Since the 1940s, historians and filmmakers have shown macabre interest in Adolf Hitler’s fascination with the occult. Books like those from 1972 The spear of fate and 1985 The occult roots of Nazism documented and questioned how supernatural beliefs dictated Nazi goals. Of course, it didn’t take long for these ideas to become a sensation in pop culture. The idea that the Nazis are constantly trying to harness supernatural power for their genocidal purposes has inspired many beloved genre franchises – ranging from Captain America at Hellboy at IndianaJones. In the footsteps of the 2018 film Suzerain, war hunt takes another swipe at this dark genre, arming the Nazis with mystical knowledge.
During an interview with CBR, war huntJackson Rathbone spoke about what it was like to portray an American soldier determined to keep the Axis powers from gaining access to dark and forbidden magic. Rathbone explored how the film’s Italian director and co-writer Mauro Borrelli used supernatural elements in war hunt. Bonus for diehards dusk fans, Rathbone also reflected on his time portraying Jasper Hale and teased where he imagines the twinkling vampire and his partner Alice now in duskthe universe of.
RBC: war hunt mixes historical fiction with fun supernatural elements. How did the use of magic in the script attract you to the project?
Jackson Rathbone: Well, I like the idea of historical fiction. I think there’s a wonderful amount of material to take from the story and inject supernatural elements into it that aren’t necessarily so far removed from what was perhaps some truth. We know that Hitler was obsessed with the occult. So shooting a movie during World War II with a group of American soldiers trying to stop the Nazis from acquiring certain supernatural tools was a fun thing to portray in a movie. First, to fight the Nazis, but also to fight supernatural forces. It was a fun read and we certainly had fun making the movie.
Mauro Borrelli co-wrote and directed the film. What did he say to you on the set during the shooting or when you were talking about the project that marked you on his vision of the film?
Yeah, Mauro was an incredibly passionate director and man. He had so many ideas, so many grand ideas that I think if we implemented all of his ideas, the movie would have been about three and a half hours long. It would have been a miniseries. He had such a great and wonderful understanding of all the character stories that not all of them made it into the movie.
One of the things we had talked about a lot was Walsh’s connection to WWII and what it really meant to him. We really infused a backstory – some elements of Walsh that we don’t see in the film – that explain why he’s so mysterious and some secret truths that he has to carry under the weight of secrets. It was a lot of talking. Going out for dinner and drinks and eating and drinking with an Italian is —
— a marathon! [laughs]
You got it. [laughs]
Speaking of Walsh, he appears at the beginning of the film as a strong, quiet guy — but also a Small sly. Without spoiling the film, he plays a few cards close to his chest. What was the most difficult for you to maintain this balance as an actor?
I think the hardest thing for me was that some people visualize the strong, quiet type differently. Mauro really, really wanted to push for more of a Tom Cruise action hero. And, for me, I wanted to distance myself from Robert Knepper’s Sgt character. Brewer and Major Johnson’s Mickey Rourke character. I wanted Walsh to have a bit more of a sense of wonder and the poetic nature of what they’re looking for in this movie.
For me, the hard part was that I like to bring a certain sense of the weird to all my characters because maybe I’m a weird person myself. [laughs] But I like the idea that this character is someone we don’t fully understand until the third act. I like characters like that, where we learn with them and we learn about them.
There is some difficulty with this because everyone has to be on the same page and drag everyone along for the ride. There were definitely disagreements here and there, but I think in the end we all put together a movie that we had fun with and hopefully the audience will have fun too.
As it concerns war huntThe shooting goes, it’s mostly exterior shots. You are mostly outdoors for most of the filming schedule. What were the unexpected difficulties or even the happy surprises that accompanied a shoot like this?
Well, I would say that one of the blessings and curses of filming outside in the elements is that you are subject to what Mother Nature decides. I want to say this was the first week we had a lot of snow, and it was a big talk. “How are we going to film when there aren’t enough hair dryers on set to melt the snow?” The producers and directors talked and they said, “Okay, well, we’re making a supernatural movie. We can have some supernatural elements and go with it.” We were in a country infested with ticks. There were certainly natural hazards at play there, but the freezing cold and sudden snowfall were definitely one of the main challenges of making a film like this.
One of the things I thought about watching the movie was, “Are they using smoke machines?” Obviously, some special effects were added in post-production – and there are plenty of great wispy smoke scenes – but there are a ton of shots to mist people’s breath. I was like, “Are they really freezing on set?”
Oh, no, we were definitely frozen. As a southerner and an American, I was not as sensitive to it as some of my European colleagues. We had Swedish and Irish actors, and they all laugh at me because I thought three layers of cotton socks would help. They were like, “No, you just need woolen socks, mate.” So they gave me a shopping list after my second day, and I bought some new clothes.
Your character Walsh spends a lot of screen time with Robert Knepper, who has so much energy and strength. What really helped move the film in the right direction?
Well, as an actor, I firmly believe that the best conflict comes from actors who are comfortable with each other. I’ve done scenes with actors that I’m not quite comfortable with, especially when it comes to conflict scenes, and we don’t trust each other as much. So I don’t think it gets as deep as it can get, whereas Robert and I hit it off from day one. We both come from the theater. We’re both very artistic and play against our real personalities most of the time, and we get along wonderfully.
So every time we were in scenes together, we were really, really pushing each other. I tried to make him laugh, or I tried to break him up, or I tried to fuck with him a bit where he should have reacted differently than maybe in rehearsals. He would do the same for me. Being able to watch a seasoned actor like him play is what you want. You always want to learn. You always want to stay curious as an artist. Working with artists you admire is a blessing.
You portrayed Jasper in the dusk universe. You’ve spent so much time with this character and his world. If you had to imagine where Jasper is today and what he does, what would it be like?
It’s funny because I talked to some of my co-stars about it recently. Ashley Greene and Kellan Lutz and I recently hosted a fan convention in Chicago. It was so great to catch up and go out for dinner and talk. One of the things we talked about where these characters went in the future would be the next generation, basically, of vampires to come.
With their special abilities, how fascinating it would be to have… Let me start off by saying I’m a comic book nerd. I grew up on x-men, and one of my favorite comedic scenarios is when the X-Men lose all their powers, so I thought it would be a fascinating element to see what happens like that in the dusk universe. If a vampire came along, it could rob everyone of their pure powers, and suddenly the playing field was evened out, and you have all the runaway vampires from the government to somehow tie it into a more supernatural sense of hunted vampires. Go from apex predator to no longer being apex predator and see how that would affect the Cullens.
I thought it would be a fantastic story to explore in the future. And that’s one of those things where we lived and played those characters for many, many years. Once you’re a vampire, you’re still a vampire.
To the right? It must feel like a second skin at this point, playing this same character for so many years…
Yeah! I think one of the things that I really tried to imbue within the character is the sense of family because that’s extremely important to me. Ashley Greene and I had such great chemistry from day one. She’s not only a wonderful actress, but she’s also an incredibly sweet human being. And she has some really new and really amazing business ventures that show what a big heart she has.
It’s one of those things where there’s such a tightrope between portraying these characters that people love and adding something different and unique because we’re all unique individuals, but also embodying this character that means so much for so many people, it’s a delicate dance. But to do it with someone like Ashley, where sometimes you lead and other times you follow, we had such a great time. I think it shows. I think it shows on screen, from what I understand of all of this, of all the many people who sent Alison Jasper, #Jalice, or whatever they call us. It’s so cool to see that our work means something to people.
Watch the WWII-themed supernatural mystery unfold in Warhunt, arriving in theaters, VOD and digital on Friday, January 21.
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