‘Eclipse' director pushed for bolder ‘Twilight'
By Gina Piccalo For The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
LOS ANGELES -- David Slade, director of “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” knows his way around the macabre. He famously helped launch the winsome Ellen Page into the murderous mind of a sociopath in 2005’s pedophilia thriller “Hard Candy,” and spilled buckets of blood in “30 Days of Night,” a hard R-rated vampire horror film.
But the British director has never attempted anything on the scale of the billion-dollar “Twilight” franchise, a bona fide cultural phenomenon borne of author Stephenie Meyer’s epic series of young adult best-sellers. That’s not to say Slade suffered much self-doubt when he accepted the offer to direct the third film in the romantic vampire series. Even before he was hired to direct Kristen Stewart, as vampire-loving teen Bella Swan, and Robert Pattinson, as her fanged boyfriend Edward Cullen, Slade made clear he wanted to do everything differently.
“Generally I wanted to be much more cinematic about the film,” Slade said, perched on the edge of his chair in a hotel room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles. The film’s June 30 release was just two and a half weeks away, and the director had put the final finishes on it the night before. “It was more sophisticated in its story. ... The other two films were very stylized, and I wanted to make a much more realistic film.”
There’s a lot going on in “Eclipse”: an increasingly tense love triangle between Bella, Edward and teen werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), the threat of a vampire vs. werewolf war, not to mention Bella’s own struggle to decide whether to become a vampire herself. (The book version weighs in at 640 pages.) The movie demanded equal parts action and romance, violence and longing.
At the center of these converging plot points is Edward, the vampire with the Elvis hair and the heart of gold. Slade knew right away the character needed some butching up. For all his loveliness, Slade pointed out, Edward is still “a carnivorous monster.” And in at least one memorable scene in the new film, he demonstrates that.
“I wanted him to be stronger, more aggressive, more dangerous,” said Slade.
For Pattinson, Slade’s insight meant rethinking his entire idea of Edward, something the actor hadn’t done since the first film “Twilight,” shot two years ago.
“On ‘Eclipse,’ I felt like I was doing a completely different movie and a completely different character,” Pattinson said. “I guess [Slade] was really fighting to make it not so solemn; to speed things up.”
Slade came to the project in April 2009 with no time to spare second-guessing himself. He was hired within a week or so of having read screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg’s first-draft script and met Pattinson and Stewart on the set of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.” Production started about four months later. He had just 50 days to shoot it in Vancouver, a slim window of time for a film of such “epic proportions,” said Slade.
“It was nothing like anything I’d done before,” he said. “I learned more in the last year than I did in the last two films put together -- about all kinds of things.”
Entertainment industry insiders considered Slade an edgy choice for the series, particularly after “New Moon’s” Chris Weitz, a writer-producer with a resume heavy on romantic comedies. Like Slade, “Twilight’s” director Catherine Hardwicke came from an indie drama background with experience directing young casts. But she had far more feature films in her repertoire than Slade, albeit as a production designer. Slade spent 16 years directing commercials and music videos before “Hard Candy.”
Ultimately, though, he made his mark on the cast with his singular focus, his self-described “bulldozer” approach to his formidable deadlines and his meticulous work style.
Stewart, for instance, pointed out that she learned early on to ask cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe just how close the camera was because Slade -- who favored extreme close-ups -- didn’t tell the actors.
“Most actors are crazy and neurotic and don’t want to know the camera is up their nose,” she said, chuckling, “but it’s good to know.”
Pattinson, meanwhile, sounded as if he was still trying to wrap his head around Slade’s direction. Compared to the first two directors, he said, Slade was strikingly bold.
“When Chris Weitz came on, he came with the opinion that he liked the first one, he liked what the actors were doing,” said Pattinson. Slade, on the other hand, told the young superstar, “ ‘Doesn’t matter. I just want to do something completely different.' ”
For his part, Slade acknowledged that his approach could be intense. “I prepare to the nth degree,” he said, “and I follow through with that.”