Adapting a book series for the big screen is not as easy as it sounds - especially when that series is the wildly popular Twilight series, with fans as rabid as a wild werewolf. Novelist Stephanie Meyer, screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, and producer Wyck Godfrey talk about what it took to bring Breaking Dawn to life.
What has been your experience, turning your books into this massively successful film franchise?
Stephanie Meyer: It's interesting to be done and not done. We had that final night of shooting, that moment of closure... but then it keeps going and going. With the first part of the movie just coming out, it doesn't feel like an ending yet. I'm not quite sure how it will be when we get to the end the end.
How did it feel to see your characters come to life and finally, finally get married? I know you had a cameo in the wedding scene.
SM: The wedding was really emotional. I was somewhat prepared because I had been there for Kristen's dress fitting. And when she came out there was that moment where all of us got a little emotional. I wasn't expecting it. Being at the wedding was weird. It was really cold, and I really didn't want to be on camera. Bill [Condon, the director] talked me into it. There were many times that day when Kristen came down the aisle, but when she came down that first time, it felt like a real wedding. It was so weird - but so awesome.
There has been some mention of your other novel, Midnight Son. Have you thought at all about spinning off the Twilight franchise as Breaking Dawn comes to a close?
SM: I've thought about it, obviously. People ask me about it a lot. There was a time where I thought I would never stop writing about vampires. Who knows? I'm not going to say no, but right now, I don't really have much drive towards vampires. There is so much else going on, and sometimes you want to get to a new world. But the characters are always going to be alive for me.
Can you talk about the decision to shoot in Baton Rouge?
Wyck Godfrey: Really, the decision just came down to the fundamentals of production. Cost, efficiency, all that. Once we broke down both movies and all of the work, we knew we had to be in Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest for all the exteriors. We knew we had to be in Brazil for the honeymoon. But in terms of where you build your sets and stages, you can kind of be anywhere. Louisiana has a fantastic tax credit for film, the stages are great, and it just worked out that we could do all our stage work there.
Did being on set inspire you to want to write directly for the screen at all?
SM: It's something I have talked about on another project. I don't know. I don't think I want to give up that part of the creative process, which is really my favorite. I haven't had time to be alone with a story for a while. Once you put it into a screen format, there are a lot of people involved in that. So I think I would still prefer to be alone with story first.
Were there times when Melissa was adapting the book into the screenplay and you thought, "Boy, I wish I had thought of that!"
SM: Oh yeah! From the first one on. I remember in the first film, there was a little moment where Bella sees Edward in her room, and she flicks the light on and he's gone, and all I could think was, "How cool and simple was that?" In every movie there is something cool and different that she comes up with, but some of it I kind of wish I could have snagged.
How was it working on an adaptation where the writer was so present?
Melissa Rosenberg: To take on these beloved books was quite intimidating. I knew going in that I would satisfy half the fans, and the other half would think I butchered it. My objective always was that if Stephanie likes it, if Stephanie believes it, and if Stephanie approves it, that's my job. We are all just visitors in her universe. The other thing that was really fantastic to discover was that Stephanie is really a great collaborator. She's not precious about her work. You will rarely hear a writer - myself included - that would say what she was saying before. That was very much the creative process. I would be working on something or outlining something, and I would call or email her to bounce around ideas. She was a great sounding board for me.
What music inspires you? What soundtrack plays in your head?
SM: When we were working on the movie, I can't help but hear the music that they used in it. The songs are very fitting this time. I am very pleased with how it all comes together. There are some great musical moments where what you are seeing on the screen and what you are hearing becomes one feeling. I really enjoyed that. I think it is a cool soundtrack, and I am excited to see how people feel when they see it in action.
Can you talk about Kristen's transformation into a mother? She is almost ferociously maternal. As a mother yourself, did you offer her any guidance?
SM: She actually didn't need that much guidance. She put so much thought into it beforehand. Her transformation was cool. One day she would be human, pregnant Bella; the next, she would be a vampire, in the full makeup and everything. She was able to switch back and forth so beautifully. I know she would go up to Bill [Condon, the director] and say, "I need to be looking at my daughter in this scene." She was so sensitive to that. I think it also helped that she - like all of us - fell in love with Mackenzie [Foy, who plays daughter Renesmee]. We were all kind of Mackenzie's mom because she was so adorable. She was a natural at it. She just got that instinct to have to protect [her daughter] all on her own.
What do you say to critics who suggest that the sexual and gender politics in Twilight are, at best, retrograde?
SM: The politics are something I never think about when writing. It's about a story that's interesting to me. I'm not gonna say Breaking Dawn doesn't get weird - cause it does. But these are things that, as I was exploring what it means and what it meant to be a woman - particularly being a mother - with Bella, these are things that had to, out of necessity, happen to her very young. I have always been really fascinated with the idea that, 100 years ago, if you were going to have a baby, you would literally say, "I could die. I am taking my life into my hands to do this." There is a courage to that that we don't have to develop. I was fascinated with that kind of woman, the woman who makes that choice to risk her life. It's like being a soldier. It was never about the politics; it was about how, as a person, you would deal with these different things.
The books are very much from Bella's point of view, but when you create a movie, you get to expand out past just Bella's point of view. What was your favorite moment to see, on screen, that went beyond what is seen in the book?
MR: For me, it was in New Moon. We got to go to the Volturi, which in the book was all from Bella hearing about it, but in the movie we were actually able to go there. Little by little, in each movie we were able to go further with that. It's really liberating to be able to do that.
SM: I'm trying to think of those moments, but you get to a point where everything is so integrated in your head. Anytime you get to other characters - and you always want more time. We had so many newbies we brought in, so much fun, so we really did just want to jump in and spend more time with everybody.
Was the birth scene as you had envisioned it?
SM: I really liked it. It was something that, when we were developing the story, people wondered if it would be enough, or if it would be anti-climactic. When we were filming it, you could tell it was so emotional. It wasn't about being gory, slathering on cream cheese and raspberry jelly. Edward is losing Bella, and Rob's performance was so heartbreaking that, I will admit, I teared up. A lot of people were feeling it. I thought Bill pulled such a human experience out of that - he has such a gift with that.
How has the phenomenon of Twilight changed you as a storyteller?
SM: I don't know if it has changed me, but it has given me fodder for it, because it is all experiences I hadn't had before. I think I have grown a lot, just from new experience. It's hard to sum up something that doesn't feel finished yet. It was a great growing experience, but it wasn't always a comfortable one. I did learn a lot - and some of it the hard way.
At what point in the process was it decided to split Breaking Dawn into two parts?
MR: It came down to breaking stories and seeing if there were two stories in there, or whether we could fit it all into one. There was a lot of back and forth, seeing where the movie might break. I initially thought it was one movie, but fairly early on realized we would be leaving so much out that it would be better to let two movies breathe a little bit, rather than cram them into one.
WG: The truest answer is that it was very organic. I was initially very resistant to splitting it into two. I thought it could be this huge, epic one movie. We really challenged ourselves to come up with narrative reasons that the birth of Renesmee would be climactic enough to stand on its own for one movie. Collectively I think we all decided that it could stand as two movies.