FearNET interview with Chris Weitz
FearNET had the chance to interview the marvelous Chris Weitz about New Moon. In the interview Chris talks about his responsibilities for New Moon and how he felt leading the cast hand picked by Catherine Hardwicke. He also talks about his CGI creations!
The prospect of putting any effects-heavy movie together is a momentous task, but especially so when you’re dealing with a sequel to Twilight New Moon, the 2009 follow-up to Catherine Hardwicke’s adaptation of the Stephenie Meyer novel of the same name, required more of everything – characters, actors, story, and especially effects. FEARnet recently caught up with New Moon director Chris Weitz to discuss the film’s forthcoming DVD and Blu-ray; in addition to delving into all of those technical challenges, Weitz revealed a few new tidbits about the film and if given the opportunity, his thoughts about directing the series’ fourth installment, Breaking Dawn.
FEARnet: Listening to the commentary during the scene where Edward makes his speech about Romero & Juliet in school, you said that you should probably shut up and just let Robert Pattinson talk. But what was your actual approach when you came in to produce the bonus materials on this DVD and Blu-ray, given the fact that although you were joking that might partially be true?
Chris Weitz: Well, it’s funny because it’s very difficult to talk about cutting any scene with Edward or Taylor because I know that the fans can’t imagine why you wouldn’t have a three-hour version of the movie. So I have to be very diplomatic and careful as to how I explain how a certain scene was cut a certain way in order for the flow of the story. To a lot of Twilight fans, less is never more. So it’s funny that when [editor] Peter Lambert I’m doing the commentary, it’s like a couple of old guys interrupting the viewing of the movie. But of course, they have the option of just turning us off, so I’d like to think that for the very few people who actually want to hear anything that I have to say about the movie, we’re there for them.
In terms of being a cog in the larger wheel of Twilight, what effort did you make or want to make to build ideas or developments into this installment that might be paid off in subsequent ones?
Well, I think I had a certain degree of responsibility to cast as well as possible because I knew that David Slade was going to inherit my choices. But of course, I would never cast any other way; you have to cast the best actress for the role that you can get. It is curious to know that you are choosing actors that will have relevance in future episodes without the ability of the next director to have a say in it. But then again, if you’re casting Michael Sheen or Dakota Fanning, you kind of feel like you’re doing anybody a service. I think in the same way I was pretty happy to inherit a really great cast and one that worked from Catherine Hardwicke. In terms of the plot mechanics, to be honest, Bella kind of ends up where she began, so you really return her to a state of – well, actually that’s not true. We established a love triangle that will play out and as long as nobody has done anything irrevocable, and that’s pretty much the case, then we’re in good shape. If we end up with the set of circumstances that the book ends sets up, then we’re doing okay.
How easy was it to coordinate the visual aspects of the film, not only the look and design of new characters like the Volturi but coordinating and shooting sequences like the passage of time after Edward breaks up with Bella?
Well, I think that the passage of time was an open opportunity for us to take something that was a literary device that works rather nicely in the book and turn it into a kind of elegant visual effects shot that doesn’t necessarily seem like a very CGI-intensive shot, but it in fact was very labor-intensive and was done over the course of half of a year. The elements that go into it, it has to be shot in numerous passes in order to get the various seasons outside the window and all of that kind of thing, and I always knew this would be a really interesting way to use a motion-control camera to show the passage of time. So that I saw as an opportunity to expand upon what was in the book. In terms of the Volturi location, I don’t think it was described in terrible detail in the book nor very much in the script, but we just knew that we wanted it to be very grand and I decided that I wanted to go away from every single vampire cliché possible.
So I said it wasn’t going to be dark, it wasn’t going to be gloomy; it wasn’t going to have a bluish tinge to the whole thing. It wasn’t going to be ostensibly creepy. So we were able to build an actual set in which we could shoot 360 degrees, which actually sort of had a renaissance clarity to it and in that way it was unexpected. I mean, I always wanted the appearance of the Volturi, of course, to be not quite what you thought it was going to be, and that’s just another chance that you have. And it involved keeping Stephenie Meyer updated as to what our ideas were because I didn’t want to do something in complete violation of how she would have conceived of things. And at the same time, I think she was happy to go along with things as long as we had a take that was going to look elegant for us.
You said on the Blu-ray that she was a great collaborator. But were there things from the source material that you knew would have to be tweaked in their transition to the screen?
There were a few. I mean, there wasn’t a fight per se in the ending of the Volturi sequence, so it was a cinematic device of sorts, and I think that Stephenie understood why there would be this kind of moment of action and why we would sort of amp up the moments of tension near death, because obviously in the book you can play all of these things out in terms of the interior tension of the character and her sense of things about to go terribly wrong, but we played them out a bit more. And then I think it’s about maintaining a very fine line between doing things and suddenly becoming The Matrix, which we didn’t want to do, but still having a satisfying fight element to it that was – and it wasn’t even directed towards boys, really. It was to lend a bit more kind of muscular tension to the whole thing.
Is there anything on the Blu-ray that you think will highlight an element of the film or the story that even diehard fans might not have noticed in theaters?
Yeah. It’s interesting that when you get a DVD of a movie that you care about, you can actually watch it frame by frame and dissect the kind of work that went into things, so there are hundreds of little decisions that one makes a day which pass by in a theatrical viewing in the cinema in an unconscious manner, but that if you look at them carefully, by looking at them carefully, you can kind of dissect and analyze the intentions, without being too film-schooly about it – the intentions and rationalizations why things are shot a certain way. And sometimes, to be honest, it’s just because you didn’t have enough time that day and that’s why there wasn’t this other close-up, but sometimes the length of a lens or the height of the camera angle or the way that the camera moves actually meant something to us on the day and that we wanted the whole thing to add up to an experience even though, okay, this is a franchise, the second movie in the franchise. We still as a crew and cast members thought about every single moment. There wasn’t really a moment that didn’t have a lot of homework put into it, so in that regard I’m glad people who liked the movie might get more of a chance to absorb details in it.
Obviously there have been all kinds of discussions about what will happen with Breaking Dawn. Given your relationship with Summit, is directing that film or films, plural, something you would be interested in doing, or have you sort of said all you want to in and about the series with New Moon?
Well, I never say never, but I think that it’s probably best if each of the films is directed by a different director, and that I may have exhausted my ability to direct CGI films. But I have to say that with the caveat that none of this comes from the point of view of like, “one movie for me, one movie for them.” I never felt that way about it, and that part of the joy of doing New Moon was having a really good experience with Summit and having a really good experience with Stephenie Meyer, and getting to know some young actors whose work I really appreciate. So there are a number of factors rotating in favor of me working with them again, but at the same time, it’s hard to express that these super, logistically-complicated movies really take it out of you, especially if you have a young family. And I think that that’s kind of the tiebreaker there.