One of the reasons Jackson Rathbone wanted to be part of the new horror film, “Warhunt,” was that it would give him the opportunity to work with veteran actor Mickey Rourke. Rathbone had been a fan of Rourke’s work for years.
Rathbone never planned on a pandemic messing up those plans. Because of COVID restrictions that changed the filming schedule, Rathbone and Rourke never got to work together.
“I got to work with his stunt double and he got to work with mine,” Rathbone says with a touch of disappointment in his voice.
The fact he didn’t get to work with an actor that he admired was a negative, but Rathbone found the overall experience of working on “Warhunt” to be very positive. It started with him getting to be in a production that was a blend of horror and military movies.
In 1945, a United States military cargo plane crashes behind enemy lines in the middle of the German Black Forest. The job of securing the secrets on the airplane falls to Major Johnson (Mickey Rourke), a ruthless leader of men.
He sends his bravest soldiers – led by Sergeant Brewer (Robert Knepper) – on a rescue mission to retrieve the top-secret material the plane was carrying. Joining the team is Walsh (Jackson Rathbone), a soldier who is a man of mysteries.
The soldiers soon discover hanged Nazi soldiers and other dead bodies bearing ancient, magical symbols. What started out as a military mission soon becomes a battle against supernatural forces.
The combination of elements of a war movie with horror is not a natural cinematic combination. But, Rathbone saw the blending of the two genres as a perfect fit.
“I think the horrors of war is a saying that we hear all the time especially when studying history,” Rathbone says. “I think to put the supernatural into a period film is something that is really fantastic.
“I’ve seen it a couple of times and each time I’ve seen it, I’ve loved it.”
The genre blend meant Rathbone had to take on a very complicated character. He had to decide if he was a soldier first and then a demon fighter. There were questions about loyalty to the mission but curiosity in terms of the creatures being faced. There was even the simple question of whether his character is a good guy or not.
Rathbone’s process for creating characters over the years has always been to start with figuring out who the role he is playing is as a human being. That means creating in his own mind the history of the character.
“We make decisions in our lives based on our upbringing and our past,” Rathbone says. “That’s why I like spending as much time as possible discovering who this character really is and then letting him fight the demons based on who he is.”
Rathbone has been using this approach since he started working as a professional actor in 2005. His credits over the years include such television series as “Beautiful People,” “Aim High,” “Finding Carter” and “The Last Ship.”
He has also appeared in numerous movies but none has given him more attention and notoriety as portraying Jasper Hale in “The Twilight” film series. It has been more than 13 years since he stepped into that franchise but his connection to it remains extremely strong.
He jokes that once you play a vampire you will always be thought of as a vampire. He’s OK with the close association to “Twilight” because he knows those films brought a lot of joy to moviegoers and that’s what he has always wanted to do as an actor.
Movies like “Warhunt” are giving Rathbone the opportunity to show that he can play a variety of roles. In the case of “Warhunt” that meant working in a dark and damp forest setting in Latvia.
Rathbone found the setting to be a great help in playing the role.
“It is a beautiful country but they have these insane woods that stretch for hundreds of miles,” Rathbone says. “It is funny because when you look at the movie, it looks so good that it doesn’t look real.
“But, we would drive an hour out to the woods where we would be filming with the ticks and the wolves and the moss and the trees. One day it would be snowing and the next day it would be sunny. It was the perfect setting for a supernatural story.”
The location worked well for Rathbone because he had a creepy forest where he could work and bond with his castmates. When he was done filming, Rathbone would go back to the city where his wife and children were waiting as he got to take them with him during filming.
Except for missing the opportunity to work with Rourke, Rathbone was very happy with every other aspect of his military/horror film.
“Warhunt” opens in theaters and will be available through digital platforms starting Jan. 21.