“TWILIGHT: NEW MOON” COUNTDOWN
In May, Hero Complex contributor Gina McIntyre traveled north to Vancouver to visit the set of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” to talk to the creative minds behind one of the most anticipated films of 2009. This week, as we count down to the Friday release of the vampy sequel, McIntyre gives us daily dispatches from her trip. Today, it’s a Q&A with producer Wyck Godfrey, who’s overseeing all the movie adaptations of Stephenie Meyer’s novels.
GM: Stephenie is here on the set today — has she been present for the majority of the shoot? How involved is she in the day-to-day production?
WG: In terms of authors being involved with their works as they turn into movies, she’s definitely on the more involved end of it, and that was a very purposeful thing on our part. When you do a beloved book and turn it into a movie, you’re beholden in some sense to the fans to really get it right. From our standpoint having her constantly there during preproduction, during the script stage, coming to production four or five times for really pivotal scenes, you have her as the person who created it constantly there telling you, “Know what? We might be missing this.” It’s just great. She’s always supportive. It’s been a good presence. Whenever you make your decisions about directors or actors, you have Stephenie telling her fans, “I love this idea,” and that means a lot to them and us.
GM: Did she have specific concerns about “New Moon”?
WG: The major thing is trusting that Jacob comes to the forefront in this movie. You need to have Edward depart so that you can allow Jacob to be that life preserver that he becomes for Bella, that friend that sort of pulls her out of her deepest despair. The instinct sometimes as a filmmaker, it’s like, OK, we’ve got Rob Pattinson, we need to put him in the movie as much as possible. In reality, the design of the book from a narrative standpoint works. The heartbreak of losing Edward in the first act, you won’t have it if he’s constantly present through the rest of the movie. Keeping the movie subjective, keeping it from Bella’s perspective [is important] because that’s how you experience it when you’re reading the books. That’s what everyone loves about the books. It’s really about Bella’s emotions and what she’s going through, those universal emotions that every girl and boy in some sense goes through at that age.
GM:Were you worried about Rob not being in the movie enough?
WG: Early on, there was that kneejerk reaction of, how are we going to work him into the movie? And we let go of it really quickly. At the end of the day, this is a movie about loss, about that greatest heartbreak ever. And you can’t have heartbreak if you keep the person around. Once we got the first draft of the script in, we realized, this is the right structure, this is fine. When you start to analyze it, he’s in a lot of the movie. He’s in the first act, he’s in the third act, it’s all still centered around her love for Edward.
GM: There had been some talk about whether to recast the role of Jacob because of the physical transformation the character undergoes between “Twilight” and “New Moon.” But you opted to keep Taylor Lautner in the part. Why was that the right call?
WG: It was always the right call to keep him from a character standpoint because people connected to Taylor as Jacob in the first movie. The only thing that ever stood in our way was the physical description of Jacob in the second and third book. Taylor when we were making “Twilight” wasn’t the same Taylor that showed up when we were ready to start making “New Moon.” He said, this is what I’ve done to work myself and do everything I can humanly do to make myself appear as the Jacob that is described by Stephenie Meyer in “New Moon.” When you saw him and saw that he had physically transformed himself to a great degree – people will look at this movie and go, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that’s the same guy that was in ‘Twilight.’” And that was really all that we needed to make sure happened because that is what happens in “New Moon.” She does go, “Holy cow, Jacob, you look like a different person,” and he’s like, yeah, well, it’s a growth spurt. It was one that from a practical standpoint we had to acknowledge as an issue when we were deciding to make “New Moon.” It was going to be an issue, but he made it less of an issue by doing the work. It’s a real testament to his passion for the role, his commitment as a kid to do everything he physically could to become Jacob in “New Moon.”
GM: Are you using any tricks to make him look bigger?
WG: There’s a lot of things you can do in terms of putting him in the foreground, raising him up, putting him on higher ground in certain scenes. From a body mass standpoint, we don’t have to do anything. He’s ripped like, to date myself, Marky Mark in 1991. At the end of the day, will people go, wait a minute, Jacob is described as 6’5’’ in the book and he’s clearly not 6’5’’? That’s movie license. At some point, you just have to go with it, but as a spirit, he’s embodied the change and I think that’s what’s important from a character standpoint. You see a transformation in Taylor as an actor from “Twilight” to “New Moon,” which is, I think, going to blow people away.
GM: Catherine Hardwicke directed “Twilight”; Chris Weitz is directing “New Moon” and David Slade is directing the next movie, “Eclipse.” What was the reason behind choosing different directors for each film in the series – was it simply a practical necessity to get the movies completed as quickly as possible?
WG: It’s also aesthetic. You’re locked into cast, you’re locked into location, you’re locked into the Pacific Northwest. The one thing you can do as a filmmaker is change directors and give it a different look, a different style, a different shooting style. The movies and the books are all very different in terms of what the core themes are. For us, the first one was obviously the hard one. The movie worked, Catherine’s great, how do we figure out how to hold this together? When that didn’t work out, we found fortunately a great director for “New Moon.” Chris has been fabulous. He’s totally different from Catherine and great in his own ways. This movie will feel very different from “Twilight,” but it’s still the world of “Twilight.” It’s still the Pacific Northwest, it’s still your actors, all of that stuff which makes you connect to the consistency, but you allow for something exciting to happen to the audience because it’s a different style. With Chris moving onto David Slade, that is just purely practical. Chris can’t possibly cut the movie and have it ready for Nov. 20 and have the next one ready for June 30. We knew we needed a new director right away. David is going to embrace and embody the growth of narrative that happens in “Eclipse,” the fact that it becomes the whole world crashing in on Forks, the Volturi, the newborn army in Seattle, there’s a lot of action that happens in that book and a lot of action that happens now that Edward’s back and all the Cullens are back. Edward and Jacob and Bella are in direct contact in a way that’s got much more tension. I think David was the right guy for that. He directed an amazing performance out of a young actress in Ellen Page in his first film “Hard Candy” and he also can handle the action and the style of action that we wanted to accomplish with “Eclipse.”
GM: You mention “Hard Candy,” which is an extremely edgy, R-rated film. Was there any concern that David Slade’s sensibility might be too extreme for the world of “Twilight”?
WG: For me, no, because ever since I saw “Hard Candy,” I was obsessed with him as a filmmaker. I’ve offered him five different movies. That’s a female point of view movie and it’s very different than the average female point of view movie. She’s incredibly empowered and yet she starts off as a victim. It’s a really well done narrative. He’s also done tons of videos that are female friendly, he has some teeth to him, too, which I think is good for the franchise. A movie franchise and a book franchise has to age with its audience. The same thing that works in “Twilight”… the girls that read “Twilight,” by the time you’ve made “Eclipse” and have it in theaters, they’re older. You need the film to mature in the way the books mature. By the fourth book, Bella’s getting married, getting pregnant, having babies.
GM: Speaking of the fourth book, what’s the status of a “Breaking Dawn” movie?
WG: We all want to make “Breaking Dawn.” We still have to get there. We’re focused right now on “New Moon” and “Eclipse,” but everyone involved in the movies wants “Breaking Dawn” to happen. There are a lot of challenges to making “Breaking Dawn,” and I think Stephenie’s at the forefront of really acknowledging, guys, let’s really be clear that we know how to do this before we move forward. I think it’s smart. It’s a little overwhelming to really think in a detailed manner of how we’re going to crack this but we have every intention to.
GM: What’s the most interesting change you’ve witnessed on the part of the cast during the course of shooting “New Moon”?
WG: What’s really interesting is to watch how comfortable the actors have become in the characters’ skin. A lot of the tension on the first movie was dealing with actors who were approaching these characters for the first time and in a weird way not knowing them as well as they now know them. I think Rob and Kristin and Taylor all feel pretty comfortable, they know the characters, they know the story. That’s been great. Taylor’s a real revelation in this. I think people are going to be excited about his performance. Kristen has taken it to a whole new level in terms of her commitment and her insight into the emotional nuances of the character.
You forget how emotional “New Moon” is. It’s not about plot. It’s about inner turmoil and despair and how do you handle that on a day to day basis. It’s been a really difficult role for her. I was just talking to the studio and saying there are going to be like five different scenes where you’re going to have to hand out Kleenex in the movie theater. There’s going to be five different scenes where people are going to be crying. It’s just so emotional. Everyone can relate to having that first, most vital love taken from you. To watch her go through it, puts you right back into that place where you first had your heart pulled out of your chest and stomped on. The movie and the book you get to see her reawaken and out of that comes growth, which is ultimately what “New Moon” is about.
– Gina McIntyre
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