The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - David Slade interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
DAVID Slade talks about some of the challenges of bringing the third Twilight movie, Eclipse, to the big screen and why he was able to bring his own identity to some of the movie.
He also discusses what he believes is the secret behind the success of the franchise and why he things new Twilight novella, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, would also make an excellent movie.
Q. How did you get involved in the third Twilight movie?
David Slade: I had met with the seniors at Summit on a couple of other projects, which were small independent films that people don’t make these days. We seemed to get on alright, so they sent me New Moon, the book, which I started reading but was very slow. Chris Weitz ended up immediately being signed. I don’t think I was ever a contender for that, to be honest. So, when Eclipse came around they sent me a screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, which was actually in really good shape, which I read, and then it was mad – it was about a week and three days between them giving me the script and saying: “Would you like to do the film?”
That included a flight up to Vancouver to meet Kristen [Stewart], Rob [Pattinson] and various people. I think I met Taylor [Lautner] and ran past some of the other cast members. I tried to meet Michael Sheen, who plays the head of the Volturi… I was like: “Rise of the Lycans…” And he was saying: “Frost/Nixon.” But I was like: “Rise of the Lycans!” I hadn’t seen Frost/Nixon at the time, so I was very embarrassed.
But then I came back and it was like: “Come in and meet people…” I said that I thought there was something I’d like to do, so the said: “Great, do you want to do the film?” I paused… and they said: “Answer now!” So I said [stuttering]: “Yes!” So, it was all very quick. Thankfully, there was no dark moment of the soul where I had to think about it too much.
Q. I read that Stephenie [Meyer] said you were nice and chipper…
David Slade: [Looks incredulous] Chipper? That sounds kind of slightly upper class, doesn’t it?
Q. Stephenie Meyer was on set more this time, wasn’t she?
David Slade: She’d bring me coffee and stuff. She was kind of omniscient. She was there on and off. Obviously, this was my first time so I can’t judge what percentage she was on and off on the other movies. But I think she was just enjoying watching. She didn’t really say much. She never said: “Do that better!” Or anything.
Q. Did you ever feel you might be constrained from bringing any touches of your own to a film series as successful as this?
David Slade: Not really, no. Obviously, there’s continuity. Obviously, the cast have done it twice before. So, the important thing for me was to listen to start with, so we had one on one meetings. The first thing I do, in terms of process, was to meet every single one of these guys individually and just listen… and listen to what they loved about the other movies, with regards to their characters; what worked out, what didn’t work out, what they want and then we do it again and talk about script.
So, by the time we’d all finished talking I knew exactly what they were after as well as what I was after. They also knew what I was after. So, we rehearsed and we’d just be focusing on the content of the scene. So, to that extent I was fully informed. Talking about constraints, the reason they got different directors was for a different aesthetic. I’m not particularly referential. I only saw the first Twilight film once and they were in post-production on New Moon. So, I just read it [Eclipse] and had a really good picture in my mind of what I wanted to do, so I was just so immersed in making the film that it became my own film by virtue of it being in my head. If anything, I was encouraged to be more different.
But the tone of the film was always going to be different and we talked about it from the very first meeting onwards: that this was the most mature film and it was going to be more realistic in every way. A certain amount of darkness had to pervade. So, there were no real constraints per se, apart from the obvious things of keeping the story flowing continuity wise and being faithful to the book.
Q. What is it about this series that audiences love about vampires, mysticism and the undead?
David Slade: I have two hypotheses on that… yes, it’s not just love, but it’s a true love story, which is lovely. These days, we live in such ironic times in terms of media coverage and the way that people write scripts and write dialogue, or the way that journalists write. It’s such a part of the zeitgeist now, so to find something that is so unapologetically a true love story is so rare… and it’s nice. So, here it is – the true love story and the vengeance and everything orbits around it. But it wears it [the love story] on its sleeve and I think it’s culturally quite healthy to see true love as quite a nice thing, and not to get all angsty.
At the same time, I do also believe that what Stephenie’s done with the vampire is somewhat institutionalised it… made it acceptable, given it a family, made it nice and made it somewhat a cypher for something very pure; but at the same time, there’s a dangerousness. At the end of the day, he’s a carnivore, and he goes out into the woods and rips bears apart and drinks their blood. So, there’s a kind of sexy dangerousness to it. But it’s taking the unattainably dangerous and making it loveable, and I think those two things together are really attractive.
Q. What is the kids’ take on this chastity thing? No sex until we get a ring on the finger?
David Slade: I think on this film we really wanted to address that. We didn’t want Edward to continue to come across as a prude. She says: “You don’t want to have sex?” And he says: “I really want to!” And you can tell he does. But he just comes from a different period. But I don’t think the film, and certainly not this film, dictates that message. If anything, it does two things: one, it’s quite a role reversal. It sexualizes the men, rather than the women. And secondly, at a time when women are overtly sexualized, it actually suggests that perhaps there can be a natural rhythm to a relationship – you don’t have to jump into sex straight away. But I don’t think that’s the same as some kind of Biblical chaste message. I think it’s more about timing, and being very easy, and being in control of your own relationship.
Q. When you were filming the more romantic scenes between Robert and Kristen, did you feel the need for a closed set?
David Slade: No, this stuff is always awkward to shoot. So, we have to get people really, really comfortable with each other, so we do it as a closed set. There’s no giggling and joking around, everyone does it very professionally. And we do a closed set, and that’s the way it works.
Q. Were they quite nervous?
David Slade: They didn’t seem to be. They seemed to be fine with each other. I have to say, we shot that on what I think was the very last night and it just came together wonderfully. It just flowed beautifully. Whether it was just fatigue I don’t know, but I have to give complete credit to the actors because they really just pulled it off.
Q. Did you get to read the new Twilight book, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner… and what did you think if so?
David Slade: It’s really violent. I remember talking to Stephenie about it and saying that I thought it would make a decent movie, but it would have to be R rated because there’s so much description of violence. But she only watches PG-13 movies, she won’t watch an R rated movie, so she refuses to… But it was really interesting that short story.
It’s a really good one. It takes us to another point, which is really interesting… Stephenie does actually have this entire world mapped out in her head. So, in terms of just reference, any question that we would have – particularly at the beginning stage with Melissa Rosenberg, the writer – we would be trying to do things from outside of Bella’s point of view and trying to get them right, so we’d ask: “How does that work?” But she’d tell us because she knew everything and was a great resource in that way.
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