David Slade, Wyck Godfrey Twilight Eclipse InterviewPosted by: Sheila Roberts
Following in the footsteps of Catherine Hardwicke and Chris Weitz, David Slade directs “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” the action-packed third installment of Stephenie Meyer’s best selling series adapted for the screen by Melissa Rosenberg.
For “Eclipse,” the producers wanted a director who could work with young actors and get great performances, but also had a larger visual style with a bigger scope and an ability to shoot great action. Slade, who loves myth and the supernatural, emerged as a fantastic candidate. His movie “Hard Candy” was totally reliant upon performance, and his second film “30 Days of Night,” displayed that visual style.
What attracted Slade to the project was the tremendous challenge it posed for him as a filmmaker to make a film of this scope, in this amount of time, and in an essentially different genre. Unlike “30 Days of Night,” which was a vampire film in the horror/suspense genre, “Eclipse” was more of a revenge-fueled romantic story which swings from a darker more abject feeling to very pure romantic scenes.
MoviesOnline sat down with director David Slade, producer Wyck Godfrey and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg at the Los Angeles press conference for “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” to talk about their new film. They told us about the difficulties of adapting the third novel into a two-hour movie, what it was like working with a ready made cast, and how they maintained continuity between this film and the first two films. Here’s what they had to say:
Q: Why should somebody see “Eclipse”?
David Slade: I guess, like, if you’re not into the World Cup, and there’s nothing worth seeing on TV and you’ve not got any plans, we’ve got, like, I think six or seven decapitations. You know, if there’s nothing much going on that night, it’s a good night out. As long as there’s nothing else on at the movies you want to see. But no, being serious, I think it’s the most mature book, and I think we made, we went for the most mature film. Certainly, there’s a great deal of romance in the film, but there’s also other things. Vengeance is a very big theme in the film. Our action sequences all are built out of character, so they’re not just effects. They’re actually built out of a need to get to a place. And I think it’s a film for everyone, this one.
Q: What did you do to prepare for “Eclipse” and how did you bring your own style to the film?
David Slade: There’s a cinematic vocabulary to each of the films they’ve done. And it doesn’t come from that much premeditation. It comes from two things. One, seeing the film in my head before we go out and make it, and being very clear about what that is and planning it, and then two, what’s right for the scene and the character. I believe the most interesting thing to look at in the world is the human face, so that is why I tend to be a little closer to those human faces than maybe other directors would be.
Wyck Godfrey: When you were first talking to us about the movie, you had said that by letting the background fall out of focus and really focusing on the characters in the dangerous scenes, it creates a heightened sense of anxiety. You feel like you don’t really know what’s back there, and in the romantic scenes it creates an incredible sense of intimacy. You really feel like it’s just these two people in that world, and I think that was really effective in the movie.
David Slade: I was going to go on to elaborate, just one sentence, which is to say that with close-up comes selective focus, and it is to focus the viewer, to point them in a direction. And when I talked about vocabulary, it extends so you get a close-up which has very little amount of focus in it, but also you’ll see medium shots and wider shots that also bring the audience’s attention to a specific place, which is entirely intentional.
Q: You were working with a ready-made cast for “Eclipse.” How did you help establish what would be expected of their characters for this film?
David Slade: What I did is, I saw each one of the actors individually, and we’d have one-on-one meetings. What we’d do is, we would ... the first time I was just listening. I’d just listen to everything they told me about their characters, everything they thought about their characters. Then we’d meet again, and we’d talk about the script. But each time, one-on-one. Then a third time, a fourth time. By this time, we’re now talking about all the ideas that I’m to bring forward but incorporating all of that character and story that they’ve taken from me, and then the final stage is we go into an ensemble rehearsal, where all the actors come together, but we don’t have to talk about character anymore — we talk about content and story. And that was I think the most respectful way, and that’s how I chose to go about it.
Q: How difficult was it to adapt the novel into a two-hour movie?
MR: I think, to begin with, it took me by surprise, because I actually thought this would be the easiest, because there’s so much conflict in it, and you have this huge battle that you’re building toward. But then once I got into it and actually breaking the story, I realized all that happened in the third act. So then it was looking at what’s going on in the first two acts other than conversation leading up. And what I found was that a lot of the threat that is in the third act, that’s building that conflict, pulling that forward and being able to expand on some of the mythology. In a movie, we can cut away to another perspective, but in the book, it’s all Bella’s perspective. So it actually ended up being probably the most fun to write in the end, after I got over the incredible disappointment that it wasn’t going to be easy — as if anything ever is.
Q: Were their any expectations for you to maintain the style and tone of the first two films?
David Slade: I think the only thing really that was expressed to me was continuity. Very much a different film was expected. Different directors per film, different vision per film, so I was given a great deal of freedom in terms of the aesthetics, certainly as I was talking about a vocabulary of shooting, that vocabulary reaches to all areas of production. So, I inherited the sets, but I went into the kitchen set and we made it bigger, we went into Bella’s room and made it four feet wider, just because I was going to shoot with a different lens to the way they shot before. So the answer is, I was given freedom, only just to respect what had come before really. There were no mandates.
Wyck Godfrey: I mean, I think if anything, one of the chief reasons we hired David was for his visual style, and that it was different from the first two films. Yet he had really worked with young actresses and gotten performances out of them that were incredible, and felt he understood it, but it’s something that we’ve always wanted was for each director to bring his own visual style to the movie.
David Slade: I tried not to focus too much on the other two films. I tried to just keep this one in my mind, and people like Wyck and Gillian would be there to give me a nudge if I was doing something that was going to invalidate something or cross a line, which hardly ever happened, really.
Wyck Godfrey: Every now and then, you’d have Edward walk through the sunlight and, ‘Oh wait — he has to sparkle.’
David Slade: Wait a second, he’s got to sparkle. Let me tell you, the sunlight was our biggest enemy in Vancouver. We had the sunniest, sunniest time, and every day we’d spend more time battling the sun than we spent battling in the rain.
Wyck Godfrey: Which no one likes to hear that you’re not shooting because it’s sunny.
David Slade: It would be perfect for any other movie. Javier Aguirresarobe was driven insane by this.
Q: Are there any extras for the DVD?
Wyck Godfrey: Well, the nude scene you shot that wasn’t in the book will probably be on there. I don’t know, I think with any film, you go through the process of kind of editing it down to its fighting weight, and ultimately you’re going to end up with some scenes that didn’t end up in the movie.
David Slade: There were a number of scenes which just felt excessive in terms of beating the same story, so we took them out, but some of them were really nice and are great little standalones.
Wyck Godfrey: There was a great scene with Angela and Kristin that is really just kind of two girls talking about guy troubles, and it’s really, really sweet, but it took place in a section of the movie that we really had to kind of propel.
David Slade: What happens is the film has its own momentum from the script, and you start driving and you start snowballing, you start going and going and going. By the time you hit the third act you’re just blasting along. And that scene just went — (skidding noise) stop. But it’s a beautiful scene, beautifully performed, and it’s going to be a nice, little bonus for fans of the books to know that we went and shot that stuff.
Q: Did you shoot any behind the scenes stuff?
Wyck Godfrey: Well, I think there’s going to be a lot of classic behind the scenes stuff. You’ll get to see how we did most of the action and stunts in the movie and a lot of the CG process, so all of that stuff, I think, will flesh out the experience for audiences that do like to go behind the camera and see how it’s all done.
Q: How did you decide how to add the sly wit to this movie?
MR: It’s interesting. When I did the first movie, ‘Twilight,’ I actually wrote it before it was cast. I was sort of writing in a vacuum. It actually had a lot of humor in it, and then we realized as we got it on actors that it just wasn’t appropriate. But some of that is building back, and I think the actors are more comfortable with it and I think the story lends itself. And Wyck actually has the best line in the movie, it was Wyck’s line: ‘Does he own a shirt?’ I give that one to Wyck. That’s his, but I think there’s a confidence level in the storytelling.
Wyck Godfrey: There’s also a comfort level that people have with each other — when you first meet someone, sometimes you’re less able to go to the comedic place than you are when you’ve known each other for a while, and I feel like, as an audience member, you want to experience the progression of the characters as well as you the audience and appreciate when they are starting to be easier with each other and more casual in the face of heightened drama, which ‘Eclipse’ certainly has.
David Slade: For me, as director, you look at the performances that have gone before and you look at someone like Billy Burke, and Billy can improvise. Everyone else can tell me what they want to write down and change what is on the script and we talked about it. Billy just has natural comic timing. All those expressions he does are completely 100% Billy. He’s great so you kind of capitalize on that.
Q: Was there anything you tried that didn’t work?
David Slade: No, I think actually the other way around. More comedy evolved. For instance, the scene at the police station, Billy’s exit was a complete improvisation that just looked great. The other stuff was funny. The stuff was written funny but he just said, ‘Let me just try this,’ and we just chose the one that was the funniest.
Q: With sets being reused, is there any effort to reduce the carbon footprint?
Wyck Godfrey: Well, from a set standpoint, we save everything and reuse it, and you have to enhance the parts that have been beaten up through storage, but I’m trying to think if there’s anything specifically that we do, but efficiency in production is always what you’re looking for, so you want to save as much as possible.
David Slade: A film shoot is a film shoot is a film shoot. You do need specific things, but on this one, the conservation of the nature that we went into was a very big concern. We had a lot of monitoring and we made sure that we didn’t touch or damage anything that was there, and we left everything exactly as best we could. We were always as responsible as we could be, but certainly that was one of the biggest things for us, was going into the most beautiful natural habitats and then making sure we left them exactly as we found them.
Q: Can you talk about bringing in Bryce?
Wyck Godfrey: It all happened really quickly. Rachelle became unavailable three weeks into shooting, and we had to react very quickly. Bryce was somebody that early, early on, even from ‘Twilight,’ had been on a list and unavailable. So we were kind of up against it, frankly, and had to pick quickly, and we were really fortunate that we could send her the script immediately, and then she decided she wanted to do it. So that, the process of replacing Rochelle and finding the right actress was actually smooth, because Bryce was the first person we went to and she said yes.
David Slade: One of the slight misconceptions about these films is that they’re these giant, huge-budget blockbusters. These films are made more like independent films, so our schedule, not just for money but also for actor availability, was so tight. We shot this film in 50 days? 52 days? Most action movies are shot in double, triple that. And we had a schedule that basically fit together like a jigsaw puzzle — one way — so we just had no other choice.’
Q: Melissa, are you on the set, and are you intimidated because Stephenie Meyer is on the set? Isn’t Breaking Dawn the most difficult script?
MR: Well, while I was writing ‘Eclipse,’ it was. I had not gotten to the fourth one yet. It was before ‘Breaking Dawn,’ yes — talk to me in another year. But regarding Stephanie, I’m really grateful she’s able to spend the kind of time on set that she does, because she and I are the people on the page, and we see things in a way that I hope is valuable to the director and the producers. And because I’ve been juggling ‘Dexter’ and ‘Twilight’ for all this time, and going right from one ‘Twilight’ to the next, I’ve been unavailable to be on set, and frankly I don’t know that I could have been much use. I mean, if David needed a rewrite, [I’d get] a phone call.
Wyck Godfrey: Also, you and Stephanie worked so closely together in the outlining and the script stage, that by the time we’re shooting, there aren’t really any surprises. And if anything, Stephanie can come and answer questions that we have that aren’t in her books. You know, like, ‘Oh, by the way, does that character ever do this?’ And she’s like, ‘No, that character was born in 1702...’ She rattles it off and it actually just fills out the screenplay.
David Slade: She has all of these backstories for everybody. I remember you and I getting on the phone with her about Riley and the cave, and what became the underpass scene. We had no idea. We were like, ‘How do we solve this?’ and Stephanie was like, ‘Well, it’s obvious. This is how it happens.’ We wouldn’t know, but she would know, because she’d written the story in her head.
Q: Do you own the rights to the Bree spinoff?
David Slade: No, I don’t believe so, but when I read it I said it’d make a great movie.
Wyck Godfrey: We conspired in pre-production that, ‘Wow, that would make a great movie,’ but I think Stephanie’s got it and she’ll decide what she wants to do with it.
Q: What was the easiest and most difficult thing about the adaptation process?
David Slade: I think sticking to the emotional character arc was the most important thing, yet we had so much story to tell and it was great story. I think the hardest thing was combining those things and figuring out what the hell we were going to jettison. I think that’s across the board and that went from pre-production through shooting through editorial, was how would we get this into the movie? How can we tell Jasper’s story, which is a movie in itself, in three minutes and still have all the salient points and not detract from the main story and pay respect to the source material? It’s an obvious answer, but it’s the dichotomy between such great content and story, and how you shave off without hurting. You have the story of the farmer and the pig that’s all bandaged. That’s not the way to go about getting bacon... He cuts the sides, bandages it up, keeps the pig alive. That’s not the way to do it.
Wyck Godfrey: It’s also the genius of Melissa Rosenberg is that she’s able to distill a book down to its essential qualities. And I think in each movie, she’s done an amazing job of that, and then Stephanie with her can go, ‘I really think you’re going to miss this if we don’t have it.’ And then it’s a back and forth of figuring out how to accommodate some of those scenes, but what we’ve been able to do is distill the film down to its emotional essentials.
Q: What is it about vampires and what makes your vampire films different?
David Slade: Aren’t they fascinating? In many ways, they are the worst and the best of us. I hate to use the word dichotomy twice, between this film and the last in terms of vampires, but what was so attractive to me about the ‘Twilight’ film after doing the horrific film I did before, is that Stephanie had done was to cleverly package all that is so dangerous and slightly sexy into this purity and then surrounded it with family and made it lovable and acceptable. At the end of the day, there’s still a carnivore in that so that’s such a great bit of material to work with.
Q: How else are you reaching out besides Twitter?
David Slade: Oh, Twitter gets me in trouble. I don’t know... with my hands?
Wyck Godfrey: We haven’t told him yet but we’re sending him out on a tour of the Ozarks and Middle America.
David Slade: They first showed me the tour of Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan, which I’ve turned down. No — my experience with fans has been fantastic. We would finish shooting at six in the morning and they’d been up all night trying to get a glimpse and they have great tenacity. Whenever I’ve been cornered and stuck with them, they’ve always been lovely and respectful. I think it’s a hallmark of this particular franchise that the fans are not overly critical. They’re very, very accepting. And you know, my only experience that was kind of weird was, I was doing rehearsals with the actors at the hotel and the fans were camping out and we found a way to sneak around just so we could get in and out, and I came out the wrong way and suddenly there was this army there. And I looked at them and you know, the thing they say about wild animals is don’t run, right? So I took a step back and they took a step forward. And then I panicked and I ran, and they ran after me. But it was all in good-nature. I ran into a shop and they ran by. It was like The Beatles in ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ only with a really ugly short bald man instead of Beatles.
Q: Can you talk about the production values on Jasper’s flashback?
David Slade: It was a lot of fun for sure. The schedule was the schedule was the schedule. We would shoot the Rochester Park scene like a month before we’d shoot the night scene. Actually, we shot the hotel room and the outside scene where Rosalie’s walking down the street on the same night. No, they were great fun to do. You know, to me ‘Eclipse’ has these great backstories which again would make, I think Jasper’s story, I think the [Ha a ki] spirit warrior story would make a film on its own. The sad part was how little we could show. I remember early on we wanted to do a giant kind of newborn battle from the 1700s which was just impractical. We just couldn’t do it. We were like, “Yeah, we’re going to get 300 people flying through the air and killing each other.” Then we were like, “How many days? We’re going to tell this part of the story.” Yeah, it was great to do a Western, a ‘30s period piece, a 1600s historical piece and a contemporary film at once. It was a dream.
Wyck Godfrey: It’s also great to see Rosalie and Jasper as human.
David Slade: I remember doing that, and one of the horseriding sequences had to be shot with a second unit, because I wasn’t available. And I was like, ‘Whatever you do, get his face here.” We’d draw storyboards. People had to know, because the rest of it was going to be nighttime, but people had to see Jasper’s face as human. It was important. So they went and shot it and they got it and they came back and did a beautiful job as the second unit did.
Q: What did you want to change going into the film?
David Slade: I think what I was getting at, and it was a very early conversation with Rob, was I really wanted to make sure his character was dangerous. That’s what I was getting at with him. In the last movie, he had played a different character arc. In this one, I wanted to bring out the carnivore in him because he has to get a character arc from someone who’s just relieved to have his reason for existing back to killing, decapitating with his teeth somewhat. That’s quite an arc so that had to come throughout the film, and he hadn’t really done that so much — a little bit in ‘Twilight’ — and I think that was the bit thing. So it was a case of, try to look at every scene with that in mind. Underlying this is danger. Underlying everything is danger. It is a different way of looking at the character completely. That was the intention.
Q: Where’s the Michael Sheen character?
David Slade: He’s in England. No he’s back in Italy. No, he’s not in the book. He’s actually playing Tony Blair.
“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” opens in theaters on June 30th.