Last week at Comic Con the fan sites had the opportunity to interview Bill Condon after the Breaking Dawn panel. Below is the transcript of the interview. Please be aware there is discussion of the clips seen at Comic Con so if you don’t want to be spoiled on anything read with caution! (You can find the clips here)
Q: About the honeymoon scene, I noticed of course the humor in that. Why did you guys choose to do it that way and how did that decision come about?
Bill: About being funny when she’s getting ready? It just felt like it was human. It was like, again, making everything as real as possible, and it’s like anybody in that moment when it’s like “Oh my God, it’s about to happen”, it’s one thing it’s gonna happen this night. God, it’s Bella, after all this time. And it’s a vampire, you know? But now is the moment and is just about making it as relatable as possible. Like, what do you do? You just try to control it in any way you possibly can. You know, you brush your teeth for the tenth time and do all those things to make yourself think that you’re ready, which of course you can’t do. And then the way we cut it it was just like a lot of jump cuts to make it like she’s sort of this nervous jangly thing. You know the way Kristen goes? (taps fingers impatiently on table, everyone laughs) that was the rhythm of it, you know? We matched that with the way we presented it.
Q: Have you had experience working with a lot of child actors, and what was it like working with all the Reneesmes?
Bill: Oh, yeah (laughs). That’s for Part 2! I had done a little before, but not as much as now. First, Mackenzie, she’s a 10 year old going on 30. She’s so mature and smart, so that was a pleasure. Sometimes it was hard because the other actresses were actually just there. It was always going to be just Mackenzie’s expressions and things like that, so it was a very specific technical thing that even I was learning as we did it. But I have to say, they were real troopers these girls.
Q: We had the pleasure of having Stephenie Meyer attached to the films. How was it like working with Stephenie, going on one on one basis? What was it like working with her?
Bill: It was great, I mean, you know her. She’s so down to earth, you know? And she’s so… It’s an interesting thing, and I don’t know if this happened across time or if this is how she’s always been, but she’s also a movie lover. And she’s really become very knowledgeable about making movies and about what you have to do to kind of, not kill your babies, but sometimes there are things that work so beautifully in description that don’t translate as well cinematically. Like the scene you saw that was not in the book, right? It’s a suggestion in the book but becomes very dramatic in the movie, where once Jacob breaks with Sam, it’s not that Sam is going to attack immediately. He’s going to sit back and wait and close in on them, you know? And they are now stuck in that house, it’s a siege. And they haven’t fed. So, they’re getting weaker when the wolves are getting stronger and closer. And Jacob has to figure out a way to help them get out. So he does this thing, and I don’t want to give too much away, but that thing where he says “No, I’ll be the one to take care of it because they trust me”. That is where you’re wondering if that’s true, is Jacob wavering. It’s another interesting kind of conflict that goes on that creates a better movie.
Q: Was there anything you found particularly challenging? Was there a scene you thought when you looked at the script “Yes! I’m doing this” and it become really challenging, or something that you were really excited to film?
Bill: I think they’re both sides of the same coin. And the most exciting things, some of them, were the ones that were scarier. I think each movie has them. In this movie it was talking wolves, right? We’re finally doing that. The wolves’ point of view and seeing and capturing how they communicate. That was a scary one. Imprinting was definitely scary, child birth was scary. I would say those were the big three that were big ideas from the book that had to be captured and be made exciting and I think you can easily go down a very wrong path. And I hope we didn’t.
Q: With the birth, like you talked about, it’s a violent birth, and the impending fight with the Volturi, then the honeymoon and the sex scenes. Knowing all those aspects, did you find it hard to balance the boundary between PG-13 and R? Did you sort of go to R and cut back? How did you approach that?
Bill: You know, I think it’s a good challenge because the thing that makes something R is literally showing it and if you give yourself that rule: I’m not gonna show, it’s not going to be frontal nudity, no one wants that, that is not appropriate here , but they are going to have intense love making scenes. Or we’re not going to, again, show splattering blood against the walls but it’s gonna be very visceral. It actually becomes a fun challenge to make sure you feel like you have the same experience without having to watch something clinical. I think it makes it better. There are great romantic scenes in PG-13 movies, you know?
Q: One of the questions at the fan panel today was, what was your favorite movie from the saga? How does it feel to have every single cast member say Breaking Dawn?
Bill: Well, first of all, I made a joke by the way when I said Breaking Dawn. And Taylor said that. I think Kristen was careful to say that she loved Twilight. I have great respect for every director that has come before and I think they all did amazing, and amazingly different work. That’s why I was interested in taking it on. Because I can’t think of a series quite like this where it’s the same… I guess you can say Harry Potter, but they seem to stay closer stylistically then these movies have. But you have the source material, and Melissa doing this script, and the cast in common, the movies feel very different. Anyway, I think, if there was someone to say that I do feel like there’s a slightly unfair advantage that I have with this movie is that so much happens. The middle movies were setting things up. And I think when you’re a writer the hardest part is the second act, and those were second act movies.
Q: How do you feel about coming in and finishing the series, having an established fanbase which we know can be fickle. You’re dealing with a lot of females (Bill laughs) starting off there. How does it feel coming in and finishing the two movies? Not just one, but two.
Bill: That’s what made it interesting to do. Not that I was going to do the next one but that I was going to do the last one. Or, one split into two. Because it is like a chance to kind of… I don’t know… (pause) let me put it, it’s like, I think it’s part of what is special about it. You’re counting on the fact that people would open themselves up to it in a way that maybe as you say, if we were we to do them for the next 20 years it’s like “Eh, I can skip this one”, but I feel like there’s an urgency to do it, that made it another reason to do it.
Q: And I think another part of that, in addition to doing the last one, most fans seem to think that the movies have gotten better progressively throughout the saga, so did you feel extra pressure knowing that they were having big high expectations for Breaking Dawn?
Bill: Believe me I felt the pressure (laughs). And I’ve gotten a taste of that already. When we had the teaser , and Tanya’s hair is blonde, and not strawberry blonde, not your color (points to Amanda from TwilightMoms) there were a lot of people who were upset about that. So there is no question, it is incredibly loyal but very vocal fanbase too so I know I’ll be hearing about those things. But you make choices based on somebody’s face and the way people look together and things like that.
Q: I asked the question this morning at the press conference to Ashley about how her hair has changed so significantly from movie to movie and how did it get to where it is now, and she said you guys were worried that fans might react negatively to another wig and a different cut, hoping that if it was closer to what was in the book fans would be OK with that?
Bill: Given that their hair doesn’t grow, I assume everyone’s going to be like, shaved by the next movie? (laughs) But I feel like these movies exist in time and fashions change even across four or five years, so for her, who has such a strong idea of fashion, especially in this movie where she’s throwing the wedding it represents her sense of the Edwardian wedding that Edward would’ve had, and also we kind of made her reflect on the moments when those people lived. In that we started with her having this sort of flapper look in the wedding, which I think you may have seen a glimpse of it in the trailer. And starting with that it was sort of like, who is the most stylish woman in the world? It’s still Audrey Hepburn. Let’s give her a little bit of Audrey. And if anybody would be redoing her hair it’s Alice. I feel like that one you can believe. And then others it’s just a question of the many looks of Jackson Rathbone (everyone laughs) what can you say? I think it looks good.
Q: Actors are often asked about scenes that are emotionally draining. Do you feel that there were certain scenes as a director that you get emotionally drawn into, what scenes in particular in Breaking Dawn that it wasn’t easy to let go of those emotions?
Bill: Well you have to because you’re on to the next one either an hour later, or the next day, but man, absolutely, there were all these things along the way that you just have an adrenaline rush when you finally get there and get through it because so many things could go wrong. Like the childbirth, I keep going back to it, but that was unbelievably intense. Taylor, his heart is pouring out of him, but Rob, you see this where he’s trying to bring her back to life and the anguish of it and the panic of it all, and then Kristen just giving it all. In the way that you’ll see, all the effort of giving birth but she is the best dead person I’ve ever seen (everyone laughs) and that’s not easy because there were takes that were a minute long and she never blinked, she never seemed to breathe, I don’t know how she did it but that cold area was very intense. And at the end of the shoot in Louisiana we’d been shooting for four months already, kind of tired and everyone is worn down, all of our defenses were down and it was also one of those things where you get there and you do it, and it lifted everybody up for the rest of the shoot because it just felt like something real had happened. That’s the thing that is great on a set, when you know something real has happened, it’s when the crew is suddenly incredibly quiet and everyone is paying attention, is sort of like you know it’s happening right in front of you and everyone’s aware of it, you know.
Q: You are obviously a very experienced director, and the cast goes from everyone to first timers, to people like Kristen that has been in dozens of films. Is there anything that any of the actors specifically taught you and that you came away with thinking that you didn’t have that information or that knowledge before?
Bill: Oh, God yes, totally. And you know I’m experienced but still, I’ve been on one half of the sets that Kristen’s been on, or maybe a third, you know what I mean? And don’t even think about Michael Sheen so yeah, I mean you’re always learning on movies, absolutely. But specifically here obviously these actors all know their characters so well, but you take somebody like Kristen, she’s going to be directing movies before long. She just knows everything about the process – everything. And she just knows “Oh my God, I should lift my eyes up just a quarter of an inch next time” and things like that. She’s an amazing collaborator where it’s like, and if you explain “Ok this feels a little unnatural but it’s worth it to do” I get it. But we would do a lot of sitting around talking about the script for weeks. And she would get ideas, I’m not saying only her, but she would a lot, and “Oh, that’s a great idea”. So yeah, all the time.
Q: One of the most insane places for Twilight, one of the most passionate places in the world for Twilight, is Brazil, how did you handle filming there with so many fans who are different from fans in America, who are very passionate…?
Bill: But respectful. It was very interesting. You know Rob told that story when we were shooting (laughs) but it was truly like everyone was in the street having a party and then suddenly one girl was like all over him (mimics arms across Rob’s neck, Rob’s surprised expression). And I think she was beheaded (everyone laughs) because I did ask like two hours later “What happened to her?” and everyone was like “I don’t know!”(laughs).
Q: Are you planning anything special for Brazil?
Bill: I hope so, definitely. I want to go back for the film festival there. I don’t know if this year or next year. But we should definitely because it’s really an important part of this movie. And it was great, I had a great time there.