Melissa Rosenberg on Why Breaking Dawn Could be a 12A (PG 13) Rating
In a recent exclusive interview with film.com, Twilight Saga screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg talked about balancing her life and wirk. About working with 3 different directors and what we can expect from Breaking Dawn.
When I talked to you for Twilight you were just dipping your toes into the fandom, and what it was all about. Do you check fan sites these days?Melissa Rosenberg: I stay off the Internet, because I’m very sensitive to commentary. There could be 10 comments of “Fabulous job!” and one “She’s horrible!” and it completely throws me. When you’re writing you’re constantly fighting demons to sit down and do what you do. If you listen to the voices outside your head, in addition to the ones inside your head, you’ll never get anything done. There’s enough inner strife.
I do, however, maintain a fan site, where people are mostly kind. It’s interesting reading their comments, because they talk about what’s important to them, what things really register, what things I need to capture. So I do rely on that.
LL: I think your writing has amazing range; from Dexter to Twilight is a pretty big distance. But do you worry about being locked into a particular genre? Do screenwriters get typecast? Or does that not happen?
MR: Oh, it happens all the time. You become the “teen voice” writer. Studios, because they are investing a great deal of money in movies, they want a guarantee that when they hire somebody that person can deliver for them. Everything is fear based, so they pigeonhole people. But I’ve written everything, from Westerns to sci-fi to dramedy, I’ve done it all. I have my strengths and my weaknesses, and the things I prefer not to do, but like most writers I can do, and like to do, a variety of things.
I’m sure I’ll be offered all sorts of romantic teen dramas as I move forward, because I’ve now written plenty of them, and I won’t be doing that again. It’s not of interest me. I do lean more towards doing different kinds of things.
LL: Do you approach each project, as a writer, with the core audience in mind? In other words, do you think, “Well, this is for a teen, and this is for an adult, so I’ve got to handle it this way?”
MR: No, I really don’t. It really isn’t about age. It’s really about writing character and emotion, and the emotional journey. If you start writing to an audience you’re talking down to them. I’ve never written for any age group, I just write character. If you can capture that you’ll get the audiences, and it will be a wide range, as it is for Twilight, it’s a pretty wide range. That stems from Stephenie [Meyer] — I’m adapting her stories, I didn’t invent any of this, but my job is to adapt it and keep the story as universal it was in the novels.
LL: Can you give me one sentence on each director you’ve worked with, what their main strength is, for The Twilight Saga?
MR: Catherine Hardwicke, she brought a very intimate feel. She had a very indie sensibility, she brought those characters to the screen in a very intimate way.
Chris Weitz did sweeping drama. Beautiful visually, and very classic epic storytelling.
David Slade, so far (the process isn’t done yet), brings a level of pacing and intensity.
LL:How much input do you get on the next director? Do they ask you about certain names? Or do they come to you with who you’re working with?
MR: It’s definitely not up to me. I’ve seen lists and weighed in, and they always welcome input, which is lovely, but ultimately it’s their decision and they’ll do what they do and I’ll work with whomever they choose. I had no knowledge of the first three directors and it worked. Generally speaking they [the list] are people I haven’t worked with before.
LL: Can you talk about Taylor Lautner‘s growth into a leading man? It’s seems like he’s really come a long way from Twilight.
MR: Taylor is unusual because he easily could have lost that part. He was a day player in the first movie, and there were all these discussions about whether he’d be coming back. He took it upon himself to transform himself into a leading man. He made himself a leading man. That was nobody but him, he made that for himself.
Taylor Lautner is a rare breed. He wanted something and he made it happen. It easily could have gone the other way, if he doesn’t do anything maybe it doesn’t happen for him. Incredibly driven. That character is such a physical character that it had to be a transformation.
LL: You’ve been writing Dexter and The Twilight Saga for the better part of four years now. How do you maintain a balance with your personal life? Or is it just about “The jobs are available now, I’m going to work as hard as I can right now because I don’t know if I’ll get another shot like this?”
MR: It’s the second one. There is no life balance. I’ve been working for many years and I’m well aware of how rare an opportunity it is to have even one of these projects available, much less both. It’s an extraordinary opportunity. You just don’t walk away from opportunities like that because you’re too tired or it’s too much work. I had to grasp them both, and fortunately I have a very understanding husband and very understanding friends.
LL: If an adaptation felt to you like an R rating, but the studio wanted you to bring it in at a PG-13, would that be doable?
MR: Oh yeah. It’s completely doable. You don’t sacrifice story by cutting language. Nor do you sacrifice story by showing less blood or gore, or whatever it is that’s bringing you to an R rating. It doesn’t hurt it. When Dexter was aired on CBS they had to re-cut some of it for network television and all they had to do was cut some language. There’s more blood and gore in an episode of C.S.I., though of course Dexter is more disturbing. Not because of what you see, but because of what’s implied. I don’t think you take away from suspense or character by altering a few things like that.
LL: Having read Breaking Dawn, where things get ratcheted up a notch, do you still go for that PG-13 rating?
MR: Oh yeah, absolutely. That’s your audience. In this series you don’t sacrifice anything. There are some movies that wouldn’t play at PG-13, like The Hangover, but this is just not one of them for me. Again, if you’re capturing character, emotion, and emotional journey, you’re OK.