During our visit to the set of The Twilight Saga: New Moon, we watched from afar as director Chris Weitz ran a seemingly tidy ship. His quiet, polite mannerisms, even during take after take, and his relative expedience moving from one set up to another spoke to a sea change from the type of set Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke reportedly ran: the focused, well-mannered workman vs. the wonderfully eccentric artist. The fans will be pleased, we thought to ourselves. Weitz looks like he knows what he’s doing.
Coming into the project, Weitz’s filmmaking pedigree was already impressive. In the span of just a decade, he’s notched numerous successes under his belt, including an Oscar nomination (shared with brother Paul) for About a Boy; a hand in the successful American Pie franchise; and most recently, the honor of bringing Philip Pullman’s enormously weighty His Dark Materials novels to the big screen, in the form of 2007’s The Golden Compass. But our earliest familiarity with Weitz himself was as an actor in the darkly comic indie, Chuck & Buck, where he starred opposite Mike White’s obsessive man-child as Charlie (formerly known as Chuck), a yuppie record exec trying to put his past (and his childhood buddy, Buck) behind him.
(Because of this, we find Weitz particularly fascinating. Watch Chuck & Buck and you’ll understand why.)
Even more intriguing is the fact that his mother, actress Susan Kohner, notched an Oscar nomination for playing Sarah Jane in Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life. Or that his grandmother, actress Lupita Tovar, was a successful silent film star well known for Mexico’s very first talkie, Santa, and starred in Universal’s Spanish-language version of Dracula.
Producer Wyck Godfrey, speaking exclusively to Rotten Tomatoes, surmised that Weitz’s own acting experience and affinity for actors made for a remarkably comfortable working environment on the set of New Moon: “I think having been in a movie himself and having acted before, he really trusts actors and I think they can really feel that inherently. And as a result, we’ve gotten much more authentic, very natural performances from all the actors.”
While on set, we spoke further with cast members and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg to get their takes on the new director.
Melissa Rosenberg on working with Weitz, who she called a “lovely guy”: “Chris is a writer himself, so I did one or two drafts with him, and was really able to trust him to take it from there, to make any changes that might need to be made for production or for whatever reason.”
Taylor Lautner on Weitz: “What I love about Chris is, the set is very calm and we’re just having a lot of fun making the movie. And then you sit back and you look at the results that are happening, and it looks amazing so far. I’m so excited to see it. And you just sit back and see what’s going on, and you’re like, ‘How are we having such an easygoing, relaxed time making this movie, and it’s turning out the way it is?’ At the same time, the conversations with Catherine — she just related to us so well. So does Chris. They’re both talented directors, and I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to work with both of them.”
Rachelle Lefevre on Weitz: “Chris is much quieter and calmer anyway, he just has a different style, but also he’s come into a world that somebody went through all of that to bring to life. And so I feel like part of the reason he came in maybe a little more quiet was just sort of respect the fact that he didn’t just show up and go, ‘All right guys. It’s Chris Weitz’s Twilight now.’ He didn’t do that at all. He completely respected that somebody else had laid the foundation and he was like, all right, here’s where I’m going to take it within the realm of what’s already been established. And so it’s a different job, you know? It’s something that he’s executing beautifully because we all really feel both directed and respected in terms of what we’ve already done. We love him.”
When he was confirmed to direct New Moon, Weitz wrote an open letter to fans of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books and Catherine Hardwicke’s film. “I want to write briefly to try to put you at ease,” he wrote, “and to give you reason to hope for and expect the best.”
Now that you’ve seen the first few trailers for New Moon, what do you think, Twilighters? Will Weitz’s dedication to Meyer’s novels serve him for the better? Can a more focused set make for a more focused finished film? And how much of a difference might his ease with actors make in the finished performances we see on screen?
For more on director Chris Weitz including his full filmography, visit his Celebrity page.
To read our recent interview with Weitz discussing the New Moon shoot, click here.