Talks Breaking Dawn, wedding, Kristen, Robert.. Nice interview!
Every director who’s gone through the whirlwind circus that is filming and releasing a Twilight movie eventually gets to relax and breathe a sigh of relief, but Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls) still has miles and miles to go. Fans and critics will finally see what the Oscar-winner brings to the YA vampire franchise when The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 hits theaters Nov. 18, but if they find themselves displeased with his treatment of Stephenie Meyer’s beloved novel, it could be a tough year’s wait until Condon’s simultaneously-shot series ender (Breaking Dawn - Part 2) concludes the series next fall.
But! Judging from the temperature of the Twilight community thus far, Condon probably needn’t feel anxious; he’s played the Summit game so far with palpable enthusiasm for the tale of one Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her angst-ridden coming of age saga, earning fan support along the way. Fully aware that much rides on getting Breaking Dawn - Part 1’s big moments right — the wedding, the honeymoon, the butter-hued love-making, and its gory repercussions — Condon collaborated creatively with the series’s best expert (Stewart, “the biggest Twi-hard in the world”) but took care to put his own cinematic stamp on Breaking Dawn.
Condon rang Movieline the other week and discussed his pre-release nerves, the Breaking Dawn on set dance-off that warmed his heart, the question of the “gay sensibility” he may or may not have brought to the Twilight franchise, what big plans might be in store for Breaking Dawn 1 & 2 on DVD/Blu-ray, and more.
How are you feeling in this moment, knowing the films about to start being seen, finally, after all this time?
I know! Well, anxious, obviously. But excited, too. Because you live in a cocoon for so long, and we don’t do big previews or anything like that, so it’ll be fun, you know?I think the big three — wedding, honeymoon, birth. You just felt like those, you’ve got to get right.
Breaking Dawn - Part 1 is a part of the Twilight Saga that contains a lot of big important life events happen to Bella Swan — the wedding, the honeymoon, the birth of a child, and what comes after that… which of those big moments did you feel the most pressure to nail?I think the big three — wedding, honeymoon, birth. You just felt like those, you’ve got to get right. But man, I would say the most pressure might have been the wedding. Just because, my god, everybody has an idea of what it should be like. And I have to say, ultimately I kind of stayed with that one idea: What’s Bella feeling? For each of those three things. And once you sort of do it through that prism, things start falling into place. So that it really because about, what is she feeling as she walks down that aisle? But you have this incredible collaborator in Kristen Stewart. The wedding made us all anxious, but excited.
Did Kristen have a lot to say, a lot of input into how the wedding came together?
Absolutely. She was a big collaborator in the design of the dress, and in general… as you know, she’s like the biggest Twi-hard in the world, and she’s very tough on herself as well. She had a list of things she was most anxious to get right, and I think the wedding was a huge part of that. Just making sure that she could express as much as possible — and again, it’s all happening on her face. That’s not dialogue, that’s not anything. It’s just to express as much of what’s going on inside that character as she could.
So in a way, it’s like you and Kristen planned the wedding together.
Rumor has it there is a musical number in the wedding scene. True?
This has gotten a little [distorted]… there’s no musical number. No. All there is, is that people dance at the wedding so we brought a choreographer in; Ashley [Greene] and Jackson [Rathbone] are both great dancers, and they just chill out for a moment. That’s all it is.But there was some sort of dance battle on set?
There was. It was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. In that second movie, as you know from the book, a half hour takes place in this one location, this on field. And we shot there for — when you include the second unit it was a couple of months, but the first unit was there for many weeks - and we came to the last, widest shot, with 80 vampires on one side and 27 vampires on the other. I’m sitting up the ladder and suddenly you hear this music — “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” — and suddenly the Cullen side starts this incredible, West Side Story kind of rumble dance, and of course the other vampires then start to dance back. It was unbelievably great.
Did you film that? Is that something that will be seen on the Blu-ray?
I think there was a lot of B-camera rolling, and stuff like that. So that will all come out - but it’s the second movie.
Who was responsible for that?
It was a couple of actors who organized it. I know Myanna Buring was behind it, and Lee Pace. There were a couple of others, I should figure out exactly who. But they kept it a secret! They rehearsed this number for a week and kept it a secret! It was great. It was so great.
From the very beginning of your involvement with this franchise, you’ve seemed to be very mindful of the fans — reaching out to them, seeing what they want. To be honest, that’s been kind of necessary with this franchise from the beginning. That kind of dialogue is great to have, but is there a point that you feel as an artist that too much fan fealty is dangerous?
Yes. I do think ultimately, if it’s going to have any integrity it’s going to be your vision of what this book should be, and that involves telling it well in a cinematic way — for example, I’ve already heard people questioning, why is Irina at the wedding? Well, she’s there so that you can sort of see what her predicament is as opposed to hear about it later on. Necessary changes, you know? Just to make a good movie. So yeah, I think at a certain point you have to hope that the people who want it to be a literal transcription of the book, when they see it, understand that you’re working in a different medium.
There are some interesting cinematic things you’ve done that seem to make that point — one is the use of Bride of Frankenstein in your Edward flashback. What was the thinking behind that?
We sort of watched Edward have this heavy cloud this whole time, and it’s referred to in the book; it actually came out of a discussion with Rob Pattinson. He’d been playing something that was described in the book with just a couple of lines — this period when he broke away from Carlisle and wasn’t a vegetarian anymore. He sort of explored what it was like to hunt humans. And he only killed terrible men, murderers, things like that, but the point is it made him… he says, “I looked her your eyes and saw who I was, when I’d become a monster,” and it was only after this period that he returned to Carlisle and fully embraced their way of living. But it always remained sort of a heavy burden for him, and that’s something that Rob had been playing. I was like, “Well god, you’ve been playing that without even seeing that.” So as a last moment before the wedding he does kind of lay out one last argument for why Bella might want to rethink it, you know? And that gave me a chance to show him, in that period — in the early ’30s in Chicago, and in this case, in a movie theater. And of course I chose Bride of Frankenstein as the movie he’s watching. Partly because it’s one of my favorite movies, and one of the greatest horror movies ever made. But also, it’s sort of this story, isn’t it? [Laughs]
She is the bride of Frankenstein!
It’s so fitting! And there was something ironic about it, too, that all these people are screaming at the screen when actually this vampire is walking among them. So I think there are a lot of levels in which that works, and that is again something that’s not in the book but is [done] in the spirit of the book.
When you look at this franchise and where you came in, Catherine Hardwicke, Chris Weitz, and David Slade each put their stylistic spin on the material. It’s been remarkable how much of a directorial stamp there is to every film. How would you describe yours?
Well, first of all, that’s kind of the reason it seemed interesting to do; there wasn’t some template you were fitting in to. They each are so different from the others. For me, it’s kind of a classic Hollywood genre of romantic melodrama that I really like, so that was part of it, really embracing that that was such a strong aspect of, certainly, the first movie. And also, I have roots in horror and I think the second half of the first movie is closer to being a flat-out horror movie than probably any of the others.
Kellan Lutz recently did an interview in The Advocate — I don’t know if you read it…
I heard that, but I haven’t read it yet.
They asked him if he felt that you brought a “gay sensibility” to Breaking Dawn.
That’s interesting. What is a “gay sensibility?” It’s just a sensibility, but part of who you are is that you’re gay.
Do you think that’s a fair question to ask, even for a publication like The Advocate?
[Pause] I think it is. I mean, obviously it’s so reductive. What is a “gay sensibility?” It’s just a sensibility, but part of who you are is that you’re gay. So in a way, yes and no — you know? Now I’ve got to read it and hear what he said. But you know, I think what’s legitimate about it is that the thing that’s really remarkable about Twilight, to me, is that it’s not necessarily about teenage boys’ concerns. Certainly that’s an aspect of it with Jacob and the wolves and all that, but it really puts things that are more explicitly female center-stage in a tent pole that a ton of people go to see. I think probably that stuff interests me more than another comic book action movie might, or blowing up trains and things. So in a way, I can see that that makes some sense.
Looking at the Twilight Saga overall and its success, it’s a franchise that can be called, undeniably, critic-proof. Does it still matter to you to get good reviews come opening day, and do you feel critics who were harsh on previous Twilight films will react differently to Breaking Dawn?
You know, you can’t have any expectations in any direction. I’ll say this, from which I may someday recover, I do absolutely take critics seriously. I read critics all the time about everything, so of course I’m nervous and anxious and hope they give us a fair shot. But what will be, will be.
Where are you with Breaking Dawn - Part 2 at the moment? It must be insane in your brain, juggling promotion on Part 1 while working to finish Part 2.
Totally. Well, we finally finished Part 1 [a few weeks ago], and then everyone took a break and we’re going to get back together on Monday. It’s not a director’s cut but we have a good, solid cut of the movie together which we’re going to keep refining through the holidays and then get into more seriously at the beginning of the year. But we’re deep into it.
Does it give you some relief to have that cushion of time to finish Part 2?
Absolutely, because it is a big, sprawling, epic movie. And it’s also nice to know, as you launch into it, that there isn’t another one on the other side of it. [Laughs] It’s just this one now, it’s just these two hours.
Is there much footage in Breaking Dawn — Part 1 that you had to edit out that you’d like to put back in?
No, honestly. The movie is very tight, which is what I wanted.
Will there be a director’s cut, and how different will it be from the theatrical version?
That’s a good question. We’re figuring it out, but it would be quite down the line. I don’t think there will be one when the movie comes out on DVD, but maybe because of the two movies together — I’m just talking way, way, way down the line — they look at a way which becomes one incredibly long movie.
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