When Rotten Tomatoes visited the Vancouver set of The Twilight Saga: New Moon in May with an exclusive group of online outlets, director Chris Weitz was wrapping up key scenes before production crossed the Atlantic to film for five days in Montepulciano, Italy. There, the medieval hillside town would stand in for the city of Volterra, home of the ancient Volturi vampires in Stephenie Meyer’s novel, as filming concluded with the book’s final set piece.
During our visit, finicky weather had forced the shoot to jump between soundstages to film two separate scenes from New Moon: in the first, Bella (Kristen Stewart), Edward (Robert Pattinson), and Alice (Ashley Greene) met the Volturi leader Aro (Michael Sheen) in the crisply decorated underground headquarters of the Volturi — with dire results. Later, on a separate stage, we watched as Pattinson’s Edward, appearing as a hallucination in Bella’s mind on a darkened street, was filmed against green screens with an enormous tracking camera. That Weitz and crew moved from the first scene to the second in the span of a day demonstrated the speed — and, seemingly, the smart planning — with which New Moon was being filmed. (UPDATED: Read Part 1 of our New Moon set report, including interviews with cast members and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg!)
When we caught up with Weitz months later, New Moon‘s well-documented production — during which predominantly teenage fans from all over the world flocked to New Moon‘s sets just to get a glimpse of filming — was complete, and the soft-spoken director was in the thick of a long, complicated editing process. He spoke at length to answer every one of our questions, ranging from his interactions with the cast, to what rock bands might be on the soundtrack, to the rumors that he might direct the fourth Twilight film, Breaking Dawn.
But Weitz took pains to keep at least one scene under wraps: the infamous “proposal scene,” in which Bella and Edward come to a tenuous agreement that has huge implications for the remainder of the series. Will it stay in the film, as written in Meyer’s book?
Read on to find your biggest, burning questions answered!
Weitz is still developing New Moon‘s computer-generated effects — including a new take on Edward Cullen’s “sparkling” effect, which drew criticism in the first film — and is just weeks away from delivering a first cut.
“I am about two weeks away from showing my director’s cut to the studio,” Weitz told us. “I’ve got some wolves with fur, and some wolves are still invisible, basically. And some wolves are kind of like…what look like Claymation versions. We are still in the late R&D phases of what Edward looks like when he’s hit by sunlight, what the vampires look like when they’re hit with sunlight, the diamond effect, and also the hallucinatory effect that Bella has when she hears Edward’s voice and she imagines him there.”
Upon Stephenie Meyer’s insistence, New Moon‘s werewolves and vampires will be grounded in reality — the Wolf Pack’s transformations will pop, and the Volturi will remain true to Meyer’s descriptions.
“Our aim was to make them look like what it says they look like in the book, and not to be too fancy about it,” Weitz explained. “You know, it was very important to Stephenie that, for instance, the werewolves transform very quickly and that they look like wolves, that we not have this kind of magical, Lon Chaney-esque long transformations, and I think the reason behind that is to give a sense of their reality.”
“I think that was important for the Volturi as well; they’re not levitating above the ground, they’re not surrounded by mystical auras, they are creatures who actually exist and they’re very specific, they’re very stylish, they’re very elegant, they’re very dangerous. Essentially, it’s really faithful to the book.
Once his initial cut of New Moon is submitted, Weitz will have about three months to fine-tune his film. His due date to complete a final cut will come just weeks before New Moon is set to premiere:
“Ironically, I think it’s the day before Halloween. I believe October 30 is our drop dead date when it’s time to start striking the print, or we’re in big trouble.”
Weitz has brought aboard familiar collaborators to work on New Moon, including Oscar-nominated composer Alexandre Desplat (who scored Weitz’s The Golden Compass). But will Desplat carry over the fan-favorite “Bella’s Lullaby” theme composed by Twilight scorer Carter Burwell, played famously by Edward in the first film?
“Alexandre Desplat has just started working on his music for the film, and we are just starting to put together what bands are on the soundtrack, so it’s kind of like keeping ten plates spinning at once,” Weitz said. “But it’s all good, because we’ve got Alexandre Desplat, who I think is one of the greatest film composers living, and because of the strength of the franchise that I inherited, a lot of bands are really interested in working on the soundtrack.”
When asked about “Bella’s Lullaby,” Weitz confirmed that it would reappear — at least, in some form. “I think yes, because like any franchise, there are certain themes that become familiar. I suspect he’s going to transpose it in some manner, and most of the music will be entirely new to the franchise because his style is somewhat different from Carter Burwell’s. But I think that there is some value to having some kind of familiar leitmotifs running through the entire series.”
Speaking about the music in New Moon, Weitz revealed that requests have flooded in from bands who want to contribute to the soundtrack; after all, the first Twilight film helped launch alt-rock band Paramore into the pop culture stratosphere. In talks to appear on the soundtrack are none other than Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Kings of Leon.
“Fortunately, I’m not at the stage where I have to turn anybody down yet, because everything is still kind of up in the air,” Weitz shared, “but I am surprised at some of the bands that have said they’re interested. It’s kind of great. The criterion will still always be what’s right for the movie at that given moment, but Thom Yorke is interested; we might, if we’re very lucky, get Kings of Leon to do something… it’s exciting to be able to have access to this kind of talent.”
Next: Chris Weitz’s favorite scene, changes from the book, if Face Punch will be made as it’s own film, and the “Proposal” scene!
Like a Twilight mecca of sorts, fans visited Vancouver in droves during production to glimpse external sets like Jacob Black’s house, sometimes encountering cast members still in costume. Paparazzi even followed New Moon‘s stars after hours and on weekends, feeding the frenzy. But North American fans stalking sidewalks and hotels in Vancouver were nothing compared to what awaited Weitz and his cast in Italy, where fans from all over Europe decamped in a fashion that Weitz compares to Beatlemania; surprisingly, he names the scenes shot in Montepulciano — under the watchful eyes of hundreds of Twilight fans, observing (and blogging) Bella’s climactic dash to stop Edward from exposing himself at high noon — as his favorites to film.
“There were a lot of fun scenes to film, frankly,” Weitz recalls. “I really did enjoy the scenes in the Volturi headquarters [filmed on Vancouver soundstages], although it was a tremendous logistical headache. In a way, it’s the scenes that you dread the most, because they are so time consuming and you have to get them just right, which is like the stuff in the Volturi headquarters, or the stuff that was shot in Montepulciano.”
“I suppose that has to be my favorite scene, because it is the high point of the movie, when Bella goes to try to stop Edward from killing himself. We had a thousand extras in this medieval town square in a hill town in Tuscany, in the most beautiful country on earth, and it was such an extraordinary opportunity to get to work there. It was also kind of surreal, because every Twilight fan who could make it from all over continental Europe and further, had gone by hook or by crook to Montepulciano and booked a hotel room — sometimes at the very hotel which the cast and crew were staying.”
“So there was this kind of weird Beatlemania sort of thing going on in this very small, beautiful, hill town. For five days it was this kind of bizarre festival atmosphere, and it really wasn’t bothersome at all; it was incredibly gratifying. All these people would applaud after every single take, whether or not we had screwed it up – they had no idea because they weren’t close enough to hear. But if you looked down any alley down which the camera wasn’t pointing, you’d see hundreds of these young girls who had come to just touch a piece of what they really loved.”
Those paying close attention to Stephenie Meyer’s source novels might remember the “three-way date” that Bella goes on with friends Mike Newton and Jacob Black. While the scene was shot for New Moon, the filmmakers had to be creative with details in order to avoid potential lawsuits. Hence, the film will show Bella going to see a movie-within-a-movie entitled, simply, Face Punch. Unfortunately for fans, Face Punch will not be filmed at all.
Weitz explains how he came up with the title and concept for Face Punch: “The funny thing is, I had to come up with the name of a movie-within-a-movie, and the first one, which I think was named Cross-Hairs in the book, couldn’t be cleared because it had already been used. You’d be shocked at the number of stupid action movie names that have been turned into movies. So I eventually submitted a list of ten to Summit’s lawyers and they had to see which ones they could go and clear, and Face Punch was one of two out of ten that could actually be cleared. And I chose that over Kill Hunt, so now somebody can actually go make Kill Hunt, but Face Punch is ours. [Laughs] It was always a joke between me and my brother [filmmaker Paul Weitz] that there should be a movie called Face Punch, which was just about people punching each other in the face. But it’s the kind of movie-within-a-movie, it’s the least romantic thing that Bella can think of to go to, because her friend asks her, essentially, on a date and she wants nothing romantic to happen at all.”
Weitz continued, landing upon a brilliant idea for the next wave of Twilight fan videos. “Sadly, there is no Face Punch, although maybe it should be something that the fans are left to make. You’ll hear the sounds of Face Punch, which will be a lot of people being shot and hacking each other to bits. There are a few other movies that are referred to, imaginary movies, within this movie, and the way that it satirizes other genre films in a very brief and lighthearted way. And this is example of the stupidest kind of action movie imaginable.”
Alas, we confirmed that Meyer’s mention of Rotten Tomatoes had to be omitted for legal reasons.
“I’m afraid we didn’t [include the Rotten Tomatoes line], and the reason would not be because of Rotten Tomatoes, but because Summit Entertainment [is] very careful about not quoting any existing property. And probably, if we had actually bothered to go and ask, then you guys would have said, ‘Yeah that’d be really cool,’ but then some lawyer would have said, ‘It doesn’t matter, somebody else could complain about it,’ and all that sort of stuff.”
“It might be because of the Tomatometer response to The Golden Compass, as well,” he joked, “which lowered my overall Tomatometer quite severely.”
Speaking of changes, let’s address the big fan question: The Proposal Scene. While Melissa Rosenberg’s script for Twilight deviated slightly from Meyer’s source novel, most agree that it remained generally faithful in story and (perhaps to a fault) in dialogue. So will New Moon‘s conclusion stay faithful to Meyer’s “proposal scene,” in which Edward makes a very specific ultimatum in response to a life-changing request from Bella?
“It hasn’t been cut out, I can tell you that much,” Weitz carefully shared. He paused to compose his answer, making sure not to reveal too much. “It’s not going to hit them in exactly the way that they think it’s going to, but I will say that — how can I put it? –it’s going to be quite special. I kind of saved all of my gusto for that moment. I don’t think it will disappoint.
Next: Weitz on working with Eclipse director David Slade, coming back to direct Breaking Dawn…and if Breaking Dawn is even filmable
While Weitz works against the clock to finish New Moon (which will be released November 20, 2009), director David Slade (30 Days of Night) has already begun prepping the third film in the series, Eclipse. Slade even visited the Vancouver set of New Moon to get briefed by Weitz, who revealed that visual effects studio Tippett Studios will provide werewolf effects for both New Moon and Eclipse.
“David Slade came in while we were still shooting the end of New Moon and I showed him everything that I could to give him a sense of what direction we were going,” Weitz explained. “He’s going to take it in whatever way he wants to because he’s his own guy and will have his own style and particular take on things, but just as I was inheriting certain things from Catherine Hardwicke, he’s going to inherit certain things from me and make the choice as to whether he wants to keep them or alter them.”
” We’ve had discussions,” he continued. “Tippett is going to do the wolves for Eclipse so that there’s a continuity in terms of the look of the werewolves, and obviously the cast is going to remain the same; so Dakota is Jane, and all the Volturi are the same people that we’re familiar with.”
Despite the fact that only a handful of stills and a teaser trailer have debuted for New Moon, fans are already speculating on whether or not Weitz would return to direct the fourth film, Breaking Dawn. Will he consider taking the reins again?
“I think it’s really charming that, not having seen New Moon, people would be enthusiastic about me wanting to do Breaking Dawn,” Weitz said, partly humble, and perhaps partly remembering the tumultuous experience he had when his last would-be franchise, Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, didn’t make it to subsequent sequels. “I think the proof is in the pudding, and they should see New Moon before they decide if they want me to do anything else to do with their series. But I would hope to earn that kind of rumor.”
While he passed on directing the third Twilight film out of sheer pragmatism, the possibility of Weitz directing Breaking Dawn remains open. “I haven’t really spoken with Summit about that; all I knew was that I was going to be too tired to do Eclipse, and that it was better that somebody else take it over as well so that they could put their own imprint on it. Also, the way the films are being shot [in rapid succession] would have precluded it anyway.”
It’s unsurprising that Breaking Dawn — the fourth and final book in Meyer’s Twilight series — is still without a director. Although producers insist it’s still in the works, Breaking Dawn is unconfirmed by the studio, and it’s not difficult to guess why: with more than a few mature and controversial storylines and a potentially large dependency on expensive computer graphics, Breaking Dawn might be the most difficult Twilight installment to film and market. But Weitz is optimistic.
“It’s a tough one,” he admitted, mulling the thought of directing Breaking Dawn. “It’s a hard one, because the series gets more and more ambitious as it goes along.” Some might wonder if it could be pulled off altogether. Weitz paused for thought. “Yes, it’s doable; anything is doable.”
So, would he go on the record with his official interest in Breaking Dawn? “I’d certainly consider it,” he confirmed.
Then again, Weitz knows that fan sentiment could easily turn against him and newer director Slade could become a popular front runner, quipping, “by the time [Eclipse] comes out they’ll probably want him to direct Breaking Dawn, not me.”
What do you think, Twilighters? With Weitz and his New Moon cast set to appear (and debut footage) at next week’s Comic-Con, fans will soon get more of an idea of if New Moon will deliver or not… do you want Weitz to return for Breaking Dawn?
Check back tomorrow (Friday) for our in-depth New Moon set report!
Details on New Moon at Comic-Con:
The Twilight Saga: New Moon panel will be held Thursday, July 23 (1:45 – 2:45 PM in Hall H) and will be followed by a Special Screening Event hosted by Summit Entertainment.
From Summit: “Screening tickets are $10 and can only be purchased online at Fandango (www.fandango.com, beginning 9:00am-9:30am PST Monday) and picked up at the theater prior to the event. Multiple staggered showings of TWILIGHT will take place at the Pacific Gaslamp 15. Doors open at 5:30 and fans with tickets will be admitted on a first-come, first-seated basis. The Pacific Gaslamp 15 is located at 701 5th Ave., just a few blocks from the Convention Center. Two tickets per person limit.