Based on Stephenie Meyer's #1 New York Times best-selling series (more than 52 weeks and counting), with over 5.5 million books in print, Twilight is a cultural phenomenon with a dedicated fan base that eagerly awaits the movie. There are more than 100 fan sites devoted to Twilight, and it has been selected as the New York Times Editor's Choice, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, Amazon's Best Book of the Decade so far, Teen People's Hot List Pick, The American Library Association's Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults and Top Ten Books for Reluctant Readers, and has been translated into more than 20 languages.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Twilight, the first film based on Stephenie Meyer's bestselling Twilight book series, was released in November 2008 to an eagerly awaiting audience. It was an instant success, no small feat for a project that was being carefully scrutinized by the novels' millions of dedicated fans who were anxious to see how their heroes and heroines were depicted. The film adaptation of the unlikely romance between a sensitive high school girl and a more than a century-old vampire brought in over $70 million on its opening weekend, eventually grossing more than $350 million worldwide. The success paved the way for the movie version of the next installment in the bestselling series, The Twilight Saga: New Moon.
Wyck Godfrey, producer for both films, was adamant that The Twilight Saga: New Moon be not merely another sequel. Like the book that inspired it, the film takes Bella Swan and Edward Cullen's fledging relationship to a more intense and dangerous level, and reveals a conflict that will haunt Bella as the story continues: the age-old rivalry between the Quileute tribe and the vampires, played out between Bella's best friend, Jacob Black, and her love, Edward.
"The challenge was to not simply repeat what the first movie delivered," says Godfrey. "As the story progresses, the world opens up. We have to evolve the characters and deliver the new world visually. We're digging deeper into Bella's life as her world expands. She's discovering new things about the people of Forks, primarily the Quileutes and Jacob. The discovery that Jacob and his buddies turn into wolves is a big one.
"Bella realizes she is living in what seems to be a fantasy world where vampires and werewolves are real," he says. "Just when she has made a friend who makes her feel alive again after Edward has disappeared, she finds out he's different too. And since the only reason these werewolves exist is because of the existence of vampires, Jacob wouldn't exist as a werewolf if not for Edward. That's the primary conflict between Jacob and Edward, and Bella is caught in between as a human."
Director Chris Weitz's success at adapting books for the screen, including About a Boy and The Golden Compass, made him an obvious choice for this project, says Godfrey. "Chris has a history of helming fantasy films with complex effects as well as intimate character studies, and he works well with young actors. But it is his appreciation of Stephenie Meyer's books and characters that made him the perfect director for The Twilight Saga: New Moon.
"It was vital for us to really honor Stephenie's creation and the fans that love the Twilight series," Godfrey adds. "What we didn't want to do was take her books and try to reinvent them. Chris fell in love with the books and he knew how to bring the story to life and keep it rooted in reality. That was essential. Even though these are fantasy creatures, the story feels like our world all the time."
Although Weitz was initially unfamiliar with the novels, he quickly became a fan. "I read the books," the director says. "Then I went to see the first film with an audience, and I was so jazzed by the extraordinarily deep emotional reaction I saw. When I watch a film, I look for an overwhelming sense of being immersed in a universe, and this was a chance to do that. It's a bit different from what I've done before, but it also draws on some of my experience."
Weitz realized his foremost responsibility was to be faithful to the books. "I worked very, very hard at making sure things were just right in that sense," he says. "The first film was such a phenomenon. The books were such a phenomenon. My first job was to respect the love that the fans of the books have for the book, and the love they transferred to the movie. There was no need to completely remake the world. We go different places this time, but we still retain respect for the fans."
The director consulted the author regularly, even on minor issues, according to Meyer. "He was interested in the smallest things, like can this person wear shoes?" she says. "He checked on all the details. He wanted to make it like the book, and he was very, very cool about that."
Having the author available was invaluable to Weitz. "With Lord of the Rings, no one could ask Tolkien what he originally had in mind," says the director. "I could email Stephenie and ask practical questions like, 'Do Jasper's powers actually work on Bella?' as well as larger metaphysical questions. It allowed me to make sure that at all points that we were keeping consistent with the books."
Meyer appreciates Weitz's diligence, saying, "He really listens. He's very quiet and at the same time it's very clear what he's looking for. I felt my material was in good hands with him."
For Meyer, writing New Moon was a completely different experience from writing the earlier book. "It was probably the most difficult book I've ever written because for the first time, I knew for sure people were going to be reading what I wrote. When I wrote Twilight, it was just for me. All of a sudden, I felt like people were looking over my shoulders. I had a lot of stage fright.
"New Moon was such a different book and it wasn't what the fans were expecting necessarily," she goes on. "The first book was about true love. The natural consequence of that, especially when you're that young, is that you're going to have your heart broken, and the more you love someone, the harder that's going to be.
"Edward thinks he's protecting Bella by ending the relationship," explains Meyer. "He doesn't expect the torment and the angst of being broken apart, which is a universal experience common to any male or female member of the audience. By the end, both of them have learned a lot about exactly how important they are to each other. Bella grows up quite a bit, and Edward has to realize that he doesn't know everything."
Also central to the story is the friendship that develops between Bella and Jacob Black, a werewolf and natural enemy of the vampires. "The stakes are higher," says Weitz. "Now it's not just Bella's existence that's in danger, but Edward's existence as well. In terms of the story's world, we get a look at new areas and corners of the mythology, and as the mythology expands, so does the movie.
"Sure, we're telling a story about vampires and werewolves and the supernatural," the director continues. "But beyond that it deals with these very basic human feelings of love, longing, need, loss, attachment and friendship. It deals with the danger that you put your heart into when you fall in love. As Bella says in Twilight, she's not afraid of Edward because he's a vampire, she's afraid because she's so in love with him. And there's a kind of love triangle that develops in this movie, which is really very relatable and appealing."
Meyer says she is even more excited about this next step in the saga than she was for the first. "Twilight set up this great place for us, almost like a diving board," she says. "Now we're jumping off and going to a whole new level. The cast members know each other, they know their characters and they're excited to be back. The book was more emotional in some ways, and it's a lot deeper. And then we have all the new characters. It's going to be so much fun. I'm really looking forward to watching the wolf pack interact, and of course the Volturi's going to be really cool."
But ultimately, the fans are still what drives her, says the author. "These are fictional people that I dreamed up," she marvels. "And the fans really care what happens to them. What will happen next? What do they do on an average Friday night? And where would Bella go to get her nails done? It's every little detail. To have people so invested in your characters is an enormous compliment."