Interview with Eclipse Producer Wyck Godfrey
In February of 2006, Wyck Godfrey partnered with his friend Marty Bowen to create their own production company, Temple Hill Entertainment, and they made their first film together – The Nativity Story, directed by Catherine Hardwicke. A couple years later, he teamed up with Hardwicke again to produce Twilight, which became an international sensation, along with the second installment in the story, The Twilight Saga: New Moon.With The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, the third chapter of the cultural phenomenon, set to be released on June 30th and also sure to be a huge hit, producer Wyck Godfrey spoke exclusively to IESB about bringing Eclipse to the screen and why David Slade was the perfect director. He also talked about making Breaking Dawn with director Bill Condon, and his line-up of other projects that are in development.
IESB: At what point did you get involved with the Twilight films?
Wyck: I got involved when they decided to make Twilight and brought on Catherine Hardwicke. She and I had made a movie together, called The Nativity Story, and we were really good friends, and she kept calling and asking me for help. I was shooting a movie in Portland, and they were going to shoot in Portland and, at some point, she said, “I need a producer who has the same level of energy I have.” And Erik Feig, who runs the studio, had also called and said, “Can you come in and produce these movies for us? You know Catherine, you know how she works and you know how I work, so you’d be a perfect person to help, in the middle of it.” So, I’ve been on it every day, since that day two and a half years ago.
IESB: For people who aren’t necessarily familiar with what a producer does, what exactly is your involvement with the films?
Wyck: You really oversee the development and the production of the movie, coordinating between the director and the actors, everything that’s happening on set and the studio, and the guys that are paying for the movie.
IESB: How much of an advantage has it been for you to have Stephenie Meyer as involved as she is? How vocal is she, as far as how she wants things done?
Wyck: She’s insightful about things we’re doing, and always goes back to character, the rules of the world and the mythology. It’s been really helpful because, with an audience that is as fervent as hers is, you want to make sure you get it right. I’ve done a bunch of book adaptations and the ones that have worked have been because we really went back to the source material and followed it. You have your audience that loves the books, which is your first core audience, and then you need to expand beyond that, but you don’t want to tick them off. So, with Stephenie being there, you just know that the films are going to deliver what the audience wants.
IESB: Was there a pivotal moment in the production of the first film, where you realized that you were no longer making just this small independent movie, and that it was going to be this huge phenomenon?
Wyck: No. When we were shooting the first one, we knew that there was a cult-ish following of the book, but we didn’t know how big it was. Once we wrapped and started post-production, it wasn’t until Comic-Con that summer that we realized what was happening. The Host, her other book, came out that May and was a big best-seller. Then, Comic-Con happened. Then, she had Breaking Dawn come out in August and the sales were astronomical. All of a sudden, this book series that had sold three or four million copies was selling 30 to 40 million. And then, by the time the movie came out, we thought it was going to be big, but we still didn’t know that it was going to be as big as it was. It was exciting to be a part of.
IESB: The fans of this movie are both its biggest supporters and it’s most vocal critics. Have you been generally pleased with what you’ve heard from the fans? Has anything about their reactions been surprising to you?
Wyck: No. The knee-jerk is, “Oh, my gosh, that’s going to be terrible! How could they do that?,” whether it was casting Rob Pattinson or hiring Catherine Hardwicke or hiring Chris Weitz or keeping Taylor Lautner – there were so many. The initial knee-jerk is negative, and then they embrace it. Ultimately, they want to love it, and once they get over that fear of, “Oh, I hope they don’t mess up my beloved little gem,” then they get excited and they’re great supporters.
IESB: Since Eclipse specifically has been talked about the favorite book of the series for a lot of people and people thought it would make the best film, do you think that this installment will live up to those expectations?
Wyck: I do think that, so far, the word we’ve gotten is that it lives up to and exceeds people’s expectations. I think it’s easy because you have Team Edward and Team Jacob getting equal play. The hard thing about New Moon, for instance, was that, for the people that loved Jacob, they loved the movie, but Edward’s not in it much. Here’s a movie now where Edward is back in the picture, and it’s all about Bella and her choice between the two of them, and the conflict that arises out of that. It’s just got more drama than the other two books. There’s just more going on between her emotional state, but also the physical state and what’s happening with the Newborns. You feel like, all of a sudden, in this movie, all of the external dangers of the world are descending on Forks, and it’s on. Given that it has more genre elements than New Moon and Twilight, I feel like guys will embrace it more than the earlier two films. But, the thing that’s most exciting to me is that I think it’s the most emotionally potent of the three, so we haven’t betrayed our core audience, who really are going for the romance because it’s heartbreaking. That’s really exciting.
IESB: With an even bigger cast, flashbacks, all the heightened emotions of the love triangle and all the big fight scenes, was this film more challenging, as far as getting through the production?
Wyck: It was definitely more challenging. We had to run a concurrent second unit and first unit, at all times. We had to go to extreme locations to shoot Jasper riding in the West. We had to deal with all of the different storylines, and trying to connect it to Bella’s journey was something that we worked really hard to do, so that it wasn’t just a bunch of different episodes of different flashbacks. You really have to feel connected to her and what these stories mean to her. And, the fun thing for the movie is that it really fleshes out the mythology of Stephenie’s world. The world gets bigger and bigger in her universe, and I think that makes it more filmic.
IESB: What was it about David Slade that made him the right director for Eclipse?
Wyck: We felt that he was a real antidote to the classicism of Chris Weitz’s filmmaking. I think this is a more dangerous film. It’s about revenge and being torn between two people, and we wanted a real raw intensity to the style. Hard Candy was the film that I had loved since I first saw it, and I just was amazed by how he kept a movie about two people in a house, so bristling with energy and anxiety. The performance that Ellen Page gave in that movie made me feel like this guy knew how to direct young actors. And, with the way he shoots with a very tight lens and shallow focus, everything feels very edgy. You always run the risk of a series like this growing stale for people, and one of the ways to avoid that is to bring a different filmmaking style to each film, and David felt like a perfect fit.
IESB: With Bill Condon being the first director to take on two of the movies, for Breaking Dawn, what was it about him that made you decide he was the right person?
Wyck: I think the maturity of the story in Breaking Dawn. Both Rob [Pattinson] and Kristen [Stewart] are going to have to go into stories that, in a sense, are older than they are, with marriage, childbirth, parenthood and how you become equals in a marriage, and I think Bill is a very sophisticated filmmaker. He has won Academy Awards for actors in his movies, and most of his movies have somebody nominated. From a performance standpoint, we really wanted a filmmaker that’s going to dig deep into the characters of Bella, Edward and Jacob and really illicit strong, amazing performances.
IESB: Since there are so many things going on in the next story, do you see anything in particular as being the biggest challenge that you’re going to have to deal with?
Wyck: I think the biggest challenge is going to be just the sheer size with the amount of vampires on a battlefield in the final conflict of Breaking Dawn, which is supposed to take place in a snow covered field. Different vampires have different powers, and it’s just going to, logistically, be a really difficult film.
IESB: As a producer, how much can you take on at once, before you start to feel like you’re spreading yourself too thin?
Wyck: My focus has always been the Twilight movies. I have a company with a partner, Marty Bowen, and between us, we can do Dear John and we just finished a Will Ferrell movie, called Everything Must Go. One of us can oversee the actual production, but we’re constantly communicating and giving each other notes and helping each other.
IESB: Do you have anything else you’re working on right now?
Wyck: We have a few things coming up. One is a Janis Joplin biography with Fernando Meirelles and Amy Adams. Another one is a movie that our writer on Dear John is going to direct, called Ten Year. It’s a high school reunion movie with Channing Tatum and Kate Mara, and a bunch of young actors. Those are probably going to be our next two things. And then, we’ve got a country western, bull-riding love story, that falls more into the Dear John world, that we’re doing with Will Smith’s company.