Arriving straight from their handprint ceremony outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, the cast and crew of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 spoke at length about the series coming to a close with the first half of the adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s final book. Shot back to back with the final film (which will arrive next year), “Breaking Dawn – Part 1” hits theaters this weekend and has already sold out more than 2,500 shows nationwide.
The cast, headlined by Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, were joined for the final double production by director Bill Condon, the man behind films like Kinsey, Dreamgirls and Gods and Monsters (the latter of which features an on-screen nod in “Breaking Dawn”). The challenge for Condon was to take Meyer’s decidedly intense final novel and bring it to the screen in a way that would still be accessible to the franchise’s younger audience.
Please be aware, the following quotes feature heavy spoilers for those unfamiliar with the original novels.
“I’m not going to say that ‘Breaking Dawn’ doesn’t get weird, because it does,” admits Meyer herself, “But these are things that, as I was exploring what it means and meant to be a woman–particularly to
“I knew it was kind of crazy, the story, but I couldn’t really believe that it was actually written down and we were gonna do it,” smiles Pattinson about bringing to the screen the novel’s famous birth scene. “It was terrifying going into it, but it ended up being one of the most incredible scenes to do in this movie. I mean, there’s definitely a kind of R-rated–or maybe NC-17 rated–version of a few scenes in this movie, but it was just incredible to do that… Edward stuck between a kind of emaciated dummy’s legs chewing through a placenta and getting cream cheese all over your face and strawberry jam and then pulling a three-week-old baby out, too, with a wig on.”
“My favorite image,” adds Stewart, “is every single time I think about this installment and I just think about a cat in the corner, claws out, belly swollen, like, ‘Stay away from me!’ It’s so cool and I could really identify with that.”
Bella’s transition into motherhood was a central theme for Meyer and the sense of self-sacrifice was one that had its origins in real-world history.
“I’ve always been really fascinated with the idea that, over a hundred years ago, if you were going to have a baby you might die,” she explains, “You’d be taking your life in your hands to do that and there is a courage that we don’t have to develop [anymore]. I’m fascinated with that type of woman. The woman who makes the choice that she is going to risk her life.”
Though alternate takes were shot for both the birth and for Bella and Edward’s honeymoon, Condon is quick to shoot down rumors that anything significant had to be cut to achieve the film’s PG-13.
“It wasn’t rated R,” he says of the original cut. “They don’t rate it. They just say we are not hitting a PG-13 yet and all that… Because it’s so subjective, I think they have been forced to have very specific guidelines. Like, I hate to be clinical, but thrusting intercourse and anything that suggested that. Which is not to make people too excited; it was never explicit. It is not very different from what you see.”
As intense as the birth scene is, what follows is even more bizarre and Lautner himself admits that he was shocked when he first learned what Jacob would go through in “Breaking Dawn.”
“I remember the first time reading the book,” he laughs, “The fourth book came out, and I was like, ‘All right, what’s going to happen? Is Edward going to end up with Bella? Is Jacob going to end up with Bella?’ And I was so confused. I was like, ‘Wait. He’s trying to get Bella the whole time, and he strikes out so he goes with her child?!’ It really took a second.”
Shortly after Bella’s baby, Renesmee, is born, Jacob winds up “imprinting” on it, bonding for life as is customary for the film’s werewolves.
“That was… tough,” he smiles, “Because what is imprinting? What do you look like when you imprint? I mean, those were all the questions going through my head. Luckily, we had Stephenie on set the entire time and, trust me, I asked her a million times. ‘Okay, explain to me one more time what imprinting is exactly?’ and ‘Did you ever envision what Jacob looks like? What is he doing when he’s imprinting?’ It was very, very confusing. There was a lot of conversation about that and then it didn’t help that when we filmed it, they put an X on a wall and said, ‘This is Renesmee. You’re going to walk in the room, you’re going to look at the X and you’re going to imprint.’ I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?!’… But now after seeing the final version, I’m really happy with it. It’s emotional. They did a really good job with bringing back cool flashbacks and tying in a voiceover. So it really is a special moment, but on the day it was a leap of faith.”
Lautner’s offbeat scenes for “Breaking Dawn” didn’t end there, either. Because his character is portrayed as both a man and a wolf, one key scene required that dialogue be recorded specifically for on-screen discourse between his CGI counterpart and the rest of the Black clan in wolf form.
“It was kind of weird and awkward because we were standing in an empty room,” says Lautner, “They filmed us just because we said all of the lines, and that was the voice that’s used in the movie. But at the same time, when we’re filming that scene, if my face does something, they would implement that into the wolves. So it’s very, very cool, the amount of detail that they pay attention to.”
Of course, much of “Breaking Dawn” isn’t built on extreme fantasy. The first half, which features the wedding of Bella and Edward and their subsequent honeymoon, plays largely on the emotional development of the characters and the relationships that they’ve built up over the years.
“The wedding scene was really emotional,” admits Meyer, who also gets an on-screen cameo at the ceremony, “I was somewhat prepared because I had been there for Kristen’s dress fitting. When she came out in the wedding dress there was just that moment where all of us got emotional, which I wasn’t expecting. The dress was stunning… When Kristen actually came down the aisle the first time–and there were many times she came down the isle that day–but she looked at me for a minute and there was this look of, ‘It’s happening.’ It was like it was her wedding. It was very weird, but it was awesome.”
“I had a million different things going through my head,” says Stewart of the emotions at play, “and what I kept telling myself was, ‘Stop, stop, stop. Like, just do it. Actually have this experience because you’re just about to ruin it.’ I think I was so in the right place to do it that I needed to just put the dress on and go and stand there and walk and see everyone. I know the story so well.”
Production on the five-film series wrapped on a particularly rainy morning, with the actors fully aware that a major part of their lives was ending.
“I knew filming the last scene was going to be tough,” recalls Lautner, “but it was more emotional for all of us than we expected. And it didn’t help that my very last scene was with Kristen – it was with Rob as well. He comes in at the end and breaks it up, but it’s really a last dance between Bella and Jacob toward the end of their wedding. It’s really Jacob saying goodbye to Bella. She’s off to her honeymoon and he’s kind of realizing that it’s over. Everything I’ve been working for is over, and it’s really time for him to move on and realize that.”
“I think it took everyone by surprise how emotional that was,” adds Condon, “That they wouldn’t be playing those characters again. In typical fashion, everyone got emotional and Kristen cut it with a joke. On the last take I shot, everyone runs off and it’s just her and Rob. I call cut. She takes a beat, and then she starts running in that wedding dress into the forest saying ‘Jacob, come back! Come back! I made a mistake!’ It was great.”
While it won’t really be over until Breaking Dawn – Part 2 arrives in theaters on November 16, 2012, Meyer also isn’t ruling out a future for the world of “The Twilight Saga,” but she’s not rushing into further books, either.
“I mean I’ve thought about it, obviously,” she admits. “People ask me about it a lot. There was a time when I thought I would never stop writing about vampires. There are pieces of their stories written in my computer, but who knows? I’m not going to say no. Right now I don’t have much strive towards vampires, since there is so much else going on. Sometimes you want to get to a new world. But the characters will always be alive for me.”
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 opens in theaters everywhere this Friday, November 18th.