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MOVIES: Interview with the vampires

File Photo: Jonathan Phillips. "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" cast members Jamie Campbell Bower and Edi Gathegi sign autographs for fans at the Mall of Georgia on Nov. 12. Campbell plays the role of Caius while Gathegi reprises his role as Laurent in the upcoming sequel to the adapted books by Stephenie Meyer.

File Photo: Jonathan Phillips. "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" cast members Jamie Campbell Bower and Edi Gathegi sign autographs for fans at the Mall of Georgia on Nov. 12. Campbell plays the role of Caius while Gathegi reprises his role as Laurent in the upcoming sequel to the adapted books by Stephenie Meyer.

Jamie Campbell Bower was amused when he heard the term "fanpire" for the first time recently.

"Fanpires," he said, trying it out with his British accent. "I like that. I do like that."

Bower was aware of the term "Twihards," the moniker coined to describe uber fans of "The Twilight Saga." The series of four books written by author Stephenie Meyer, the first two of which have been made into films, has drawn a cult-like following from tweens and teens to "Twilight" moms.

"New Moon," the second film in the wildly popular series, was released today.

Bower and fellow "New Moon" castmate Edi Gathegi greeted local Twihards and fanpires last week at the Mall of Georgia, where fans turned out in droves for the opportunity to see the stars.

What does Bower think is the appeal of "The Twilight Saga"?

"I think Stephenie's stories came at a time when young people sort of needed something to believe in," he said. "They'd lost faith in themselves, they'd lost faith in the government, they'd lost faith in just life. And Stephenie's stories come along and give people hope again, gives them this idea of love, this dangerous love someone can have. It makes you feel alive."

Bower acknowledges previous generations have reinvented vampires, "but Stephenie's are so far removed from the norm that it makes it much more interesting," he said. "Plus, they're sexy. Besides the Volturi, they're not old guys sitting in thrones with long capes. Edward Cullen is a sexy vampire. That's what it's all about. Girls and chicks really dig that."

The vampires in Meyer's stories are sexy and powerful. Of all the talents the "Twilight" vamps possess -- the ability to read minds, manipulate emotions, sense relationships, control the elements and even more fantastical talents -- Gathegi would want precognition.

"Absolutely without a shadow of a doubt, Alice's power, the ability to see the future," Gathegi said.

In "New Moon," vampire Alice Cullen foresees the events that propel Edward, her adopted brother, to Italy to seek death at the hands of the ruling vampires there, the powerful Volturi.

Bower would possess a more sinister ability.

"I'd go for Jane's power," the actor said, referring to one of the Volturi's guards who can create the illusion of pain in someone's mind. "Just 'cause if someone gets my order wrong at Starbucks that's what I feel like I should be doing," Bower laughed, as he and Gathegi began to verbally create the potential coffee shop scene.

While Bower's will be a fresh face in "New Moon" as Caius, one of the Volturi triumvirate's powerful leaders, Gathegi reprises his role as vampire Laurent, who in the first film abandoned his comrades James and Victoria to warn the Cullen family of James' abilities as a tracker. James had set his sights on Bella Swan, the accident-prone teen who moved to the small Washington town of Forks and fell in love with the vampire, Edward Cullen. While James is a vampire with no qualms about draining Bella's life force, Edward and his vampire family are unique to the species. They consider themselves vegetarians since they live off the blood of animals rather than bite humans.

While Laurent left Forks for Alaska in the first film, he returns to Washington in "New Moon," after an attempt at maintaining the Cullens' vegetarian lifestyle. A rather unlucky solo hike through the forests near the town places the very human Bella in Laurent's path.

"He really is a traditional vampire," Gathegi said of his character. "But he used to be this traditional vampire with morals. Now he's a traditional vampire who's like, 'I tried the whole moral thing and it just left me hungry and I don't like it.' He sees Bella and Bella's the most delicious thing he's smelled since he stopped being a vegetarian."

Gathegi was able to secure an audition for the role of Laurent because he knew the casting director for "Twilight."

"I went in there not expecting anything because I didn't really like the material," he recalled.

While that might strike a blow to the hearts of fans everywhere, Gathegi clarified his initial assessment.

"It wasn't the whole script," he said. "All it was my scene talking about the humans tracking us and I thought, 'Well what the hell is this?' If I'm saying the humans are tracking us, then I'm not a human and I don't want to do that. I'm not into that kind of thing."

But after meeting "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke (who was replaced by Chris Weitz for "New Moon") Gathegi changed his mind about the role.

"She explained to me what was going on in the scene and she had such great energy," he said, "and I loved her and wanted to work with her."

Gathegi's initial view of the material shifted even more drastically.

"When I got the part, I read the books and I was like, 'Oh my god, this is amazing. I can't believe I'm in this,'" he remembered.

Fortunately for Bella, her interlude with Laurent in "New Moon" is cut short by the introduction of a new supernatural species: a pack of werewolves who are the enemy of vampires.

Unbeknownst to Bella, her best friend, Jacob, has joined other young men in the local Quileute Indian tribe who have developed, like their ancestors of legend, the ability to transform into wolves to protect their people from the "cold ones."

Gathegi said the wolves add a new element to the story.

"(Fans) can expect very much the same tone and romantic flavor (from 'Twilight') and also a new action element," he said. "So I think we're going to get some Twihard, fanpire males that are going to enjoy the movie cause it's got a lot more action in it."

The wolves aren't the only characters that will serve up some action in "New Moon."

Like Laurent, Caius is one of the vampires in "New Moon" who threaten Bella. After racing to Italy to save her beloved Edward, she is brought with Edward, along with Alice, before Caius and the other Volturi leaders, where the talents of the Cullen vampires are pitted against the powers of the Volturi and their guard.

"The fight scene is absolutely amazing. It looks phenomenal," Bower said of the scene in the film. It took us a week-and-a-half to shoot that alone. (Director) Chris (Weitz) has done some fantastic things with it."

Bower said fans would likely be impressed by the vampire Felix.

"Dan Cudmore (who plays Felix) is a big guy, so expect to be wowed by his bigness," said Bower, who was even a little concerned about the physical safety of the cast members during filming.

"I was a little concerned for both Rob (Pattinson, who plays the role of Edward) and (his) stunt guy," he said.

"There's some hefty stuff going on in there like pulling people by the neck over one's head sans wire."

Bower had wanted to be a part of "Twilight" and even did a taped audition for the role of Edward. But due to scheduling conflicts, the British actor couldn't meet with the casting director in person.

"And then Rob came along and they fell in love with Rob," Bower said. "I'm sure I wasn't the last person (they were considering), I'm sure there were lots of other people, but I really wanted it."

When casting for the second film began, Bower was in Los Angeles, auditioned and snagged the role of Caius.

The rest, as they say, is history.