The first time I met producer Wyck Godfrey was on a chilly spring night a little over a year ago in a small town outside Portland, Oregon. "Twilight" was in the middle of production and I'd been lucky enough (or perhaps smart enough?) to take the invitation to visit the set for a quick night of interviews. Wyck had high hopes for the big screen adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's popular vampire series, but the resulting blockbuster clearly wasn't what anyone or he expected.
(Well, maybe in his wildest dreams...)
Running into him this past May when I joined a select group of journalists to visit the set of the "Twilight" sequel, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," not much had changed. Wyck was as friendly as ever and didn't mince words when chatting about "New Moon," "Eclipse" or even the rumored "Breaking Dawn." Here's a quick rundown of what he talked about -- exclusively on HitFix.
* Why the production shot in Montepulciano vs. Volterra, Italy
* On whether the cast members are all locked into four picture deals.
* On actors and directors campaigning to be part of the new films.
* Will there be celebrity cameos in "New Moon"?
* On casting Dakota Fanning as Jane.
* Quantifying original writer Stephenie Meyer's involvement in the movie franchise.
* On why David Slade was chosen to direct "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse."
* The difficulties of adapting "Breaking Dawn" to the big screen.
To read the first part of producer's Wyck Godfrey's extensive interview look for an upcoming report on Rotten Tomatoes. Here is the complete second half of the conversation which the above bullet points are based on.
Q: Was the film more action heavy for the actors like Kristen in particular?
There’s certainly things Kristen had to do that I think she felt a little uncomfortable doing and I think it’s good because it makes Bella seem like she was uncomfortable doing it. The other day we had her jumping off of a tower against green screens to represent her jump. We had a lot of underwater stuff, you know, when she’s drowning and stuff that she had to do, which is kind of new to Kristen. So I think there’s definitely been areas where she’s pushing herself as an actress just as Bella’s pushing herself as a character. So you kind of get to see it on Kristen’s face and you’re like yeah, that’s what I thought Bella’s was doing.
Q: Are you looking forward to shooting in Italy? Have you already scouted out everything?
Scouted out everything. We’ve picked our place, we’re going at the end of the month and, again as you guys have just seen inside, we’ll get the exterior version of that where you’ll really feel like 'Oh my gosh,' she had to like get out of Forks and go kind of for what a teenager would feel like the ends of the earth to stop Edward from killing himself.
Q:How did you guys decide to film in Montepulciano vs. Volterra, Italy?
Well you know it’s interesting because ultimately Stephanie didn’t visit Italy until after she had written the books, you know? It was kind of like her research was all kind of online and whatnot. And what we did as filmmakers…okay we know what we need for the movie. Great square, huge group of people kind of in the middle, clock tower that you can see. It has to feel like beautiful epic, all that stuff because we’ve been waiting the whole movie for her to get back to Edward and we want it to be great. So we took a trip, went around like 12 different towns in Tuscany and we just literally went from square…each of those small ancient towns has a great square with a church and a tower and everything and we basically found the one that we thought was the best in terms of just atmosphere, you know, what it’s going to feel like. And we went, 'That’s it. That’s great.' And sometimes it’s about just the symmetry of the square. There’s always that one thing in a town you’re like 'I love that. I love that. Ahh that doesn’t work' you know? So we got to Montepulciano it was like 'Great. It works.' It’s perfect, you know?
Q: Well that does actually bring up one problem that you had on the first movie that you probably haven’t had here in a closed set in Vancouver. I remember we were up on the set in Oregon and there were like fans around the corner waiting to watch every scene. Now you’ll be in Italy in a huge square. Are you guys worried?
It’s certainly going to be an issue. I mean, it’s everywhere. Every where we shoot that’s not on a lot, you get the fans coming in, but I’ve always found that the 'Twilight' fans are supportive fans. I mean, they’re there, but they really just want to see what you’re doing and whatnot but they understand that like being disruptive will not help get the film to the screen and I think our hope is that the European audience will be the same.
Q: How is the pandemonium escalated since the filming of the last movie? Is that much more intense with this one?
Apparently this guy Rob Pattinson has gotten to be a big celebrity.
Q: Who? (Laughs.)
He’s a much bigger celebrity than he was when we were making the film a year ago. It’s again, hasn't been disruptive. It's just pervasive. I think it’s the hardest thing is for the actors because their lives aren’t their lives as much as they used to be. You know? It’s harder for them to walk outside and go down the street and grab a burger because people are much more aware of them. You notice them on the street. Whereas I think when we were in Oregon, most people wouldn’t have just noticed them on the street because the movie hadn’t come out yet, so I don’t know. It’s the age-old thing for movie stars. The bigger they get the more people know who they are.
Q: And with the Internet, I mean, yeah, people are able to figure out where he’s walking around in Vancouver.
Oh yeah it’s like that. Boom, boom, boom.
Q: You have people standing outside all the time like almost everyday?
No, I mean well not here on-set but most of the places we [shoot] we own a certain amount of area, but outside that people can come and you just try to have your fence around the location far enough that they’re not inside and they’re not disruptive.
Q: Do you get recognized by fans? They’ve seen you.
Very, very rarely. Every now and then I’ll get one like 'Wait I saw him on the DVD.' There’s a reason I chose to be behind the camera rather than in front of the camera. I prefer my anonymity.
Q: Since 'New Moon' sets up so much that we’ll see in subsequent films—both 'Eclipse' and 'Breaking Dawn,' how much sort of thinking ahead did you guys have to do in casting or decide how characters will look?
It is interesting. You do have to think about some of the roles that are small in this that become bigger. Like every now and then you’ll find yourself going, 'Okay he’s perfect for this but then you’re like but how is he going to grow into 'Eclipse'?' So, the casting is a big issue. Sometimes making sure that you pick a location that if you come back in four months they’re going to let you use and that a year from now they’ll let you use again. So, it becomes part of the conversation. You know with agents, with actors, with the people who own the house that you’re trying to get, that you’re like okay this isn’t just a one op thing. Your house is going to become a tour stop if you allow us to shoot this movie.
Q: Do you lock in all your cast members for four movies to complete the full franchise in case that 4th one happens which I think it will?
It’s really on a case-by-case basis. Ideally you want everyone to have their options through all the series and then case-by-case every now and then there’s one where you’re like oh, I can get the next one but I can’t get the 4th one because they’ve got a show or something, but you’ll go back and fight that battle later.
Q: Just out of curiosity, with this movie and then with the upcoming 'Eclipse' were you surprised at all by any of like the directors who were like actively campaigning to get the role like Drew Barrymore making a public campaign to direct it or have you been surprised by any actors who approached you to be in the sequels?
I honestly having now been involved with it for a year and a half to two years [and] it’s like nothing surprises me about this franchise. Like I wouldn’t be surprised if you know Steven Spielberg said 'My daughter loves it and [I want to direct it].” It’s just one of those things where people have daughters, people have wives, people have moms. Like all of a sudden it’s like one of those things that people want to be part of. I mean I think there have been several cases where we had actors who simply wanted to do it because they were fans of the books, not because their agent sent them a random script and they went 'Oh that’s a great role. Great, we’d love to do that.'
Q: Some franchises like the 'Star Trek' movies, for example, are notorious for inserting celebrity cameos. Now that 'Twilight' is so big and now that you have so many Hollywood fans, do you think that will happen in any of the future movies?
Well you were on-set earlier right? You noticed Julia Roberts? (Laughs.) She’s just an extra standing out there. I always liked to feel like people want to immerse themselves in a world and not be distracted by gimmick casting. I kind of in general like…we’ve always just wanted to put the best actors in the role, not the biggest reality TV stars or whatever. We want to put great actors in the roles and let them become the character that people have read in these books and fallen in love with. And I sometimes think like if you try to like stunt-cast things, people notice and for that split second in the movie it pulls them out of the movie and they whisper to their friend 'Oh, that’s so-and-so' to me you don’t immerse yourself in the world of the movie. So, I don’t know. We’re not ever going to consciously try to put extra surprising stars in the movie.
Q: Well to that point, when Dakota Fanning was cast it seemed a little surprising because she was such a big name especially at her age. So was there any trepidation that she might be almost too distracting because she is so well known in such a smaller role?
Well, the finding is that for a lot of websites you’d see like who’s your favorite Jane and she’d almost be at the top of the list. So, as long as you feel like it’s the right casting, it doesn’t matter how big or small a person’s name is. I mean, I think if Jane were written as a 35-year-old transvestite you’d be like that’s kind of weird they’re putting Dakota Fanning in it, but it really felt like the right call. We’re just glad that she was…and again, she was a fan of it. She was interested and that made it easy to get someone of her stature.
Q: It seems like no matter who you choose as long as Stephanie signs off on that person or gives the okay on her blog, the fans generally accept who’s there.
Yes and no. I mean I think it’s important for us to have Stephanie's approval. She invented the characters, but the 'Twilight' fans have made these books their own in a way too. And she’ll be the first to say it kind of like they already want what they want, you know? So it is something that is helpful, but not an imperative, when it comes down to it.
Q: Was she very vocal on who she endorses on coming into this role? I know she wanted Taylor Lautner to continue?
Is she very vocal? I don’t know to quantify it. I mean she certainly has her opinions of what she wants and most of the times we’re bringing her what we think is the right decision and then she almost always has said 'Yeah, I agree with you.' So, there’s never been this like her calling up saying, 'I’ve got a friend of mine' or 'I know somebody who has to be that person.' It’s always gone the other way, you know in terms of us presenting the right guy for the role or the right girl for the role and her going 'Hm, okay let me look at it. Okay, yeah.'
Q: Of everyone that was vying for the position to direct 'Eclipse' why was David Slade chosen? What magic do you think he’s going to bring?
He was our favorite guy. I mean, ultimately he’s got, for me and for everyone who sort of made the decision, he both elicited incredible performance from a young actress, you know, an unknown actress and he’s made a movie told from the female point of view and he’s also displayed a great filmmaking talent. So, the combination of having gotten kind of a breakout performance in Ellen Page in 'Hard Candy' and in a very emotionally engaging way, obviously it’s kind of darker than 'Eclipse,' but you felt like on the edge of your seat with her almost through the whole movie. And then in '30 Days A Night' there’s kind of a style to his action that we really thought okay, this is a newborn army. It going to be like the wolves and the cones and the newborn army, who’s going to be able to bring kind of a filmmaking talent to those sequences that have gotten…the biggest of any of the three movies? And he just had this confidence in terms of how he would handle that, how he would handle the emotions that really made us excited.
Q: What do you foresee might be the biggest challenges of bringing 'Breaking Dawn' to the big screen?
Let’s see. There’s this little character, this young character in that book, that I think is going to be really hard to …
Q: Renesmee maybe?
I think that to me is the biggest challenge.
Q: Or the birth scene is quite graphic. I mean that would take it over the PG rating.
My wife’s an OB-GYN so she says it’s a great way to get a baby out of…just chew your way through. It’s going to be like really exciting. No, obviously we’re not going to make a rated R movie. You’ve all read the books so I mean that’ll be a challenge. That’s really more of a challenge of just kind of doing it in a way where people aren’t going to walk out of the theatre because you don’t want to see that much.
Q: Well the idea of the infant thing…yeah that might also be a challenge.
I don’t know. To me, I don’t know. That’s a conceptual thing that’s a part of the mythology that I think people kind of go 'That’s a neat idea.' It’s certainly set up in 'Eclipse' you know with Claire and it’s something that I never really worried that much about it, you know, because I think it’s presented in a…it starts as kind of a platonic protective thing and evolves into friendship and to me I think it’s one of the more beautiful things of the franchise is imprinting just as an idea of finding that one person that almost supersedes every other conscious decision you make and you have this imprint on just becomes the center of your universe. I think it’s a beautiful idea.
Q: Just to confirm, 'Breaking Dawn' has not been confirmed as moving forward?
Q: Got it.
We shouldn’t even be talking about it. That’s my own fault.
"The Twilight Saga" opens nationwide on Nov. 20.
Read an exclusive interview with "New Moon" director Chris Weitz here.
Read an interview with Taylor Lautner from the set of "New Moon" here.