You Must Know: Joe Anderson

Summit Entertainment

Yes, this post is titled You Must Know, but in truth, you probably already Do Know Joe Anderson. However, the actor is such a cinematic chameleon, it's totally understandable why his name doesn't immediately conjure up memories of his amazing work in Across The Universe, The Ruins, The Crazies, The Grey or, even, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2.

Thanks to countless wigs, varying degrees of facial hair, an impressive mastery of accents and the ability to transform his physicality, Anderson tends to be nearly unrecognizable from one project to the next. A true skillset, but as he tells me, it can also be a detriment to an actor trying to gain a foothold in Hollywood.

ETonline: Given your propensity for smaller budget films, I was kind of surprised to see you in the final Twilight film.

Joe Anderson: It wasn't something I would expect myself to go after either. Especially knowing how secretive they can be with these massive franchises in terms of plot, character and how faithful they're going to be to the books. To be quite frank, artistically, my taste is at the other end of the spectrum. My moviemaking isn't necessarily that of this kind of franchise, but you just commit to the madness of the moment, and that's what makes these kind of wacko experiences fun.

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ETonline: So what made you want to get involved?

Anderson: I was surprised actually by how funny the movie was, and how much great comedic stuff they were able to get in there. When I got the tiny audition sides, the small amount I was given of Alistair tasted really interesting. I felt like this was something I could actually do something with.

ETonline: What were you drawn to in the character?

Anderson: When you read something in script form, there are some subtleties that stand out with far greater gravitas than sometimes what you see on screen. If you're a fan of Twilight and understand who Alistair is from the books, you know the premonition aspect of it and why he disappears when he does. When you're viewing the movie, with so many other elements on screen, it can seem like the guy disappears for no reason, but fans know his true motives.

ETonline: From an acting standpoint, does your approach change when working on a big budget movie versus an independent film?

Anderson: It's an interesting thing. It's very dependent on the individual and the actor themselves as to how they approach the work. With The Crazies, we had a lot of room to play and manipulate and change things. When you get something bigger, you have less control in that sense unless you're one of the three stars. Sometimes you're more of a sculptor and other times you just pay homage to the material rather than help sculpt it. Being a sculptor can feel quite empowering, but at the same time, if you're in a massive blockbuster, you're kind of just happy to be there.

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ETonline: It often takes me a few minutes to even realize I'm watching you in a movie given how different you look for every role. Are you intentionally trying to change up your look for every role, or is it simply a side-effect of the roles you're drawn to?

Anderson: I went to drama school in The UK where we did endless Chekov plays. You'd be forced into playing the 85-year-old drunk grandfather, the young female love interest and every shade and sex in between. So there was something about learning that you can physically change to add to the performance. Also, I didn't want to come to Hollywood as "The Englishman." I wanted to blend in. If you don't look like a hardcore scary redneck, then make yourself look like one. And it's fun, it's dress up.

ETonline: Can being a chameleon end up working against an up-and-coming actor?

Anderson: It's absolutely been a double-edged sword. It's not like people really recognize me yet. Some of the projects I choose have a lot to do with breaking that chameleon-thing for a bit and do some work where people might put two and two together and recognize me from gig to gig.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.