Director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg reveal their decision-making behind the Twilight Saga : Breaking Dawn
The Movie’s Dramatic Tone
Condon: Because it’s filled with touchstones in this woman’s life—a wedding, a honeymoon night, a pregnancy, a birth scene, and then a death and transformation scene, those are all huge markers in this story, so it felt like a heightened approach seemed right. It needed to have a sweep and not be too ultra-realistic in the approach.
Rosenberg: Stephenie took a very dramatic turn with her storytelling in this book, which was controversial in some ways. This is a very grown-up, adult story. It’s about a marriage and having children. It’s a far cry from the teenage new girl’s first day in school. Then, with Bill Condon coming onboard, I worked very closely with him, and what attracted him to the fourth one was that it’s very much a character drama about examining the complexities of marriage and having a child. He was very interested in the internal workings and peeling back the layers.
Condon: But you’ve got to have humor in these movies just because that’s the thing that makes you feel you can connect to it. Whether it’s the first time you have sex or cringe-worthy wedding toasts, those make you relate to it. With the self-referential thing [like in Eclipse], I thought it was cool in that movie but I think if you push that too far, it can become not corrupted, but not innocent anymore.
Filming a Real-Life Couple (Pattinson and Stewart)
Condon: It was entirely a relief. I can’t imagine doing those scenes with two people who don’t like each other. But did I have to adjust the way they make love to each other? No, it was really good.
Rosenberg: I created the sex scene and then Bill let the actors go, and I don’t think Rob and Kris needed any help with how to perform. [Laughs.]
The Wedding Scene
Rosenberg: For me, what was great about the wedding was that in the book, it’s so dreamy for Bella and she doesn’t actually go into specifics about what actually goes on in this wedding, so I got to fill that out a little bit by adding the wedding toasts, which was fun.
The Headboard-Shattering Sex Scene
Condon: It changes anybody forever, losing their virginity, but obviously Bella, who’s anticipated it for so long, is going to come out a different person. To me, it wasn’t so much about the act but about the whole experience, and that the more potent expression of that was looking at yourself in the mirror and realizing, “I am the person who’s had sex with that person,” and treasuring each moment that will now become a part of who you are. And you have to make it funny because sex is funny, and the anticipation before the first time you do it has some humor, and because you know there’s been such tension, you can play with audience’s expectations, like, “Oh my God, that was it?” And you get more sex later, and then you get even more when they have sex again.
Rosenberg: There was not going to be any fade-to-black [like in the book]. I wasn’t too interested in that and I don’t think the fans were too interested in that. It was conveying the passion of it and the physicality of it, but also the romance of it. That’s what makes so much of this scene different from so many other sex scenes. It’s about the sex, certainly, but it’s also about the consummation of a year’s-long—in movie land—romance. It’s not hard to write a PG-13 sex scene because you can convey so much with the actors’ emotional states. To me, what’s often most sexy or terrifying is not hand-on-boob, but the suggestion of it. But I know Bill had to dial back some of the sex scene [for censors].
“I created the sex scene and then Bill let the actors go, and I don’t think Rob and Kris needed any help with how to perform.” [Laughs.]
The Gruesome Birth Scene
Condon: I heard over and over again by fans, “Don’t water this down!” It felt like a special kind of pressure not to do that. I made the decision that during the birth, the camera’s only going to be on Bella, or showing Bella’s point of view. We’re going to be inside her as she goes through this, and what she’s going through is being shot up with morphine and going in and out of consciousness. What that allowed us to do was shoot everything that’s in the book but not show it all. If you know what Edward’s doing when he goes out of frame and hear it, then you’re not violating the contract with the reader. There’s the moment when she sees her baby for the first time and lays it on her chest, and in the book the baby bites her. All we do here is see her reaction and hear it.
Rosenberg: Once I realized that the way to play it was all from Bella’s point of view, it becomes stylistic, in a way. It’s about conveying the terror, and that’s coming from the actor’s faces and how they’re responding. Kristen, I think, just went all-out on this one and you really got the sense of how terrifying it is. You get the biting of the placenta and you get Renesmee biting her without necessarily seeing it.
Condon: There was a body cast done of Kristen, and it was a trick they first did with Sigourney Weaver in Alien—it’s her shoulders and chest, and somewhere around there you merge into this incredibly thin body, which makes sense because she’s very frail and she’d just broken her back and couldn’t move.
Jacob “Imprinting” on Baby Renesmee
Condon: In the outline, Melissa had come up with the idea that you take the entirety of Renesmee’s life to adulthood, and you see that he’s connecting to the whole person and not the baby in front of him. My feeling was that it had to capture the part of him that’s a magical creature, and a shape-shifter that lives in nature, and to remind everybody that that’s the part that isn’t necessarily falling in love, but connecting in some way.
Rosenberg: My approach there was to lay in throughout the movie what “imprinting” was, and touch on it at several different moments throughout. I wanted to emphasize that this was a spiritual connection and to take physicality out of it, because that would be creepy. And emphasizing that Jacob has become her protector, in a way.
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