Chris Weitz takes the Twilight helm with New Moon
After the success of Twilight last year, New Moon — the latest film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s book series — is one of the most hotly anticipated movies to be released this year. Leading the production is director Chris Weitz, who is taking his first stab at the franchise.
Q. How does it feel to take over directorial duties of such a successful franchise?
A. On the one hand, it’s exciting to take over a successful franchise. On the other, it’s daunting. There are so many fans who have high expectations for this film, but it’s made easy by the fact that I inherited this amazing cast who are certainly very talented. So half of the time, I’m just overjoyed to be a part of this and the other half, I’m nervous that I’m going to be hunted down and killed by a pack of 14-year-old teenage girls in about a year’s time!
Q. What was your reaction when you were first offered the job?
A. I was surprised because it happened very suddenly, and I had a week and a half to decide whether I was gong to do it or not. Then I saw the first film, I saw the case and I thought, ‘This is going to be great, actually. Kristen, Rob and Taylor were great’ – that’s what convinced me to do it. And I read the book and I thought I saw my way of making a good version of the book. It’s really a question of whether I can do justice to the book and to please the readers. That’s my job. It’s not to run away with it and just do my version of things. It’s to be faithful to their experience of reading it.
Q. “Twilight”, the first installment of the series, received some criticism for not being 100 per cent true to the book. Are you addressing some of these issues?
A. It’s impossible to be completely faithful to every single page of a book because movies don’t have enough time. So you end up cutting things and combining things. But I would say that we’re definitely using the book as our bible. My take on this film is the film is the book and Stephanie Mayer is my main resource for everything in this. I’m constantly checking with her to see if it’s something a character would do or a detail is right. You can never absolutely please everybody but my main intention is to satisfy the fans of the book.
Q. You’re a very visual director. What’s your vision for New Moon?
A. We’ve got an amazing visual effects team. The whole idea is to use the full palette of colors, to have our shadows be very dark and to have our colours be very rich so that we can experience the full range of emotional texture. The idea is that this will look like a Victorian narrative painting in a way, with those medieval jewel-like colours as well as very glossy deep blacks, and for the composition of the frames to be classical. In some ways, this is going to be a rather old-fashioned film. There are elements that incorporate the latest technology and there are things that are very dynamic in the action scenes. But it’s more Dr. Zhivago than Iron Man.
Q. Dr. Zhivago was a romance, much like Twilight…
A. Well, these books are wonderful romances and appeal to people’s sense of their lives and loves. At the same time, they’re also very grand in scope.
Q. Is it a way of aiming at older audiences?
A. I think that would be nice, too. Actually, I think there’s an older audience for the books as well — which is the hidden demographic that people don’t acknowledge, that people’s mom’s are reading this as well! I want to render a version that satisfies the fans of the book but also appeals to an older audience as well. Alexander Desplats is going to do the music, which is another great thing for me. He’s someone I worked with before. I think he’s immensely talented. So the idea is to make something beautiful.
Q. Is the music very important in this kind of film?
A. It is. The book itself is a very internalized narrative and music can be extraordinarily helpful in conveying those kinds of nuances of emotion which otherwise what you would rely on is voiceover or people flat out stating what they feel, which they never, ever do. So it helps you avoid exposition and it can make it intro a really gorgeous nuanced affair. Films enjoy more senses that almost any other art form, so music is going to play a tremendous role in this.
Q. Could you tell us about New Moon and how it’s different from Twilight?
A. I think we get an opportunity to sort of expand our scope — from the confines of the forest to Italy. Your sense of mythology of this world is deepened so that the story that underlies what was going on in the first movie becomes more and more clear. And there are a lot of secrets that were set up in the first book and the first movie that come to light in the second movie. So there are a lot of surprises in store.
Q. How do you keep the continuity of the story?
A. Well, we try to maintain a coherence so that nothing seems unrealistic or bizarre. One of the strengths of Stephenie Meyer’s books is that they manage to convey the normalness of people’s lives and the normalness of the main character, and yet feeds on all those supernatural and extraordinary elements. When we go to Italy [to shoot], we are dealing with this 2,000-year-old order of vampires. The key is to cast it and to design it in such a way that it doesn’t fall completely from the story, but it’s a beautiful and intricate part of the whole thing, while at the same time, giving you the sense that you’re opening up to this much bigger world. That part of the story is a reversal of the usual rules. Bella goes to save Edward. It’s not the guy saving the girl; it’s the other way around.
Q. Can you comment on some of your casting choices, like Dakota Fanning?
A. Dakota Fanning is playing Jane, who’s the most dangerous and evil of all of them. And it’s a part where she plays against type because you don’t think of Dakota Fanning as either evil or dangerous. But she’s an extraordinary actress and we’re lucky to have her. Michael Sheen plays the head of the Volturi, who are the law and order of the vampire world. I think he’s an extraordinarily accomplished actor and I just feel, again, fairly fortunate to have someone of his calibre.
Q. What is it about this story that resonates so much with its audience?
A. It deals with emotional occurrences that everyone has gone through. You’ve got all this supernatural stuff, but really what it’s about is falling in love for the first time, losing that love, wondering if you’ll ever be happy again, the restorative power of friendship, having to choose between the guy who seems the right guy or whether you’re going to hold out for the wrong person. This is true of girls, boys, men, women. We’ve all had the experience of falling in love or having unrequited love or being left and feeling miserable and hoping you can get someone back. All these things are universal.
Q. Stephen King wrote in a column that there is no substance, nor emotion in these books, unlike Harry Potter that he loves. What are the qualities of the books in your opinion?
A. The books address the feelings of love and loss that Stephen King isn’t particularly concerned with. (Laughs) I’m not terribly surprised that he says that. I would say, “physician, heal thyself.” Actually, the reason that they’re so successful is that people identify with the main character, with her sense of insecurity, with her sense of being singled out by someone extraordinarily special, with the sense of being broken up with, which is something everyone has experienced unless they are terribly, terribly lucky, and with the deep value of friendship as a way to heal. So I must respectfully disagree with Stephen King. (Laughs)
Q. How would you describe the books to someone who hasn’t read them?
A. I’d say it’s a story about heartbreak and reunion. It’s also a story about humans, vampires and werewolves at the same time. It has these elements which are all about human feelings and then it has elements which are magic, wonder, surprise and suspense.