Twilight-haters, stand aside. We've been excited about 30 Days of Night director David Slade's vision for Eclipse from the beginning. In our exclusive interview, the director explains balancing the werewolf-on-vampire carnage with romance, and exploring the physiology of Twilight's vampires.
We're all super excited for your take on Eclipse. We think it might be pretty frightening.
I think it is, actually. I think we got the fear. I we got the tension. We certainly got the action. And I think we got the romance and the love too. I think we managed to do it all. It wasn't easy, it was very, very tough. It was very fast too. It was pretty exhausting, but I think we got it. I'll leave it up to others to decide. But I feel pretty good about it.
In New Moon, it was relatively action-free until the final Volturi scene, and a few werewolf scenes but it was pretty light on the blood. And in Twilight, the big finale dance studio fight was pretty brutal and fairly bloody with Bella. Is Eclipse going to follow the same pattern or will there be more bloodshed in this picture?
We have a lot more of that kind of stuff. We have about six decapitations. But the vampires don't bleed. They don't have any liquid in their bodies, I'm afraid. There's three shots of blood in the entire movie and one of them is — oh, I can't really tell you that actually. Two of them are self inflicted. But we do smash them to pieces and bite them, break them and smash them to pieces and punch their heads off. Which is great fun to do. Actually the mythology of the vampire was a lot of fun. We were working with the guys from Image Engine, who, when I met them, were finishing District 9. And I was really lucky to be one of the first people to see the special effects shots from District 9. I was just like, "Wow, fuck me!" Excuse me, "Fudge me."
One of the first things we did was sit down and work out the physiology. We know they sparkle, we know they kind of crack if you hit them really hard, but they heal really fast. So we decided to figure out the physiology, and we had a lot of fun doing that. We had human cross sections made. And we figured out that they were crystal-lined structures so they could sparkle. Then which layer of fat would do it. So when we hit them hard enough they would crack or break. We figured they were kind of carbon formed underneath. All of their bone structure and muscles was crystal lined when formed. That was a lot of fun to do. But yeah we ended up smashing them to pieces quite a bit. The story dictates that we had to break them and smash them so we had to figure out how to do that in a really convincing way. The main thing for me was to execute it in a convincing way. And make the effects as real as possible in as much time as we had to do it. We wanted to bring the realism up a little more, so you could focus on the story and not spend time looking at the effects.
So how do werewolves and vampires in your film fight each other? We've seen a little in the previous films but you really have the brunt of the battle scenes.
There wasn't really much interaction in the previous films. The wolves — what I did, I took them to being more like wolves. I think before they were a bit more humanized, I took back to being very big wolves. I made them and their motion very lupine. I tried not to caricature them. I tried to make them as real as anything else. They look like dogs. They are very canine, their hands are their mouths, they do everything with their mouths. They bite, and they bite off hands. Well they certainly bite off one hand that you see, they do all sorts of nasty things to people. They just rip things apart.
We've got five big action things, but again that wasn't something I brought in that was the story. I executed it, but it's from Eclipse, the book. It's a hugely thick novel, the tough part was actually slimming it down into a screenplay.
From the scenes I've seen, it seems like the characters have really evolved, and if that's true we're really excited to see the changes. I also read somewhere that Robert Pattinson had a different take on Edward's character, than you did, originally. I'm curious what you thought had changed for these characters and Edward for Eclipse?
Specifically about Edward, "I think the first thing I said to him was, "I want to change everything about you." But I was really talking about his headspace and where he came from in New Moon. I wanted to remind him that he was a vampire, that he was a carnivore. What we never see in these movies, or hear about too much, was that they go off and take down bears and mountain lions to eat. They don't kill people, but they eat.
I remember having a discussion with Elizabeth Reaser, who plays Esme, the mother. And she said, "I'm the Mom, am I capable of fighting?" And I said, "For god's sakes you kill mountain lions!" [Laughs]. And she responded, "oh yeah, I do." So it was that kind of moment. Also with Jackson Rathbone, who plays Jasper, his character through the books, he goes to school as test. It's kind of like his 12-step program to stop from killing people. To be around people and not kill them is his test, which is one of the reasons he goes to school. That's what we talked about.
With Edward, he's a carnivore. We want to make him as dangerous as possible, but talk about it in such plain terms, you talk about it scene by scene. You figure out ways of bringing out that aggressive side of him, the underlying simmering. All the things that make you more aggressive. I thought he'd been sort of passive to fate, in this film you see a much sort of stronger Edward who is very much the aggressor. The story arc drives it. In the third act he becomes a killer. He becomes scary, he has to kill. I didn't want that to just appear out of nowhere. I didn't want just soft, soft, soft KILLER! That would just jar [the audience]. Even though there are some very romantic scenes and the tête-à-tête between these two men, even that scene, you'll see he's very aggressive.
There's a scene where Edward and Jacob almost have a fight right in front of Bella's and house and there a lot of talking went on between me and Taylor and Rob to convince them to be really aggressive. [I said] "You grab him here," [actor response was] "the hell he will, he never touches me!" And I say yes he does, and that's exactly why. And it had nothing to do with my particular take, it was all story-driven. At the end you go to battle, you fight, you kill. I want to bring that back, just under the surface. So when it comes out it's not a huge jump, it's a natural extension.
Are you a little sad that you don't get to film the birth scene, or a little grateful?
[Laughs] I'm sure Bill Condon will do just fine with that.
But what about personally just as a director?
I'm not a gore-hound. I really appreciate gory movies. It's funny because when we did 30 Days of Night we did a decapitation scene and it was exceptionally realistic, and I'm really a story-driven person. I get really anal about how to make the camera tell the story. So when it came to that shot in 30 Days of Night I had it be completely and utterly realistic, the decapitation. We designed a way to shoot the shot so that it would look real, and all the blood drains out of the head that it would get pale. And when we finished the shot and when I looked at it I though, aw that looks awful. That looks horrible. [Laughs] But the journey takes you to the point where that can be done. It was done to get to a point. Similarly with Hard Candy. I didn't dislike Patrick Wilson's character until I was in the editing room. But yes I'm a big fan of horror movies. But I prefer visceral to viscous, let's just say that.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse will be in theaters June 30th.