Emmanuel Itier: How did you come to be part of The Last Airbender?
Jackson Rathbone: It started about three years ago. M Night [Shyamalan] and I kind of hit it off right then and there, but he wasn’t certain about me. He said he liked me and would keep me in mind. Then all of a sudden, a year later, he called me in for a different character. Then it was just a matter of balancing it with Eclipse. They’re both amazing companies, and they worked really closely together. A lot of Summit execs have been at Paramount previously, so there’s a bond there and it all worked out.
EI: What’s it like to open these two huge movies the same week?
JR: It’s definitely an experience. I’m blessed to be even in one movie and get seen!
Honestly, I’ve done projects that nobody has seen — and I’m kind of glad they didn’t, about some of those projects!
JR: I always learn from everything I do, but at some points you’re like, “I’m glad I
learned from that. And I’m glad nobody saw it!”
EI: But it’s sort of like you’re competing against yourself this week.
JR: That’s one of the cool things I try to do with my career – play as many different characters as possible, so I never feel like I’m competing with myself, even from one character to the next. A 200-year-old vampire who is fighting his instincts at every beckon call and is very, very pale is a little bit different than a 17-year-old warrior who becomes a rebel leader! It’s far different enough.
EI: What kind of training did you do?
JR: It was really geared toward kung fu and a power fist form, which is very aggressive, very strong movements throughout my training. I wanted to do a lot of wrestling and grappling to make him less of a tactical fighter — brave and just going head first in any battle he comes up against. I don’t have any super-duper powers, but I can still take out the Fire Nation with a boomerang, and that’s pretty sweet! I learned stick fighting for that. I did all these stick fighting scenes that never made it into the film, just to practice choreography and everything.
EI: What was Philly boot camp like?
JR: It’s pretty funny, getting used to acting under extreme circumstances, but it was fun and extremely exciting, and that’s why Night does all his films in Philadelphia, so he can be close to his family. And in Greenland, you never think you’re going to do something like that. It’s like, this is amazing, this is a part of my life and I’m always going to remember it. And we get it documented on camera! Night is much more old-school, and I appreciate that. It was a dream come true, to be able to work with a director like that, and it was sad to say goodbye at the end of the day, but it definitely informs your acting. It was such a magnificent sound stage built in Philly. It was amazing. And Night hooked me up in a bar and I got to play an hour long set on guitar. Then we got up with the house band. It was really fun.
EI: What kind of music do you like?
JR: Well, Spin.com called my group funky rock ‘n roll. I’m all across the board, but I dig The Rolling Stones and blues music and all that.
EI: You have such an enormous career and you’re so young. How do you deal with that, and what do you see in your future?
JR: I have an amazing family that really keeps me grounded. So at the end of the day, I’m the exact same person — just lucky at succeeding at what I’ve set out to do. And for the future for myself, I want to do a little bit of everything. I’ve already got my band, A Hundred Monkeys. I’ve produced a film this past year with my bandmate Jerry Anderson.
EI: What’s the film?
JR: It’s called Girlfriend — a really dark indie drama. It’s premiering on the festival circuit sometime this year. I can’t say where yet! We’re trying to work that, if you will, but it’s in the can. It’s done. We’re really just waiting for the right festival to premiere it. And then our band composed the original score for it, and I shot and directed a music video for a friend of mine’s song. And then I wrote a short film that I hope to direct sometime this year. I want to get more projects going with my production company. I’m looking to finish finding funding for this film called The Amazing Mr. Jones that I’m going to be producing and starring in, and then hopefully work my way around the camera and keep acting but also produce, direct, write, and keep playing music. Just do a little bit of everything.
EI: Wow, you’re a real renaissance boy!
JR: I know, but I’m not doing anything at the present. It’s bad. I gotta pick it up!