Director Chris Weitz
Chris Weitz, the director behind American Pie, takes his turn with the fan-crazed Twilight franchise on New Moon. Right now, he's on crunch time, working the fastest he's ever worked to hit his deadlines, and have the film ready for release this November. "We're kind of moving at light speed, but still trying to deliver something that's very elegant and beautiful," Weitz says.
We discuss the forthcoming soundtrack, working with Taylor Lautner, Dakota Fanning and Michael Sheen, and possibly returning to direct Breaking Dawn. For someone who's in the spotlight of the Twilight frenzy (something akin to Beatlemania), he remains calm, collected and refreshingly humble.
Q. What do you have planned for the soundtrack?
Weitz: Alexandre Desplat has just started working on his music for the film, and we are just starting to put together what bands are gonna be on the soundtrack. So it's kind of like keeping ten plates spinning at once. I am surprised and pleased at some of the bands that have said that they're interested. It's kind of great. I mean the criterion will still always be what's right for the movie at that given moment, but Thom Yorke is interested. We might, if we're very lucky, get Kings of Leon to do something. So it's exciting to be able to have access to this kind of talent.
Q. What was your interest in coming on board a franchise that's been more popular with women than men?
Weitz: Inasmuch as the Twilight series has a great appeal to women, I think it concentrates very much on the emotions of the central character and romance. And I think that's something socially that the studio system has not been very good at getting boys to be interested in. They think, maybe correctly, that all the male gender is interested in is things blowing up, and robots and that sort of stuff. I don't really think that's true. I certainly didn't make this movie with an eye towards only girls or women being interested in seeing it. Frankly, I was drawn to the cast. I thought that the central cast were great and I wanted to work with them. It was great to be with Taylor as he went from a character who had three small scenes in the first movie to one of the dominant characters in the movie.
Q. How did you approach your vision of the Volturi?
Weitz: No matter how strange one of the characters is in a work of fantasy, I think you have to approach them as people. You start to think, well, they've been around for 2,000 years. How would they live? How would they interact with one another? The conclusion really was that after 2,000 years, you would probably be more than mildly insane, no matter how cultured or gracious you appear on the surface. I think that's what Michael Sheen really managed to convey in portraying Aro, the head of the Volturi. On the surface he's terribly gracious, warm, a wonderful host, and yet at the same time he's absolutely lethal and frightening, and it's also what Dakota (Fanning) conveys as Jane. In appearance, she's a very innocent, harmless looking teenager, but she's absolutely deadly. The first thing that I wanted to do was to put them in a setting that wasn't Dracula's castle. There have been so many vampire movies and werewolf movies and horror movies in which everything is dark and dreary, and instead for their headquarters to be surprisingly light and crisp, then the characters they play have a tactile reality to them, in spite of how bizarre their situation is, really.
Q. Do you feel like you're in a comfort zone with the familiar CG elements?
Weitz: I'm not really in a comfort zone making a movie. [Laughs] I'm in a discomfort zone, because you're always kind of working under pressurized circumstances. I mean you never really want someone to watch a movie and say, "Wow, those were great special effects." You hope that they don't notice the majority of what you're actually doing. Obviously, people are gonna notice horse-sized wolves and realize on some level that they're special effects, but they are photo-realistic and they should be as expressive as a good actor, if possible.
Q. During the three-way-date scene, Bella, Mike and Jacob see a movie called Face Punch. How'd you get the name for that and what did Stephenie Meyer think?
Weitz: You'd be shocked at the number of stupid action movie names that have been turned into movies. I eventually submitted a list of 10 to Summit's lawyers and they had to see which ones they could go and clear. Face Punch was one of two out of 10 that could actually be cleared, and I chose that over Kill Hunt. So now someone can actually go and make Kill Hunt, but Face Punch is ours. There was always a joke between me and my brother that there should be a movie called Face Punch, which was just about people punching each other in the face. [Stephenie] gave me a t-shirt with the Face Punch logo on it, so I think she was just kind of tickled about the name of the movie.
Q. What kind of pressure do you feel with the crazy fan base and this pop-culture phenomenon?
Weitz: I think it's largely self-imposed, because the fans are tremendously supportive and very kind. One thing that's interesting about the Twilight fans is that they're not like fanboys, in the sense that they start cynical. They actually begin from the point of view of being enthusiastic and wanting things to be good and to be done well. But I do feel a tremendous amount of responsibility, more to the readership than to the movie franchise in a way, because I think that that's the core experience that you're trying to get at. So that meant kind of keeping in very good touch with Stephanie and, without trying to second guess one's self, always thinking about things with a degree of loyalty to that.
Q. What was your favorite scene to film?
Weitz: In a way, it's the scenes that you dread the most, because they are so time consuming and you have to get it just right, like the Volturi headquarters or the stuff that was shot in Montepulciano. It is the high point of the movie, when Bella goes to try to stop Edward from killing himself. We had 1,000 extras in this medieval town square in Tuscany in the most beautiful country on earth. It's just such an extraordinary opportunity to get to work there. And it was also kind of surreal, because every Twilight fan who could make it from all over continental Europe and further had gotten by hook or by crook to Montepulciano and booked hotel rooms, sometimes in the very hotel at which the cast and crew were staying. So there was this kind of weird Beatlemania going on in this very small, beautiful hill town. It was incredibly gratifying – people would applaud after every single take, whether or not we had screwed it up. They had no idea because they weren't close enough to hear. But if you looked down any alley, you'd see hundreds of these young girls, who came to just touch a piece of what they really loved.
Q. How are you passing the torch to director David Slade for Eclipse?
Weitz: David Slade came in while we were still shooting the end of New Moon and I showed him everything that I could to give him a sense of what direction we were going. He's going to take it whichever way he wants to, but just as I was inheriting certain things from (Twilight director) Catherine Hardwicke, he's going to inherit certain things from me and make the choice as to whether he wants to keep them or alter them. So we've had discussions about them. (Phil) Tippett (visual effects supervisor) is going to create the wolves for Eclipse, so there's a continuity in terms of the look of the werewolves, and obviously the cast is going to remain the same. So Dakota is Jane and all the Volturi are the same people that we're familiar with.
Q. Rumors are going around that the proposal at the end of the movie is cut out.
Weitz: It hasn't been cut out. I can tell you that much. It's not going to hit them in exactly the way that they think it's going to, but I will say that it's going to be quite special. I kind of saved all of my gusto for that moment. I don't think it'll disappoint.
Q. Fans are already saying they want you to return to direct Breaking Dawn. What do you think of that?
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Weitz: I think it's really charming that not having seen New Moon people would be enthusiastic about me wanting to do Breaking Dawn. I think the proof is in the pudding and they should see New Moon before they decide they want me to do anything else to do with their series, but I would hope to earn that kind of rumor. I spend all my time avoiding the Internet because I end up getting into arguments with 15-year-olds in Germany, and I need to concentrate on making the movie. So I don't even know the positive rumors out there. I'm just kind of trying to do the best job I can, but it's really sweet that people would like me to do that.
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