ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST: How did you choose the Bernardes + Jacobsen house for Edward and Bella’s Brazilian honeymoon?
RICHARD SHERMAN: We looked at pictures and found a house we loved. But two days later we learned it was going to be blown up because it had been built illegally. The next morning I got on a plane to Brazil, hopped on a boat, and went through countless islands along the coastline south of Rio. It took us four weeks to finally find the Bernardes + Jacobsen house, which had a tropical modern interior and was located near Paraty on the coast that we liked.
AD: Did you change anything about the house?
RS: For the movie we actually created our own exterior—what’s visible when you approach the house by boat—in the visual effects department. What you see of the real house is the front door, the steps leading up to it, the veranda, and all those glass doors. I loved the interior. We made a big open kitchen and living room. Some of the scenes that take place inside the house were actually shot on soundstages in Louisiana, where we created a courtyard, a bathroom, and the bedroom where Edward and Bella spend their wedding night. It was a seamless set—you really couldn’t tell the difference between the house and our stages.
AD: How closely did you follow the descriptions in the book when filming in Brazil?
RS: In some cases we really veered away from the book. What works well on the page doesn’t always work well on film. The location was challenging. Stephenie Meyer, who wrote the novels, set the honeymoon on an island in the middle of nowhere. Brazil is famous for its many islands down the coastline from Rio to Paraty. When you look out from the location where we shot, you don’t just see a horizon of water, as she wrote, but all these beautiful tropical islands. In the end it all worked out very well.
AD: Basically the whole series has been building toward Bella and Edward’s wedding. What was your approach to designing such a momentous scene?
RS: The way Stephenie has written it in the book, it’s a very pretty wedding—it has the white path and the white chairs that are covered in white fabric. But Bill [Condon, the film’s director] and I thought, How can we make this truly special and unique? For the people who know the books and movies, this is the wedding of the century. So we created this very organic, whimsical, fairy tale–like atmosphere—A Midsummer Night’s Dream kind of thing—with benches and seating made of branches that came out of the ground and were covered in moss and flowers. The whole forest floor was covered in moss. The ceiling was dripping flowers.
AD: Were some of the sets recycled from previous movies, or are they all new?
RS: Bella’s house is the same. But we rebuilt the whole three-story set of the Cullen house in Louisiana on a soundstage, and we remade its exterior in the woods of Vancouver. We changed the interior decoration of the Cullen house subtly but completely. If you remember the original house well, you’ll notice that it is completely different. This has the same tone, but it’s a lot prettier. The other huge change is the castle of the Volturi, a group of vampires from the Roman Empire. The sets from the other movies kind of looked like—no offense to those art directors—the Four Seasons Hotel, with marble columns and sconces. So we built an old castle on stage.
AD: Did you worry about the perceptions of the fans?
RS: You have to keep your fan base in mind, because they’re the real critics. They know the story so well, they know what happens, and they know the environments and the atmosphere. You hope that your sets coincide with what the audience and the fans expect. The producers, studio, director, and I were all very conscious of that.
AD: What was it like on the set?
RS: Everyone had a good time. The three main actors are all very fun to work with. Kristen is quite serious. Rob and Taylor are a little bit wild. Rob and Kristen are actually a couple in real life. When he’s with her, he’s a little more restrained. When she’s not around, like most guys when their wives or girlfriends aren’t around, he’s a little looser. Taylor’s a kid—he’s 19—so he was bouncing all over the place.