12 Minutes 49 Seconds with Chris Weitz, Director of New Moon

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I grabbed a quick interview with Chris Weitz on Thursday afternoon at Comic-Con. It almost didn’t happen, because I had a signing right before it, which ran over (and which mostly consisted of me watching Jacqueline Carey and Patrick Rothfuss signing books for fangirls anyway. But you know, dedication to the craft and all). Then Weitz was staying at the Hard Rock, where the elevators require that you have a guest pass, which I didn’t have … so yeah, I was late.

But he was very mellow about it. We talked about Twilight fandom and the lessons of Golden Compass and Weitz’s natural estrogen levels. But we will begin in medias res with a chat about the Twilight panel from that morning…

Chris Weitz: It was this crazy thing, which everybody was kind of warning us about. 7,000 Twilight fans in a room screaming for Rob.

Me: It’s an uncanny sound. I think only teenage girls can make that sound.

That high, keening noise.

It’s like Beatlemania.

That’s the only thing I can think of, the Beatles. You see old footage of that type of thing. It happened in Montepulciano, when we were shooting there. It was like The Birds, but with young girls. You’d turn a corner and there would be one or two or three. And the next time you looked there would be 10, 20, 50, 100.

Then before you know it gas stations are exploding.

Exactly. I think basically the panel today would have worked perfectly for the fans if it had just been us sitting there, and they could just look at Rob and Taylor. Maybe Rob and Taylor would move a little.

Taylor seems the most comfortable with this level of scrutiny. He doesn’t squirm as much.

It’s funny. In a way he’s the least prepared for the intense scrutiny, but he’s very balanced about it. Whereas I think Rob and Kristen are very sheepish about it. Not that they don’t appreciate it. But they’re thrown a bit by it.

They just seem very human about it. I mean, who would not be freaked out by that?

If you enjoyed it too much it would be weird. It would mean you were addicted to that kind of adulation. The thing is, there’s so much love coming towards you, but you can’t really tell whether it’s towards the characters or the actors themselves, or towards an image in the media. and that’s strange.
I guess I should ask you about the actual movie. How done is it?

It’s pretty done. It has to be done. It has to come out on November 20. Which means we sort of have to hand it over October 30. Which means the picture has to lock August 30. And so in a few weeks it’ll be locked, the visual effects are in good shape, all the R&D on the more complicated, more ephemeral effects is being completed.

How weird was it, stepping into somebody else’s franchise?

It was a bit odd at first. But then again it’s pretty amazing to have a huge fan base just dropped into your lap. And it was a pleasure to be able to deliver faithfully on a book. With Golden Compass I felt that by being faithful to the book I was working at odds with the studio. But Summit understands that it’s Stephenie Meyer’s world, and really it’s about recreating the experience the reader has, in some kind of faithful manner. Creating a picture that doesn’t violate too badly the picture they have in their minds.

Was there technical stuff that you learned on Golden Compass that was useful here?

There was, yeah. It was really CGI boot camp. That was over 2000 special effects, and each one went through 200 or more iterations of, you know, what the talking ferret was doing at that point. Now to do werewolves and so forth is frankly no biggie. I mean, you still have to get things right, and take care of the process, but the bizarre things that you do — like, now we’re going to go check the DPX files, and oh, we’re going to have a CineSync with Tippett, cause they just uploaded the files to the FTP server — that kind of stuff is now, yeah, OK, we’re going to do that. Whereas the first time around I was like, what? We’re doing what? What are you talking about?

The effects really did look good in Golden Compass.

That is the most successful element of it, I think. The effects were beautiful and elegant. I’m really keen on settling down the special effects into the world around them, rather than trying to blow anyone away. That’s something I’m a stickler about.

How closely did you follow the look-and-feel of the first movie in New Moon? Did you want to make it your own? Or do a seemless transition?

I think there’s a balance possible. I do want to make it my own, and I’m not really interesting in tweaking the world in the digital intermediate so that it gets this kind of blue gloss which the first movie had. I’m much more interested in having a fuller palate, and a richer palate. And we’re able to shoot some scenes in sunlight, eventually, which is really kind of nice. And to shoot interior scenes that have a kind of rounded glow to them, like the Volturi … bad-guy headquarters, for want of a better term.

The footage today looked great, and there wasn’t even any FX in it.

Not that you would notice. There’s little stuff like, everytime you see Edward as an apparition he’s been shot against a green screen and then taken out of the picture, and then treated and put back in. So you do a lot of work just to make it seem like he’s sort of there. And then there’s a lot of wire removal and stuff that you don’t notice.

I hope there’s sparkling in this one.

There will be lots of sparkling.

Is it weird to be a guy directing Twilight? Since it’s a franchise that’s considered more for … the ladies?

I think at first it was odd for the fans when I came on board. There was a question of whether I was going to kind of try to bring some amped up macho mentality … I wouldn’t even know how to do that. I think I’m pretty fem. I have a lot of estrogen.

At first Stephenie was a bit surprised that I had been brought out as a first choice. But we met and chatted and it all worked really well.

Is she going to have a cameo in this movie?

She’s not. But now I feel bad about it — as though I intended not to. But I had kind of forgotten that she had a cameo in the first one, and she never asked, she’s very quiet and gracious about it. I don’t know if she wanted to or not. I probably should have.

I liked the vibe between Bella and Jacob. It felt real, but also different from the way she interacts with Edward.

Taylor’s very much like the character, tremendously sunny and upbeat. And Kristen is very protective of Taylor, actually. He’s 17 now, and Kristen’s been working since Panic Room if not before that. She wanted to make sure Taylor was protected from the world, and that works perfectly with the dynamic of the book.

I have to say, his torso in the clip you showed today was unlike any human torso I have ever seen.

It’s pretty astonishing. He did work very very hard.

Was that CGI?

I swear to God, it was all his hard work.