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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Life + Arts

RUMOR HAS IT: Wolf pack descends on Galleria

Actors Alex Meraz and Kiowa Gordon waited calmly Tuesday afternoon at the Four Seasons Hotel, sipping their Cokes slowly.

Unknowingly, they had walked into a trap full of screaming die-hard Twilight fans hungry for a taste of the upcoming film The Twilight Saga: New Moon, based on the second installment of author Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling series.

Meraz and Gordon will break out in New Moon as Paul and Embry Call, friends of Jacob Black, born of the Quileute tribe heritage.

In New Moon, Bella Swan is faced with the Quileute’s hidden secret of the mythological tale of men who can transform into wolves. The actual Quileute legend does state that the tribe descended from wolves, but unlike Meyer’s adaptation, the real legend states that people cannot transform back to wolf form once they are human.

Being Native American, Gordon said there are several differences between his tribe, the Hualapais, and the Quileutes.

‘My tribe doesn’t live in the same area. My tribe lives on top of the Grand Canyon, so it’s completely different’ Gordon said. ‘We have different languages, but we’re still connected spiritually and we’re still brothers and sisters.’

Meraz said that because of his heritage, he was able to portray the wolf pack’s culture realistically.

‘A different actor wouldn’t have the cultural background that we have,’ Meraz said. ‘We came with a more spiritual approach. I know for me, I prayed every day.’

Meraz said that his background also helped him get the role.

‘When I was auditioning, I asked for permission to represent the Quileute tribe from the people of the past, present and future in a respectful manner, also with the understanding that I’m not telling their story,” Meraz’ said.’ ‘It’s something that Stephenie took pieces from their mythology into her fantasy world.’

Even with the hype Twilight received, raking in over $380 million worldwide, Meraz said he had never heard of the Twilight series until the New Moon auditions.

‘When the first movie came out, I didn’t know anything about it, to tell you the truth. I was doing a lot of work in Canada, so I missed out on trends and addictions,’ Meraz said. ‘Sure enough, I heard about the wolf pack, and luckily I got a role. From what I heard from the casting directors, over 70,000 entries and submissions came for the roles, so it was like winning the lottery.’

Meraz,’ who has’ a background in art and dance, wasn’t new to portraying Native Americans in cinema, with works in The New World and as an indigenous dancer in the dance group, Dancing Earth.

‘Dancing Earth changed my life. I was living in Chicago bagging groceries,” Meraz said.’ ‘I met Rulan Tangen (choreographer of the film Apocalypto) and he got my first acting gig with Christian Bale and Colin Farrell. It was a very organic feeling to film this dynamic as Native Americans. It really helped me express myself on screen physically.’

For Gordon, New Moon was his first film after being discovered by Meyer herself in a church in Arizona.

‘I was pretty stoked that she would cast me as one of her characters. She told me about an open casting call in Phoenix, so I got an acting coach and auditioned for the role of Paul,’ Gordon said. ‘(Meyer) helped me a lot with that.’

New Moon also brings a new face to the directing chair, as Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass, American Pie, About A Boy) tackles the romance.

Catherine Hardwicke directed Twilight, and some die-hards may question the decision to use a male director in a project whose main voice is that of a teenage girl. Yet Meraz and Gordon feel the film will succeed.

‘Weitz’s direction wasn’t even about the action. He was all about the romance with the little nuances and subtleties,’ Meraz said. ‘It’s actually the complete opposite of what people’s expectations were. Chris was able to tackle the complexity and baggage this novel brings beautifully. He was able to blend and shape it into something that everyone can appreciate.’

Meraz said that the wolf pack was cast the way they were. Weitz even allowed them to do their own stunts, upon several requests against it.

‘We had this like 60-foot scaffolding for the cliff diving scene that we had to practice jumping off and landing on a small, 10-foot by 10-foot mattress,’ Meraz said. ‘At that point, you realize how tiny it is and you jump and realize you’re about to miss it. It’s pretty intense. I felt like I had been hit by a Mack truck the next day, I was so bruised. It was worth it.’

The wolf pack had to attend ‘wolf camp,’ an hour-and-a-half-long training session each day for three weeks to pack on muscles. Gordon said they ate lots of protein, about six meals a day. With the CGI visualization of the wolves, Meraz feared he would become another object.

‘As an actor, you worry if you’re going to have enough room to play and to breathe,’ Meraz said. ‘But they were really cool in letting me know what my wolf transformation would look like.

‘There’s this scene where I try to kill Bella, and I get to fight Jacob’s wolf. They showed me what was going on, what it would look like and the type of movements I could do. It was very evolved. I’m very blessed and honored.’

The Twilight Saga: New Moon hits theaters Nov. 19.

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