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Eclipse Interview: Slade, Godfrey, Rosenberg

From the Twilight press conference

Hard Candy‘s David Slade returns to the director’s chair for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and during a weekend press conference he was joined by screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg and producer Wyck Godfrey.

Question: Why should somebody see Eclipse? 

David Slade: If you’re not into the World Cup, and there’s nothing worth seeing on TV and you’ve no got any plans. I think six or seven decapitations. As long as there’s nothing else on, other movies you want to see. But no, being serious, I think it’s the most mature book, and I think we made 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 are built out of character, so they’re not just events — they’re built out of a need to get to a place. And I think it’s a film for everyone. 

Q: What did you do to prepare for Eclipse and how did you bring your own style to the film? 

Slade: There’s a vocabulary, 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 that and planning it. Two, [doing] 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 human faces than maybe other directors will 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 focus 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 you sense these two people in that world and I really think that was effective. 

Slade: I was just going to go on to elaborate for 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, in a sense, you get a close-up which has very little amount of focus in it, but you’ll see medium shots and wider shots that will bring the audience’s attention to a specific place, which is completely 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? 

Slade: What I did is I saw each one of the actors individually and we had one-on-one meetings. The first time I was just listening, I was looking at 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, fourth time. By this time, we’re now talking about all the ideas that we’re 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 talk about character anymore — we talk about content and story. And that’s the most respectful way and that’s how I chose to go about it. 

Q: Melissa, I read this script was the most difficult to write out of all three so far. What were some of the challenges? 

Melissa Rosenberg: I think to begin with, it actually took me by surprise because I actually thought this would be the easiest because there’s so much conflict in it. You have this huge battle that you’re building toward. But then once I got into it and actually [started] breaking the story, I realize 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. What I found was that [there is ] a lot of the threat that is in the third act building that conflict, pulling that forward and being able to expand on 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 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? 

Slade: I think the only thing really that was expressed to me was continuity. Different films are expected of different directors per film, different visions for the 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. 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 because I was going to shoot with a different lens than the way they shot before. So the answer is I was given freedom, only just to respect what had come before. There were no mandates.  

Godfrey: 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. He had really worked with young actresses and gotten performances out of them that were incredible, and felt he understood them, but that’s something we’ve always wanted was for each director to bring his own individual style.  

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 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.  

Godfrey: Every now and then he’d have Edward walk through the sunlight and, ‘Oh wait — he has to sparkle.’ 

Slade: 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 in the sun than we did in the rain.  

Godfrey: No one likes to hear that you’re not shooting because it’s sunny. 

Slade: It would be perfect for any other movie. 

Q: What extras will be on the DVD? 

Godfrey: The nude scene we shot that wasn’t in the book. I don’t know, with any film, you go through the process 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. 

Slade: There were a number of scenes which just felt excessive in terms of beating the same story, but some of them were really nice. 

Godfrey: There was a great scene with Angela and Kristin that is really just 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 cut. 

Slade: Film has its own momentum from the script, and when you start writing and 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’ll be a nice, little bonus for fans of the books that we went and shot that stuff. 

Godfrey: Well I think there’s going to be a lot of classic behind the scenes stuff, where you’re going to get to see 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. 

Rosenberg: It’s interesting. When I did the first movie, Twilight, I actually wrote it before it was cast, sort of writing in a vacuum, and 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 it self. 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. But I think there’s a confidence level in the storytelling.  

Godfrey: There’s 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 appreciate when they are starting to be easier with each other and more casual in the face of heightened drama, which Eclipse certainly has. 

Slade: You look at the performances 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 can talk about it, but Billy just has natural comic timing. All those expressions he has kind of capitalize on that. 

Rosenberg: More comedy evolved. For instance, the scene at the police station, Billy’s exit was a complete improvisation that looked great. Other stuff was funny, but he said, ‘Let me just try this,’ and we just chose the one that was the funniest. 

Godfrey: From a set standpoint, we save everything and reuse, and you have to enhance the parts that have been beaten up in storage, but I don’t think I there’s everything specifically that we do, but efficiency in production is always what you’re looking for, so you want to save as much as possible. 

Slade: For a film shoot, you do need specific things, but on this one, the conservation of the nature that we went to was a very big concern. 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 as responsible as we could be, but certainly that was one of the biggest things for us, was going into one of 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?

Godfrey: It all happened really quickly. Rochelle 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. [We] were really fortunate that we sent her the script immediately and then she decided she wanted to do it. 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. 

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 was so tight. We shot this film in 50 days? Most action movies are shot in double, triple that. And we had a schedule that had been put together like a jigsaw puzzle — one way — so we basically said, ‘No other choice.’ 

Q: Melissa, are you on the set? Is it intimidating because Stephenie Meyer is there a lot? 

Rosenberg: While I was writing Eclipse, I hadn’t gotten to the fourth one yet. It was before Breaking Dawn — talk to me in another year. But regarding Stephenie, 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 if I could have been much use. If David needed a rewrite, I’d get a phone call. 

Godfrey: Also, you and Stephenie 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, Stephenie can come and answer questions that we have that aren’t in her books. You know, like, ‘Does that character ever do this?’ And she’s like, ‘No, that character was born in 1702, and…’ She rattles it off and it really just fills out the screenplay. 

Slade: She has all of these back stories for everybody. I remember you and I getting on the phone with her about Riley and the cave, and we had no idea. We said, ‘What is all this?’ and Stephanie was like, ‘Well, it’s obvious — this is how it happens.’ We wouldn’t know, but she would know, because she’s written it the story in her head. 

Q: Do you think there will be a spin-off of some sorts?  

Slade: I don’t believe so, but when I read it I said… 

Godfrey: We conspired in pre-production that, ‘Wow, that would make a great movie,’ but Stephenie’s got it. She’ll decide what she wants to do with it. 

Q: What did you find to be the most important thing about adaptation process? 

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 a great story. I think the hardest thing was combining those things and figuring out what the hell we were going to [cut]. I really think that’s across the board. It went from pre-production through shooting through editorial: how would we get this into the movie? How would we tell the Jasper story, which is a movie in itself, 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. You have the story of the farmer and the pig that’s all bandaged. That’s not the way to go about getting bacon… cuts the sides, bandages it up, keeps the pig alive. That’s not the proper way to do it. 

Godfrey: 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 Stephenie [Meyer] 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 sort of accommodate some of those scenes, but what we’ve been able to do is distill the film down to its emotional essentials. 

Slade: 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’d done before, is what Stephanie had done was so cleverly package all that is so dangerous and slightly sexy into this purity and then surrounded it with family and made it acceptable.  

Q: How else are you reaching out to fans besides Twitter?

Slade: I don’t know… with my hands? 

Godfrey: We’re sending him out on a tour of the Ozarks and middle America. 

Slade: They showed me an official 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 be up all night trying to get information, and they have great tenacity. Whenever I’ve been torn on something with them, they’ve been very respectful. I think it’s a hallmark of this particular franchise that the fans are very accepting. My only experience that was kind of weird was I was doing rehearsals with the actors at the hotel and the fans had come and we found a way to sneak around just so we could get in and out. I came out the wrong way and suddenly there was this army there. The thing they say about wild animals is don’t run away? So I took a step back and they took a step forward. And I panicked and I ran, and they ran after me. But it was all good-natured and I ran into a shop. It was like The Beatles in ‘A Hard Day’s Night.” 

Q: Can you talk about the production values on Jasper’s flashback? 

Slade: They were great fun to do. You know, ‘Eclipse’ has these great back stories. It was great to do a Western, a ‘30s period piece, a 1600s historical piece and a contemporary film at once.  

Godfrey: It was also great to see Rosalie and Jasper as human. 

Slade: I remember doing that and one of the horse riding sequences had to be shot with a second unit, because I wasn’t available. And I was like, ‘How do we get his face here?’ 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. 

Q: What did you want to change going into the film? 

Slade: I think what I was getting at, and it was a very early conversation with Rob, was I really wanted to make sure this character was dangerous. That’s what I was getting at. In the last movie he had played a different character arc, but in this movie I wanted to bring out the carnivore in him … 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 main 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. That was the intention. 

Q: Where’s the Michael Sheen character? 

Slade: He’s in England playing Tony Blair. 

Source: Heather Newgen