Readers of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books know what happens at the end of Breaking Dawn... or do they? Movieline sat down with director Bill Condon for an all-out, no-holds-barred, spoilery chat about the shocking changes at the end of Breaking Dawn Part II that had fans gasping in theaters around the globe over the weekend — including how the filmmakers decided who lived and who died, and why if you blinked you may have missed the most earth-shattering character fates of them all.
Spoilers abound from this point on!
Now that you've all had a chance to see Breaking Dawn in theaters, it's time to dive into the bounty of spoilery riches that Bill Condon left us with when he spoke with Movieline about all things Twilight. Such as:
— Deciding who lived and who died in Breaking Dawn's horrific, head-rolling, jaw-tearing bloodbath of a (dream) battle sequence.
— Walking the fine line between Uncle Jacob being just protective enough of Renesmee and being totally creepy.
— Which character's battlefield speech was left on the cutting room floor — and which scenes will we see on the DVD?
— How much real world political commentary can viewers read into Aro's weapons of mass destruction-seeking, warmongering ways? (Also — if Condon used the "smaller" take of Aro's gleefully campy cackle, what in the world did it sound like when Sheen cranked it all the way to 11?)
— And, most shocking of all: Did you realize that Edward and Bella were meant to die?
You had just finished the last of the effects prior to release, working on the Renesmee CG. Hers stand out because it’s a kind of CG effect we haven’t seen before — applying Mackenzie Foy’s face to her character from birth to adulthood. How challenging was it to achieve the desired effect?
Bill Condon: You’re building on stuff that was done on The Social Network and Benjamin Button, but it had challenges beyond what they had. She is a special creature — she’s not entirely human — so that helps us, a little bit.
It is a bit uncanny, that CG baby face.
Condon: Yes, I agree.
We briefly see a flash forward to the grown Renesmee, living happily ever after with Jacob once she reaches her full maturity a few years down the road — when Jacob finally gets to date Renesmee.
Condon: Finally, yes! On La Push.
What was the trick to figuring out how to include that happy romantic ending for Jacob and Renesmee without it being creepy?
Condon: Well the thing is, obviously it was controversial the minute it was written. But as a filmmaker you have a great ally in Taylor Lautner, and Taylor was concerned about it. But Taylor is a pure soul. He is able to look at her with love and it doesn’t have another component to it, and I think another actor couldn’t have done that. I think there’s something so essentially sweet about him that it’s a generous love.
The humor element throughout the entire film helps relieve the pressure and the far-fetched nature of much of the mythology — what spurred you folks to add in more levity for the finale?
Condon: Any time you can add humor it’s great, because it makes something more real. You take Billy Burke; he had to play a scene which is so incredibly hard I called him “The Miracle Worker,” in which a father has to accept that his daughter has become a vampire, but he also has to accept that she can’t tell him anything about it. He can’t ask questions, but he’s a cop. Billy went through a hundred changes through that scene, and you see it all on his face – and he’s funny the whole time he’s doing it. That deadpan, “Are you kidding me?” look really gets you through some of this strange stuff.
You filmed Parts 1 and 2 simultaneously, sometimes having Kristen Stewart play weak, dying Bella in the same afternoon as strong vampire Bella.
Condon: I really do think that Kristen Stewart is amazing, but I feel like in terms of this series she doesn’t get credit for how much she accomplishes. I think if someone were to sit and watch these two movies that we made together at the same time and realize that Kristen shot that all together, it’s just another level of her gift. She was stepping out of her comfort zone, because there was so much Kristen in teenage Bella — and now this was someone who she was just creating. I think Kristen, who’s tough on herself, was able to step out of all that stuff and just really own everything.
Readers of the books have been defending Twilight for years now, understandably; Bella is a passive character early in the franchise, and we only see her grow into her strength in Breaking Dawn.
Condon: That’s right — and she always had this latent power. In the beginning it was the thing that made her remote, but I love the last scene in the movie; it’s such a beautiful idea. It’s the reason he was interested in her the moment that he met her, but it’s such a metaphor for love, that you trust a person enough to let them see inside of you.
You inherited much of your primary cast from the previous films’ directors, but in Breaking Dawn Part II you got to cast a number of colorful new additions. Like Lee Pace…
Condon: Dreamy, right?
Yes, and so funny with such limited screen time.
Condon: I know! These actors all have a couple of scenes to establish these characters, and we have 25 of them, so we had to get actors who really pop. And they also had to know how to mine as much comedy as you can possibly get out of something.
Did you feel a lot of pressure to deliver with the action sequence?
Condon: I did! I loved it. It was like making one big musical number, because it’s all about rhythm in an action scene. It’s all about the way it’s like, my god, this is happening so we’ll slow it down for a bit, and you take a moment to really take it in – then things are going well, then they’re going badly. It’s like a roller coaster. I loved working on that, but it was the hardest thing. It was a two-year effort. We had an editor who just concentrated on that. Once we stopped shooting it started all over; we put it in a different order and rearranged things, reshot a little bit of it, to really make it work.
I didn’t realize it right away, but the battle scene ends on a much darker note than I thought, so please set the record straight — after killing Aro in that alternate future-flash, do Bella and Edward die?
Condon: Yes. There’s a hint of it; it’s about to happen. Edward gets surrounded and they’re coming right at her with the fire. It’s very subtle and there’s the switch. I didn’t want to spend too much time in there; it’s just a little hint in there if you can see it.
What do you expect fans will be most shocked by?
Condon: The moment when Carlisle’s head comes off, I’d think. I’ve seen it with an audience and I love it.
The collective gasp in the theater in that moment is pretty fantastic.
Condon: I know — it’s fun, isn’t it? I love that.
NEXT: Deciding who would live and die Breaking Dawn Part II's big battle, DVD deleted scenes, and more