As promised, here’s the first of two parts of our Twilight site interview with Bill Condon which took place this summer just before the MTV Movie Awards.
The sites participating in the interview other than myself include: Twilight Facebook, Twilight Lexicon, Twilighters Anonymous, Twilight Moms, Twilight Series Theories, and Twilight Source. The interview began just after screening the first ten minutes of the film.
Bill Condon: [Filming in Brazil] was so fun. That’s how we started the movie, too. We spent our first couple weeks there, you know. And it was so great to actually feel, you know—it was actually our biggest experience of fans, kind of being on the set or tracking Rob and Kristen. It actually calmed down after that, but you really felt the excitement when you were there, you know?
Was the fan interaction—I mean that was the one scene where it seemed like there were a lot of people around during filming . . .Was that distracting or did it help elevate the mood?
Bill Condon: Uh, it was weird ‘cause that was again like our second night and it was—I didn’t know what to expect and actually, it turned out to be the most extreme of anything that happened through the whole movie. But when we’re on the streets of Lapa, suddenly, you know, we’re shooting something and this girl suddenly jumps into the shot and throws herself on Rob, goes “ha ha ha ha,” gets pulled off, and I think she was beheaded. I never saw her again . . . Something happened to her. But after that—but yeah, it was a little crazy there. Yeah, Definitely.
How much of the fandom did you know about before you jumped into this?
Bill Condon: We’d gotten big lectures from all the people at Summit about what it was going to be like. And I actually have to say, in Baton Rouge we were in the studio the whole time, so it was actually really under control, you know. It was actually only being on the streets in Brazil that we saw it.
How much fun was it scouting the locations? I mean, I guess next to Chris Weitz getting to go to scout out in Italy—
Bill Condon: I know! Can you imagine? Yeah.
—You probably had the next most exciting things to go scout. How involved were you in the scouting of the locations?
Bill Condon: Well, I mean Richard Sherman scouted first. He spent a month there ‘cause it was tough to find Isle Esme, you know?
Jack Morrissey: Richard Sherman’s the production designer . . .
Bill Condon: And then I got to go to the last five possibilities or something like that. But it was great. I mean, scouting in a boat and stopping off for lunch at the little fish place on an island…No problems there. It was fun.
How familiar with the series were you before you decided to pop into the last installment?
Bill Condon: Right. Pretty familiar, I guess. But not you know—I wouldn’t say I was a student of it but I was aware of them all and had seen them all. But then obviously once I jumped in it was really about Twilight Lexicon and it was the books and re-reading and just making sure that we had everything right. You know things like—you saw the—Rob’s thing about [referencing a clip showing a glimpse into Edward’s past where he is at a movie theatre stalking “human monsters”] “I haven’t told you everything about myself” and there was a moment when I moved away from Carlisle. That’s only one line I think in the first book, you know, and he’d mentioned it one offhanded comment in one of the movies. But that was an example of something where the first time I met with Rob we had a long great night, many, many, many beers [laughter] and um, he said that one thing that had frustrated him a little is that—I guess that had been more developed in the first book, that was from Edward’s point of view, and it kind of informed the way he was playing the part throughout the whole movie. This sense of self-loathing and guilt that came from having killed humans for that period and yet, it had never been explored in the movies. So it felt like then I went back and looked at the section that described it in Twilight and I felt like, God, what better time right before a wedding to lay out the last objection, you know? And to have it also explain who he’s been, and then in the wedding you’ll see he has a toast where he said—he talks about the fact “to find that one person who can look at you, know everything there is to know about you and still accept you for who you are. I’m ready to move on.” So that being caught in this perpetual 17, and this perpetual kind of—I think you’ll see starting from the moment he gets married he moves on. The performance changes . . . It’s about him becoming a man. So I think that will be an interesting shift for people, you know? So that—the whole idea of just sort of, between discussions with him, going back finding a line in the first book and then deciding to dramatize that with an episode of him being someone who was on the hunt for human blood felt like something we hadn’t seen before.
Speaking of that scene, I was really interested in the whole black/white dynamic—
Bill Condon: Sure.
—and I guess it was a parallel to the Frankenstein movie that was on [in the scene where Edward is in a movie theater in the 1920’s the film that is playing is Bride of Frankenstein] . . .
Bill Condon: I think in a way it was sort of. I mean, there are a lot of levels. One of them is that—I just like the fun that they’re all screaming at Frankenstein and they’ve got Edward in their midst — walking behind them, but also, yeah, he’s become the monster in the movie. And actually, the whole movie turns out to be creating his bride. I mean, basically at the end that is what he’s done. Also, the tone of that movie is very similar when you’ve got Aro cackling—it’s similar tonally to a movie like that, and then finally the black and white thing that we do there is just like—as he kills people the color goes away and then it comes into him. So just a film language way to kind of give that sense, you know.
Should we expect to see a lot of that kind of playing with new dimensions that we haven’t seen before in the other [films]?
Bill Condon: Yeah, I think so. You know why I think? Because in this movie it’s Jacob, in the next movie it’s Bella. You know as that surprising thing that Stephenie did in the book where having told the story through Bella’s point of view, then suddenly she shifted to Jacob’s point of view in the middle, and then you’re back to Bella’s. In this movie you do—there is this chunk of movie where you get inside the head of what it’s like to be a wolf. So that involves a certain stylization. And then in the next movie, the big change is we’ve been watching these vampires from Bella’s point of view but now it’s like we—because we are her—now it’s like you’re inside what it’s like to be a vampire. What it’s like to move that fast. What it’s like to have those powers. What it looks like. What the world looks like through her eyes. So both of those—they are more—it does become more the point of view of those characters and you get more—it’s more immersive, I think, and that involves a certain kind of stylization.
I love that you’re talking point of view. I mean one of the things that I really love and that other people love too about the movies is that because the books are first person, either from Bella’s point of view or Jacob’s point of view, that now you get to expand out into that scene in Volterra—
Bill Condon: That’s right. Yes.
—and you get to see that total—what you only can imagine is occurring. How much collaboration did you have with Stephenie Meyer on those sort of alternate point of view moments that you don’t see in the books, but clearly were happening to get everything to spin.
Bill Condon: Right. Well, I think my kind of most intense collaboration was with Melissa Rosenberg—Stephenie was there and part of it all the time, and then—but we were the ones who sort of day-by-day, once I got involved in a rough outline form, we would be there kind of shaping what the scripts would be, and then Stephenie, along with the other producers, would have comments and things like that. Obviously, she’s this great resource that we would go to all the time.
So how much collaboration did you do on the day to day script writing? I mean after doing Chicagoand doing Dreamgirlsas a screenwriter, I was wondering how’s the adaptation different going from a musical to a movie to going from this large volume of a book to a movie?
Bill Condon: Right, which I’d done before too. Gods and Monsters was an adaptation of a book, so that was something, but Melissa wrote these scripts—which was great ‘cause I mean you know I jumped into this in March or April or something and we were shooting—you know if you’re prepping two movies and all that stuff—so it was sort of just—it was kind of overwhelming right there in the beginning. So Melissa, who knew it so well and is such a solid, strong writer—we would collaborate and talk through scene after scene after scene, structure, all that stuff, and then she’d come back. And it was really very, as I said, very intense for several months. But it was her. It was her knowing the stuff inside out…and creating. She’s done a lot of creating too on these movies.
Speaking of Melissa and Stephenie, I think it was you that pointed out the cameo first—how did that come about? Who’s idea was that?
Bill Condon: Um, I kinda like nudged them all into doing it . . . And I stuck them in the back so you could see them as Bella’s coming down the aisle and get a good glimpse of them, you know.
Thank you on behalf of all of us!
Bill Condon: Oh good! Well it makes sense ‘cause she was at the diner, right? And they [the Cullens] don’t have that many friends, you know.
Which part of Breaking Dawn do you think is going to be the most exciting for the fans? Part 1 or Part 2?
Bill Condon: You know what’s interesting about them? All the three—one of the reasons getting involved I was excited is that all three movies are so different. One thing, they each have the director’s style of whoever did it, and these two movies are incredibly different one from the other. They’re like—this is a very—I always think of this movie as being kind of the bookend to the first Twilight. It’s very much Bella’s, you know, kind of private journey from where she starts to being—to becoming a vampire, getting what she wants, you know. But there isn’t that kind of external threat in this movie, you know? The Volturi are always out there but they’re not really breathing down their necks. It’s really Bella making her way to what she wants to be and staying alive. The second movie is epic. The second movie is—you know the whole world kind of converging in this one place to deal with these big major issues about what it means to be a vampire.
You had some parts where—about the sex scenes. Did you have some concerns? Because it’s going to be PG-13.
Bill Condon: Yes.
Did you have some concerns [with] the sex things?
Bill Condon: Yeah, I guess . . . Well I think—yeah I think obviously we weren’t doing anything explicit but I think it’s also important to really—they’re married now—to really express this great connection that they have and to put it into physical terms, you know. So . . .
Stemming from [an earlier] question, coming from a musical background how excited are you to be involved in the whole music process with Carter Burwell who’s done phenomenal scores in the past—
Bill Condon: He has.
–what tone do you want to convey going into the movie, ‘cause we obviously didn’t see any music with this [Breaking Dawn footage screened]?
Bill Condon: Right, right.
What tone or feel do you want to convey in your head to Carter, or is it more just Carter’s vision?
Bill Condon: No. You know Carter and I have worked together a lot before too, Gods and Monsters and Kinsey, and then he did this first movie. So it’s—I mean we have a collaboration that goes way back and we were just talking the other day. He’s going to come out next week. So it is—again because he did the first movie and now he’s picking up, I think that bookend nature of it will be kind of really heightened by his involvement. But I think like any other movie it’s just now we go and we talk through every moment. Here what’s interesting is that there’s a style that’s been set up that really works—and I think we shot to reflect this—where songs do tell a lot of the story, too, and that way it’s a little bit like a musical. There are all these ballads. You know, when she figures out that she’s pregnant and suddenly he leaves for a second, and she has a moment where she looks in the mirror and falls in love with her baby and looks at herself and said, “You are going to be a mother.” That’s a minute and a half, just three long shots, but it’s all about where that music takes you inside her head again. And there is a musical number . . . At the wedding. A very short one but there’s a dance number. We had a choreographer, who is one of the chorus boys from Chicago who’s now a big choreographer up there.
On the same note as music: all of the directors so far have had kind of say on the soundtrack choices—
Bill Condon: Right.
—at least one that they picked themselves. Do you have someone in mind that you hope to see?
Bill Condon: For songs?Yeah, we’ve been doing that all along, you know. Quite a few of them actually. And what’s interesting I think it’s gotten, in a way, easier and easier because like amazing bands now write songs and submit them. So I mean we’ve got Alex Patsavas, who’s done the music supervising for all these movies. I think we’re up to CD ten or eleven or something like that . . .Eleven. Each of which has eighteen songs in it. So that’s what? Two hundred songs with amazing people you’ve all heard of who have written Twilight songs for us to choose from. So it’s really . . . yeah.
Jack Morrissey: And all unreleased. The golden rule stands of: if it’s been released, if you’ve heard it, it will not be in the movie.
When you first read the script, you know you get pictures in your head of things, what scene from when you read it—what was the one that was like the clearest in your head of “Oh, this is how I want to do this.” And did that actually—when you shot it, did it actually come out that way?
Bill Condon: That’s a good question. You know what it was? It was the lovemaking. And it wasn’t in the script. There was no script. But it was reading the book and figuring out an approach to that. I think I had a very simple idea right away that I wanted to try, and I think that’s part of why they hired me. I think it was sort of like—I think it made some sense, you know? And that’s exactly the way we shot it, and it’s in the movie now until the MPAA sees it. But so far so good!
Jack Morrissey: Don’t worry. It’ll stay. That will stay.
Bill Condon: Yeah, that’ll stay.
So what initially really drew you to want to kind of take on this project, ‘cause it’s exciting but it’s also kind of daunting I’m sure—
Bill Condon: Oh it is. Yeah.. . . Well it’s like I started out in genre movies, so I’ve always been looking for a chance to get back into that, you know? And this—and also, it’s not just the genre stuff but also a certain kind—I have a reverence for old Hollywood films, you know, and it seems to me this also reflects the kinds of movies that Vincente Minnelli would make. You know romantic melodramas that are really heightened and with a great use of color and style to tell a woman’s story. All that really appealed to me about it, I have to say. If it had—the fact that it was two movies and back-to-back, that was…um, a consideration, you know. That didn’t seem like the most exciting prospect . . . But on the other side of it, it’s—I’m glad we did it, you know?
Are you working on anything involving Part 2 right now? I mean what’s going with that? How do you balance both of them?
Bill Condon: Well you know Ginny [Virginia Katz] edits as we go along, and then we would talk on the weekends and stuff. So we have a pretty good rough assembly of Part 2 that Ian, the associate editor, is still working on in terms of putting second unit stuff in and stuff like that. ‘Cause soon enough we have to start, even though it’s a year away, getting some of that effects stuff going. But basically it’s in a drawer for the next six weeks until we’ve finished—really refined—Part 1.
Continue to Part 2 of this interview here.
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