that relationship is, I’m going to take a little break and live in the country. [Laughs]

I hear that. Lastly, any thoughts on being considered by some to be heartthrob, a sex symbol?
Oh god no. What does that mean? I have no comment about that. I don’t know what to say about that. It’s news to me. 

What Kristen Stewart Is Not Thankful For, In Her Own Words

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This Thanksgiving, Kristen Stewart shares what she’s not thankful for. From a series of appearances, premieres, and interviews,  we’ve gathered the top things Stewart will not be praising at her Thanksgiving table. Here they are  – in her own words.

1. Being really hot effortlessly.

“I go outside, and I’m wearing a funky T-shirt and my hair is dirty, and people say, ‘What’s wrong with her? She needs to invest in a hairbrush.’" 

2. Living a charmed life.

“ I feel boring. I feel like, ‘Why is everything so easy for me?’ I can’t wait for something crazy to fucking happen to me. Just life. I want someone to fuck me over. Do you know what I mean?"

3. Having a beloved fanbase.

“Girls are scary. Large groups of girls scare the crap out of me.”

4. Being a part of the Twilight empire. 

“I feel like it’s not going anywhere. It is strange. But things shouldn’t stay stagnant. You’ve got to move on.”

5. Her father’s pride.

“Oh, he loves that I’m famous. He’s a total fame whore. Even if I’m not with him.  he’s like, ‘Hey, I’m John. Stewart. Father of Kristen… Have you ever seen Twilight? Yeah, well, that’s my kid!’ It’s the most embarrassing thing in the world.”

6. Having sex with Robert Pattinson

“The sex scenes were silly, very silly.”

7. Cameras. 

Kristen Stewart