“Twilight” actress Nikki Reed made a big dent at SXSW this year, showing off her acting chops in the gritty indie “Snap” and singing opposite her husband (and former “American Idol” contestant) Paul McDonald at a number of live gigs throughout Austin for the music portion of the festival.
Like her musical foray, “Snap” is a passion project for Reed, who took on double duties as producer/star after reading Victor Teran’s script. Directed by Teran and Youssef Delara (“Filly Brown”), “Snap” centers on Jim Whitman (Jake Hoffman), a brilliant but painfully introverted dubstep musician who develops a crush on a young social worker, Wendy (Reed). Initially drawn in by Jim’s musical genius, Wendy soon comes to discover his inner demons as their romance takes a turn for the dour.
In between performing sets with McDonald in Austin last week, Indiewire sat down with Reed to discuss her unique experience at this year’s festival, getting her start by co-writing and acting in the coming-of-age Sundance smash “Thirteen,” and saying goodbye to “Twilight.”
You hold quite the unique position at this festival. What’s the whole experience of premiering a film here while showcasing your music been like?
I’m trying to just absorb everything that’s going on and stay in it. I’m just beginning in my life to realize the importance of staying in moments instead of just getting through work. Doing press for a film can feel like work, but music shows and stuff like that, I just need to be there and be in it.
It’s funny happenstance that “Snap” is such a music-based film.
Yeah, that’s weird right? I know nothing about dubstep and I said to the directors, “Do you think I need to research dustup for Wendy?” We came to the conclusion that Wendy would have a similar relationship to dustup that I have, which is a general appreciation for the music.
Making the film was really hard. It’s super dark. I’m scared of everything. I had to remain in a really dark place in that movie so it was hard to watch because it brings up all of the insecurities. Wendy is constantly questioning everything she does. I was in that place in my mind to reach such a vulnerable, kind of exposed place. It’s hard to watch because I go back to that.
Watching it I was reminded a lot of the first film I saw you in, “Thirteen.”
I love that movie. That will always be the most special film for obvious reasons.
Because of your personal ties to the material?
Yeah. It’s the first thing I ever did. It was that movie that made me want to go in this direction. I am where I am because of it.
Was taking on “Snap” a conscious decision to go back to darker material?
I guess it was. I don’t ever say to my agents (maybe I should), I want to do this because it’s mainstream, or I want to do this because it’s indie. I just like what I like. I read a script and if I love it, I love it. I loved what Youssef did with “Filly Brown.” I love the life — that movie had such life and such charisma. I was really attracted to such intelligent characters.
Most of the time when I read scripts for female characters, their purpose is exactly that. They’re put in the movie to serve a purpose, to be beautiful or be sexy. I just felt like Victor gave me the opportunity to play someone who had a different purpose.
The Q&A at the Alamo following the premiere got pretty heated when an audience member accused “Snap” of labeling schizophrenics as inherently violent. What do make of that viewpoint?
Certainly I don’t feel like I deserve to be attacked for anything. Art is provoking, it’s sensitive. Believe me, I’m very sensitive to that. I didn’t want to say this on stage because I didn’t want it to become a thing. My little brother’s autistic, and recently with the Newton shooting, Adam Lanza was autistic and yada yada… I was standing behind Autism Speaks to do everything I could to disassociate autism from violence. In this particular case, I can see why she was upset by that, but I feel like this film is for an intelligent audience; this is a specific story that taps into things that are very scary for people. Of course it would be absolutely crazy and ludicrous to say that everyone with schizophrenia is violent. If that’s what people take away from this, that’s their fault. It’s fiction. It’s a story.
You have the most fascinating journey out of the whole “Twilight” cast, given how you got into acting kind of haphazardly via “Thirteen” and now you’re part of one of the biggest film franchises of all time.
I feel like I’m not as enveloped by that as some of the other people i worked with. I don’t view myself as what other people in those films view themselves as. I don’t think I’m a superstar. I don’t feel it’s made me or it’s guaranteed anything for me. I just feel like I was a part of those things. I can disconnect from that. All of those things — fame, feeling loved by people that don’t know you — I don’t get excited by that. If anything, it makes me nervous and it gives me anxiety. I feel like I’m a part of something that isn’t real.
Now that the “Twilight” chapter in your life has wrapped, what kind of career do you envision for yourself?
I want to do everything I possibly can. When I talk about music and why I started singing (I started six months ago!), I think back to Rita Wilson. Rita Wilson’s like a mentor to me. If there’s any career I can model it would be Rita Wilson, Tina Fey or Nia Vardalos. That is so empowering, to be able to say fuck it, I’m not pretty enough for your movie, let me write my own role.
To be a woman and have that kind of power, that’s what I want to be. I want to create opportunities for other girls. With music, Rita, two years ago, decided to release an album at whatever age she is. That is what made me sing with Paul. I was scared of people judging me, but then I saw Rita sitting up there and I went, “Why am I not good enough?” I just want to try opening doors for myself and other people who have this desire to be creative.