Fansite Interview with Bill Condon: Breaking Dawn
Twilight fansites interview Bill Condon, the director of Breaking Dawn
Interview Part 1
Conducted June 3rd, 2011
(Just finished seeing clips and trailer.)
BC: So what did you all think? Any thoughts?
Q: I can’t find the words to explain seeing them where I am from, in my favorite movie. Seeing Kristen out in Rio-to see Kristen there was like…
BC: Yeah, it was great to go down there-
I’m trying to recover.
BC: It was so fun. That’s how we started the movie, too. We spent our first couple weeks there, you know. And it was so great to actually feel, you know-it was actually our biggest experience of fans, kind of being on the set or tracking Rob and Kristen. It actually calmed down after that, but you really felt the excitement when you were there, you know?
Q: Was the fan interaction-I mean that was the one scene where it seemed like there were a lot of people around during filming.
Was that distracting or did it help elevate the mood?
BC: Uh, it was weird ’cause that was again like our second night and it was-I didn’t know what to expect and actually, it turned out to be the most extreme of anything that happened through the whole movie. But when we’re on the streets of Lapa, suddenly, you know, we’re shooting something and this girl suddenly jumps into the shot and throws herself on Rob, goes “ha ha ha ha”, gets pulled off, and I think she was beheaded. I never saw her again.
BC: Something happened to her. But after that-but yeah, it was a little crazy there. Yeah, definitely.
Q: How much of the fandom did you know about before you jumped into this?
Bill: We’d gotten big lectures from all the people at Summit about what it was going to be like. And I actually have to say, in Baton Rouge we were in the studio the whole time, so it was actually really under control, you know. It was actually only being on the streets in Brazil that we saw it.
Q: How much fun was it scouting the locations? I mean, I guess next to Chris Weitz getting to go to scout out in Italy-
BC: I know! Can you imagine? Yeah.
-you probably had the next most exciting things to go scout. How involved were you in the scouting of the locations?
BC: Well, I mean Richard Sherman scouted first. He spent a month there ’cause it was tough to find Isle Esme, you know?
Jack Morrissey (Bill Condon’s partner): Richard Sherman’s the production designer.
BC: And then I got to go to the last five possibilities or something like that. But it was great. I mean, scouting in a boat and stopping off for lunch at the little fish place on an island…No problems there. It was fun.
Q: How familiar with the series were you before you decided to pop into the last installment?
BC: Right. Pretty familiar, I guess. But not you know-I wouldn’t say I was a student of it but I was aware of them all and had seen them all. But then obviously once I jumped in it was really about Twilight Lexicon and it was the books and rereading and just making sure that we had everything right. You know things like-you saw the-Rob’s thing about( referencing a clip showing a glimpse into Edward’s past where he is at a movie theatre stalking “human monsters” )“I haven’t told you everything about myself” and there was a moment when I moved away from Carlisle. That’s only one line I think in the first book, you know, and he’d mentioned it one offhanded comment in one of the movies. But that was an example of something where the first time I met with Rob we had a long great night, many, many, many beers [laughter] and um, he said that one thing that had frustrated him a little is that-I guess that had been more developed in the first book, that was from Edward’s point of view, and it kind of informed the way he was playing the part throughout the whole movie. This sense of self-loathing and guilt that came from having killed humans for that period and yet, it had never been explored in the movies. So it felt like then I went back and looked at the section that described it in Twilight and I felt like, God, what better time right before a wedding to lay out the last objection, you know? And to have it also explain who he’s been, and then in the wedding you’ll see he has a toast where he said-he talks about the fact “to find that one person who can look at you, know everything there is to know about you and still accept you for who you are. I’m ready to move on”. So that being caught in this perpetual 17, and this perpetual kind of-I think you’ll see starting from the moment he gets married he moves on. The performance changes. It’s about him becoming a man. So I think that will be an interesting shift for people, you know? So that-the whole idea of just sort of, between discussions with him, going back finding a line in the first book and then deciding to dramatize that with an episode of him being someone who was on the hunt for human blood felt like something we hadn’t seen before.
Q: Speaking of that scene, I was really interested in the whole black/white dynamic-
-and I guess it was a parallel to the Frankenstein movie that was on.(in the scene where Edward is in a movie theater in the 1920’s the film that is playing is James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein)
BC: I think in a way it was sort of. I mean, there are a lot of levels. One of them is that-I just like the fun that they’re all screaming at Frankenstein and they’ve got Edward in their midst-
BC: -walking behind them, but also, yeah, he’s become the monster in the movie. And actually, the whole movie turns out to be creating his bride. I mean, basically at the end that is what he’s done. Also, the tone of that movie is very similar when you’ve got Aro cackling-it’s similar tonally to a movie like that, and then finally the black and white thing that we do there is just like-as he kills people the color goes away and then it comes into him. So just a film language way to kind of give that sense, you know.
Q: Should we expect to see a lot of that kind of playing with new dimensions that we haven’t seen before in the other [films]?
BC: Yeah, I think so. You know why I think? Because in this movie it’s Jacob, in the next movie it’s Bella. You know as that surprising thing that Stephenie did in the book where having told the story through Bella’s point of view, then suddenly she shifted to Jacob’s point of view in the middle, and then you’re back to Bella’s. In this movie you do-there is this chunk of movie where you get inside the head of what it’s like to be a wolf. So that involves a certain stylization. And then in the next movie, the big change is we’ve been watching these vampires from Bella’s point of view but now it’s like we-because we are her-now it’s like you’re inside what it’s like to be a vampire. What it’s like to move that fast. What it’s like to have those powers. What it looks like. What the world looks like through her eyes. So both of those-they are more-it does become more the point of view of those characters and you get more-it’s more immersive, I think, and that involves a certain kind of stylization.
Q: I love that you’re talking point of view. I mean one of the things that I really love and that other people love too about the movies is that because the books are first person, either from Bella’s point of view or Jacob’s point of view, that now you get to expand out into that scene in Volterra-
BC: That’s right. Yes.
-and you get to see that total-what you only can imagine is occurring. How much collaboration did you have with Stephenie Meyer on those sort of alternate point of view moments that you don’t see in the books, but clearly were happening to get everything to spin.
BC: Right. Well, I think my kind of most intense collaboration was with Melissa Rosenberg-Stephenie was there and part of it all the time, and then-but we were the ones who sort of day-by-day, once I got involved in a rough outline form, we would be there kind of shaping what the scripts would be, and then Stephenie, along with the other producers, would have comments and things like that. Obviously, she’s this great resource that we would go to all the time.
Q: So how much collaboration did you do on the day to day script writing? I mean after doing Chicago and doing Dreamgirls as a screenwriter, I was wondering how’s the adaptation different going from a musical to a movie to going from this large volume of a book to a movie?
BC: Right, which I’d done before too. Gods and Monsters was an adaptation of a book, so that was something, but Melissa wrote these scripts-*his phone rings* Excuse me, this is her right now-
-which was great ’cause I mean you know I jumped into this in March or April or something and we were shooting-you know if you’re prepping two movies and all that stuff-so it was sort of just-it was kind of overwhelming right there in the beginning. So Melissa, who knew it so well and is such a solid, strong writer-we would collaborate and talk through scene after scene after scene, structure, all that stuff, and then she’d come back. And it was really very, as I said, very intense for several months. But it was her. It was her knowing the stuff inside out…and creating. She’s done a lot of creating too on these movies.
Q: Speaking of Melissa and Stephenie, I think it was you that pointed out the cameo first-
BC: Oh right! Yeah.
It was Laura from the Lexicon.(room points at Laura)
Q: What-how did that come about? Who’s idea was that?
BC: Um, I kinda like nudged them all into doing it.
BC: And I stuck them in the back so you could see them as Bella’s coming down the aisle and get a good glimpse of them, you know.
Thank you on behalf of all of us!
BC: Oh good! Well it makes sense ’cause she was at the diner, right? And they [the Cullens] don’t have that many friends, you know.
Q: Which part of Breaking Dawn do you think is going to be the most exciting for the fans? Part 1 or Part 2?
BC: You know what’s interesting about them? All the three-one of the reasons getting involved I was excited is that all three movies are so different. One thing, they each have the director’s style of whoever did it, and these two movies are incredibly different one from the other. They’re like-this is a very-I always think of this movie as being kind of the bookend to the first Twilight. It’s very much Bella’s, you know, kind of private journey from where she starts to being-to becoming a vampire, getting what she wants, you know. But there isn’t that kind of external threat in this movie, you know? The Volturi are always out there but they’re not really breathing down their necks. It’s really Bella making her way to what she wants to be and staying alive. The second movie is epic. The second movie is-you know the whole world kind of converging in this one place to deal with these big major issues about what it means to be a vampire.
Q: You had some parts where-about the sex scenes. Did you have some concerns? Because it’s going to be PG-13.
Did you have some concerns to do the sex things?
BC: Yeah, I guess. Yeah. (laughs) Well I think-yeah I think obviously we weren’t doing anything explicit but I think it’s also important to really-they’re married now-to really express this great connection that they have and to put it into physical terms, you know. So…
Q: Stemming from [an earlier] question, coming from a musical background how excited are you to be involved in the whole music process with Carter Burwell who’s done phenomenal scores in the past-
BC: He has.
–what tone do you want to convey going into the movie, ’cause we obviously didn’t see any music with this [Breaking Dawn footage they screened]?
BC: Right, right.
What tone or feel do you want to convey in your head to Carter, or is it more just Carter’s vision?
BC: No. You know Carter and I have worked together a lot before too, Gods and Monsters and Kinsey, and then he did this first movie. So it’s-I mean we have a collaboration that goes way back and we were just talking the other day. He’s going to come out next week. So it is-again because he did the first movie and now he’s picking up, I think that bookend nature of it will be kind of really heightened by his involvement. But I think like any other movie it’s just now we go and we talk through every moment. Here what’s interesting is that there’s a style that’s been set up that really works-and I think we shot to reflect this-where songs do tell a lot of the story, too, and that way it’s a little bit like a musical. There are all these ballads. You know, when she figures out that she’s pregnant and suddenly he leaves for a second, and she has a moment where she looks in the mirror and falls in love with her baby and looks at herself and said, “You are gonna be a mother”. That’s a minute and a half, just three long shots, but it’s all about where that music takes you inside her head again. And there is a musical number.
At the wedding. A very short one but there’s a dance number. We had a choreographer, who is one of the chorus boys from Chicago who’s now a big choreographer up there.
We’re big musical fans.
BC: Oh good!
Q: On the same note as music: all of the directors so far have had kind of say on the soundtrack choices-
-at least one that they picked themselves. Do you have someone in mind that you hope to see?
BC: For songs?
BC: Yeah, we’ve been doing that all along, you know. Quite a few of them actually. And what’s interesting I think it’s gotten, in a way, easier and easier because like amazing bands now write songs and submit them. So I mean we’ve got Alex Patsavas, who’s done the music supervising for all these movies. I think we’re up to CD ten or eleven or something like that.
BC: Eleven. Each of which has eighteen songs in it. So that’s what? Two hundred songs with amazing people you’ve all heard of who have written Twilight songs for us to choose from. So it’s really…yeah.
Jack Morrissey: And all unreleased. The golden rule stands of: if it’s been released, if you’ve heard it, it will not be in the movie.
Q: I’m curious. When you first read the script, you know you get pictures in your head of things, what scene from when you read it-what was the one that was like the clearest in your head of “Oh, this is how I want to do this”. And did that actually-when you shot it, did it actually come out that way?
BC: Right. That’s a good question. You know what it was? It was the lovemaking. And it wasn’t in the script. There was no script. But it was reading the book and figuring out an approach to that. I think I had a very simple idea right away that I wanted to try, and I think that’s part of why they hired me. I think it was sort of like-I think it made some sense, you know? And that’s exactly the way we shot it, and it’s in the movie now until the MPAA sees it. But so far so good!
JM:: Don’t worry. It’ll stay. That will stay.
BC: Yeah, that’ll stay.
Q: So what initially really drew you to want to kind of take on this project, ’cause it’s exciting but it’s also kind of daunting I’m sure-
BC: Oh it is. Yeah.
-so what kind of drew you to actually say “I’m gonna do this”?
BC: Well it’s like I started out in genre movies, so I’ve always been looking for a chance to get back into that, you know? And this-and also, it’s not just the genre stuff but also a certain kind-I have a reverence for old Hollywood films, you know, and it seems to me this also reflects the kinds of movies that Vincente Minnelli would make. You know romantic melodramas that are really heightened and with a great use of color and style to tell a woman’s story. All that really appealed to me about it, I have to say. If it had-the fact that it was two movies and back-to-back, that was…um, a consideration, you know. That didn’t seem like the most exciting prospect! (laughs) But on the other side of it, it’s-I’m glad we did it, you know?
Q: Are you working on anything involving Part 2 right now? I mean what’s going with that? How do you balance both of them?
BC: Well you know Ginny [Virginia Katz] edits as we go along, and then we would talk on the weekends and stuff. So we have a pretty good rough assembly of Part 2 that Ian, the associate editor, is still working on in terms of putting second unit stuff in and stuff like that. ‘Cause soon enough we have to start, even though it’s a year away, getting some of that effects stuff going. But basically it’s in a drawer for the next six weeks until we’ve finished-really refined-Part 1.
Q: How was it filming both movies at the same time, ’cause it’s your first time doing this? How was that?
BC: Yeah. Better than if we’d done it in 3D, the way we were thinking.
Yeah that was my question! Was: are you really doing it in 3D? ‘Cause that rumor’s been out there for so long.
BC: No, no.
Oh thank you.
BC: We were gonna do the second movie in 3D. There was a good idea behind that, which was: okay she wakes up as a vampire, now let’s see the world differently.
It’s a new dimension for her.
BC: But that wouldn’t have been-it wouldn’t have been just cheesy, but we would have gone crazy.
BC: I think we’re all grateful now. Yeah.
I can never see 3D movies. They just give me a headache so thank you. Thank you so much!
BC: I know. Yeah, no me too. I get a headache just from the tutorial.
BC: But yeah-so it was-I found it was not hard-it was harder on Kristen, I think, more than anybody but she stepped up. But not only to have to go from “oh my God, I’m high school graduate Bella” [to] “oh now I’m kind of intense momma vampire” in the same day! Not only that was a psychological challenge but also physically. I mean she had to-the vampire makeup was two hours. God help her, the pregnant, late term Bella was three hours prosthetics, and sometimes she’d be jumping back and forth between those things. So she was a real trooper, you know. I think it fell on her shoulders more than anybody else’s.
Q: Well, and we’re talking a lot about the serious stuff, and in the clip we saw we got to see some comedic relief from some of the Cullens. (in a pre-wedding scene Alice is barking orders at the family who are moving around large trees)I, and I think a lot fans, are really wanting to know is there going to be some comedic relief with the whole Rosalie/Jacob thing while Bella’s pregnant? Is it-even the trailer’s really serious, which I love-
BC: Yeah, yeah.
-but in the book there’s a lot of comedic relief that I think fans love, and is that going to be in the movie?
BC: Yeah. Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of comedy in the movie.
Q: I have a question. Melissa Rosenberg, when she was talking about the birth scene, she always kind of said something to the effect of “Well, I wrote it and now it’s up to Bill how he wants to do it”. And I was kind of wondering, what do you have to add to that?
BC: In terms of the birth?
Yeah. What did you see? Like how did you see doing it?
BC: Again, the basic idea there was-went back to the approach of the novel which is let’s have her give birth and only see what she can see. So it’s all from her point of view, right? And for me, that allows us to do things like oh my God, he’s coming back into frame and he’s got blood on his teeth! He just bit through something. And if you know what he bit through then you know, but if you don’t, you don’t, you know? So it’s like-it gives-I think for people who know it intimately it gives us that moment: “oh my God, the baby’s just bitten her”. But we don’t see it, you know. It’s only what she can see. So that was the approach there.
Q: So building a relationship with your cast members, and obviously, your crew and all that, what was your favorite aspect of building with the team?
BC: You know what? I think it was with the actors, being able to really spend weeks and weeks before we started talking through the scripts over, and over, and over again, you know. Um, and especially Kristen who knows it so well and she feels such a strong like burden of responsibility to live up to what the fan-she’s a fan, you know. She [said] “I cried when I read this [the] first time. I wanna make sure that people [cry]”, you know. So that when she’s walking down the aisle at the wedding, you can’t believe what she puts herself through to make sure she gets into the state that’s gonna make-like open her up to all of the feelings that Bella’s feeling at that moment. It’s really amazing to watch. So that, I think, more than anything, you know. And I always think with Kristen too-sometimes she gets a bad rap for-like she seems like she’s a little, you know, unfriendly and things like that. I think that it’s all just-it’s her-she’s so tough on herself and that’s all it is.
She’s so great one-on-one.
BC: Yeah, yeah.
Q: Any favorite moment on set? Like a favorite moment on there?
BC: Oh gosh.
Q: Tell us about the dance off, what happened? ( the actors on Twitter kept referring to the Breaking Dawn Dance Battle)
BC: Oh yeah, that thing. You heard about that, right? That was amazing. God, I’ve never been surprised on a set like that ever.
Q: Is that gonna make the DVD?
BC: I would think so, yeah. I would think so.
JM: It will, because we knew it was happening and he didn’t know but I knew, and we T-ed up all the DVD documentary guys. It’s like “this is happening” and we had all these cameras going.
‘Cause all the fans wanna know that. Everyone tweeted about it so much.
BC: Just the part of me dancing won’t be on there.
Q: Next to Catherine Hardwicke, you probably had the larger shot of casting.
BC: Yes, it’s true. Yeah.
I mean just compared to-I mean just everybody else, you know there was the wolf pack-
BC: Yeah, like 70 of them.
One of my favorite movies is Jerry Maguire with the line, “You had me at ‘hello'”. Was there anybody in that casting process that maybe you didn’t know and then you were just like, “Whoa, you had me at ‘hello’!” Who was your-
BC: You know who? Mackenzie Phillips. I mean-Phillips…Mackenzie.
BC: She’s a perfect, perfect-yeah, [inaudible] Mackenzie Foy. Mackenzie Foy was like, wow that’s it. She looks like their daughter and there’s just a quality she had, you know. I mean and it was such a relief because Renesmee was so tough to picture and imagine, you know? So I have to say she was just like, I think we’ve got it right there ’cause it’s possible. And then I showed her to everybody else and everybody agreed.
Q: How were the auditions for the new cast members?
BC: The auditions?
Yeah. How you chose them?
BC: You know some of them came in, some of them were on tape. All of that, you know. And then-
I guess it’s a lot.
BC: A lot, yeah I know. We, yeah…but we had a great casting director, Debbie Zane, who I worked with a lot. She really did a wonderful job sort of tracking everybody around the world.
Q: Going back to Renesmee, it was such a big thing, like Stephenie always said…I think when Breaking Dawn the book came out, she said, “You know, I don’t know if the technology will be advanced enough by the time the film comes out”. How did you approach that? Like was that a daunting thing, were you excited to do it? How did you approach Renesmee as a character?
BC: Yeah, it was a little scary at first just ’cause it is all that dots on people’s faces and helmets and things like that. But it was-it actually turned out to be fun. Mackenzie was there all the time to sort of provide the model for whatever size girl was playing the part. And then weirdly enough, the three-year old, four-year old, they all have their different personalities and they were all kinda good, you know. So actually you sort of fall in love with aspects of different girls all the way through. But we’re just-there’s John Bruno (he walks into the room), who’s our visual effects supervisor, the legend.
Say hello, John.
BC: But we haven’t done any of that yet ’cause it’s movie two, so it’ll be fascinating to see when it actually starts, to see if it works.
Q: A lot of directors get this glazed look in their eye when people say, “What is your biggest challenge?” And they go like this [Want to put in facial expression she made here?], and they go, “The weather.” You probably were the person who’s had to spend the least amount of time in the Pacific Northwest; so I’m just curious, were you warned beforehand that the biggest challenge was the weather?
BC: Yes. Because we were up there for a third of the schedule but we shot every interior in Baton Rouge so we had to be outside everyday. And we had nowhere to go when it was raining, which was everyday. So that was a huge challenge, absolutely. The most amazing thing was it was April 15, it was the last night of shooting, we looked up and it was snowing.
You can’t-you can hide rain, you can’t hide snow. We were just like, “Oh my God, what are we gonna do?” And then suddenly, you know, like an hour later it stopped. But, you know…
Q: Was the weather problematic at all in Brazil, too? I mean I’m thinking of the water and-
BC: No, that was a pretty-you know we were on this island near Paraty, sorta 45 minutes available just by boat, and at the end of our, I think, second, maybe third, night of shooting we go to get in our boats to go back to the village and there’s a storm, which turns into a typhoon and we’re stuck there all night. It’s 80 people on the floor, and one bottle of vodka that they found in the wine closet!
Oh no! (laughter)
JM: Sleeping on the floor of the set.
BC: Sleeping on the floor of the set. We were all-Stephenie was on a huge mattress and we’d hang around her for awhile. It was amazing, yeah so…
Q: How was your visit to Brazil did you get to know some cities? What did you do in your spare time?
BC: In Rio?
Yeah, in Rio.
BC: Well, it was great ’cause the film festival was going on there at that time so I got to-
In Paraty, right?
BC: No, no in Rio. When we were prepping in Rio ’cause we shot in Rio too.
Oh, you shot in Paraty and Rio.
BC: That’s right. So I got to hang out with some filmmakers who were there and that was sorta just a nice way to get like a glimpse of the film community there.
Q: So kinda tying back with the end, like what do you most want to convey to the fans, to anybody who sees this?
It’s a loaded question.
BC: That’s a big question. Yeah. Um…
We don’t bite we promise.
BC: I know, it’s just hard to put into words, you know? [I] just hope that it’s a satisfying next step in the journey and I think the reason I took the movie on is that it represents Bella, Edward, and Jacob growing up. I mean that’s the essence of the movie and that’s what excites me; it’s watching them move past the last moments of childhood into being adults and everything that that represents.
Q: I know we have a costume designer that takes care of most of the costumes and things like that, but with Bella’s wedding dress, you know, we’re talking about years of anticipation and speculation. And we had even designers drawing their own mock-ups of what it might be like and so I was wondering, like, how did you choose a designer/design? I’m sure you had a hand in it, right?
BC: I had-no, you know I-
Summit: The designer hasn’t been announced, yet.(It has since been announced as Carolina Herrera)
BC: Right, so I won’t announce the designer but this was something, as you might imagine, Stephenie had very strong feelings about. So she had somebody she wanted to use, Michael [Wilkinson, costume designer] felt comfortable with her, then we all got in and collaborated, but that was basically a choice that was sort of driven by Stephenie.
Q: Were you guys able to enjoy getting into the really small parts of the book since you have two films?
BC: Yes, I think so. Yeah. And I think what’s interesting is that um, you know, we’re trying-the second movie now is running a little over two hours, I don’t see much to trim there so there’s no question that the books-there’s no fat, you know? There’s no just sort of trying to fill it out into two movies. It’s like incredibly-it’s incredible how much happens in these books, you know? It needed two movies, there’s no doubt. Yeah. But I think that’s one thing that Kristen was really excited by when we started working together, rehearsing, it’s like this is the first-these are the first scripts where I wasn’t like thinking, “Oh my God, there are a hundred favorite moments that aren’t here.” You know? That it’s been so telescoped.
Summit: Last question.
Have a good one!
Pressure’s on you!
Q: Speaking of like anticipation, is there something in particular that you’re really excited to see the fan’s reaction to and something that maybe you’re like more nervous [about] ’cause it’s such a highly anticipated thing?
BC: That’s a good question. Um…
And it’s two-in-one!
BC: You know, I think…She gets married; she has sex; she gives birth; and she dies and she becomes a vampire. Five huge things happen in this movie-I’m sorry, Jacob imprints.
BC: Six! Six huge things that happen and that was-I had on my board just like cards with these things: how do we figure [these out]?-you know, the second movie, obviously it’s got the shield and all that stuff. So I feel like that is my biggest excitement about people seeing how we did those six things, and also fear that it will because I think those are so…such huge events for everybody. It’s what everything’s been leading up to that I think everyone’s got ideas; clearly, they’ve visualized what that might be. So you hope you get to the essence of what it is and that none of them is a disappointment, you know?
Summit: Thank you, Bill.
BC: Okay, thank you. It’s so nice to meet you!
Thanks to Twilight Series Theories for transcribing!