Bill Condon has had a eclectic career as both a screenwriter and director. He won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Gods and Monsters, which he also directed. He wrote the screenplay for the big-screen version of the Oscar winning musical Chicago, and wrote and directed the musical Dreamgirls and the drama Kinsey, for which he won the Best Director Award from the British Directors Guild.
Breaking the tradition of The Twilight Saga, where a director only helms one movie, Condon has directed the final two films of the franchise, Breaking Dawn – Parts 1 & 2. In the first segment, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) finally weds the love of her life, vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), to Jacob Black’s (Taylor Lautner) chagrin. With the honeymoon comes a very special baby, one that might end up killing Bella.
What was the challenge of taking on such a big film project that’s got so many fans?
I think the biggest challenge is that these books are beloved by so many people and you have your take on the material. Does it portray what people’s expectations are?
And making two movies at the same time was hard because it was such a big thing. Kristen would be young Bella, high school girl, in the morning and then a vampire in the afternoon and then a pregnant mother in the evening. She had days like that. It was crazy.
Was the birth scene the hardest to shoot?
That’s a good example of the challenge, because it is very powerfully described in the book. You want to be true to that experience, but how do you show some of those things? The key to doing it and be able to have that experience is to tell it from Bella’s point-of-view.
Rob goes out of frame and you hear things and know what’s happening. It’s kind of intense. If you don’t know, then you think you are watching this more traditional birth scene.
Did the cast enlighten you about the characters at any time?
All the time. Right from the beginning. The first people who arrived were Kristen, Rob and Taylor, and we spent two weeks just sitting in a room like this talking through the script. Every page of the script. I learned a tremendous amount.
I think it’s true on any movie, it’s true on movies I’ve written, that at a certain point where the actor begins to embody the role better that you ever will. And certainly that was true here.
What were the fans like while you were shooting the movie?
We started filming in Brazil so it was right there in our faces, because [the cast] were staying on the beach at Copacabana and downstairs there were people all the time and they couldn’t leave their room. And it kind of amazed me how gracious they were all the time, and understood this was part of it and grateful for the attention frankly.
I started a dialogue pretty early, online, with fans. It’s exciting to be able to work on something where every decision is going to be studied and reacted to by a large group of people. It’s something that means so much to people so, hopefully it will be interesting to see. We haven’t seen it with big crowds of people. I guess there was one last night that’s the biggest crowd to see it this far. But I’m very eager to have that experience.
Did you see the chemistry between the actors?
Yes, right away. It’s crazy just how close [Kristen and Robert] are. It’s wonderful. I feel that because they are more relaxed with that, it added something to the movie. This is the part of the movie where they are together and that’s something they really didn’t have to act.
The Twilight series embraces melodrama. How much of a shift was that for you?
I enjoyed it and it was part of the reason I wanted to do it. I am a big fan of classic Hollywood genres and that’s a genre that’s sort of fallen out of fashion. Some of our greatest directors worked in that form. It allows you to immerse yourself in emotion. And to do that with camera, music, design and color.
I very much embraced that and didn’t try to make this into something that was super real or gritty. It’s a valuable genre that because it tends to put women and women’s concerns at the center often gets devalued which is very sad.
How did you keep the films separate?
We didn’t. I put my script together and it was a 220 page script because movie two opens the moment movie one ends. It is from one book, one story, I think we found the right place to end the first one.
This was originally rated R. What got cut?
It wasn’t rated R. They just said we were not hitting a PG yet. Frankly, it’s a very clinical thing. I have been through this before when I got a NC-17 rating on Kinsey. It is so subjective I think they’ve been forced to have very specific guidelines like, I hate to be clinical, but thrusting intercourse.
It was not very explicit, not very different from what you see, but any movement [that’s suggestive] is what they object to. I suspect that because of the popularity of Twilight, we had an even bigger kind of focus.
Rob blamed Kristen for all that.
I think that’s true. She got very into it!