Alex Merez is one of the wolf pack in this week’s release of “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” the third of the series based on Stephanie Meyer’s wildly popular books. The wolf pack are the Quileute people who become wolves. I spoke to him when he came to Washington D.C. for a special showing of the last film, “New Moon.”
When “New Moon” came out, I spoke to two of the vampires, who told me they took movement lessons to develop their cat-like grace. What kind of preparation did you do for moving like a wolf? Was your background in dance helpful?
Yes. I think it is mostly about your posture. People can tell whether it is defensive or aggressive. I put some thought into it but I didn’t take any classes. (Laughs.) It’s all in the eyes. That’s where their chain of command is, in the eyes. Little subtleties, too, where their ears are, keeping my shoulders in, kind of scrappy and aggressive.
Do you have any action scenes in the film?
No, but my wolf does! I made sure to massage Phil Tippett, the genius behind making the wolves do what they do. I just massage his shoulders and then he made my wolf do extra-cool stuff.
What’s the most fun about playing a wolf person?
Being half-nude the whole time! It got freezing cold, but it was the only time I could be that naked and not get a ticket.
I watched over and over again Bram Stoker’s Dracula with Gary Oldman, one of my favorites. I really enjoyed that film. Now I like more dramas and indie films. I loved “Crazy Heart,” this anti-hero trying to reclaim the fleeting game.
Did you want to be an actor when you were a kid?
It wasn’t until much later. I thought if you wanted to be an actor you had to be on stage, acting, singing — that was not my cup of tea. But I met my mentor, a very strong, physical, masculine man and he persuaded me to go into it.
You are a First Nation descendant of the Purepecha Nation, so like the wolf pack in the movie you are of Native American descent. Is that important in playing the role?
The cool thing about it is coming from that cultural perspective, you can’t fake it or read a book about it. It’s something you just have. It’s just a part of you. So we really bring that into our characterization. We definitely focus on the community. And wolf packs rely on each other. They can’t survive alone. That’s something native people do anyway.
What did you do to have fun while you were filming?
We would go out to eat, we were watching movies. And Taylor would just hang with us.
Do you study martial arts?
Yes, I’m a black belt in Shidokan karate, have done muay thai, Afro-Brazilian martial arts, a little bit of ju-jitsu.
Why is this story so popular?
It’s grounded in reality. Every great story is a love story at the root. Everyone can relate to that. Everyone understands hatred, betrayal, revenge, unrequited love. It touches on a lot of things that fans can grasp.
What do the fans say to you?
Take your shirt off!
I can understand why John Cusack, producer and star of this movie, would like to find a time machine to take him back to 1986. That was the last time he was making popular movies.
With the most explanatory title since “Snakes on a Plane,” we know where this is going, literally. Four shlubs, unhappy with their lives, go for a ski weekend at a place where the three middle-aged friends used to live it up. The fourth member is a shlub from the next generation who has never had a chance to live it up. At the resort, they go into a hot tub and faster than you can say Spandau Ballet, they are back in 1986. Three of them have a chance to correct their mistakes and the fourth has a chance to find out something about where he came from that will surprise no one. Within the first ten minutes we see a bong, a character throwing dog poop in someone’s face, and a suicide attempt. Party on!
Can you guess what happens next? Will there be jokes about cheesy 80’s trends? Someone is wearing a “Miami Vice” t-shirt. Will there be jokes about things people in the 80’s didn’t know were coming? Someone from the 80’s asks cluelessly, “What is email?” Will men who never figured out how to be grown-ups go back to being kids and learn that they didn’t know how to do that, either? Will there be appearances by performers from the 80’s intended to make us feel nostalgic but in reality just reminding us of how old they are now? Watch for Chevy Chase and, reminding us in addition about how much worse this is than “Back to the Future,” Crispin Glover. And then, just to throw everything possible into the mix, let’s add some raunchy humor with a lot of cheerful sexism and homophobia. Its slacker vibe matches its era, but it’s not unpretentious; it’s just lazy.
It tries hard to be outrageous, but more often it’s dull. Once again, and I’m just going to have to keep saying this until they get the message, referring to something is not the same as making a joke about it. And, for the record, let me add that jokes about and the appearance of bodily fluids are not inherently funny, either. On the other hand, if you disagree, you will love this movie.
The few bright spots include the always-welcome Craig Robinson and the on-the-brink-of-breaking-through Lizzy Caplan, still just one great part away from the big time. The un-bright spots include pretty much everything else.
A gifted teacher named Gregg Breinberg has made an elementary school chorus from Public School 22 in Graniteville, Staten Island (New York) into an international sensation. Here they sing the Coldplay song “Viva La Vida,” and their sweet voices and sincere dedication make the lyrics deeply moving.
Happy Independence Day!
This rousing musical about the Declaration of Independence makes the Founding Fathers vivid, human, and interesting characters, and is so involving that you almost forget that you already know how it all turned out. William Daniels is the “obnoxious and disliked” John Adams, Ken Howard is Thomas Jefferson, who would rather be with his wife than work on the Declaration, and Howard da Silva is a wry and witty Benjamin Franklin. As they debate independence, we see the courage that went into the birth of the United States, and as they compromise with the South to permit slavery in the brand-new country we see the tragedy. Outstanding family entertainment.