The man behind “American Pie” and “About a Boy” wasn’t the obvious choice to take on “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” the second book in Stephenie Meyer’s blockbuster teen vampire romance series. But Chris Weitz, who also writes and produces, sometimes with his brother Paul, had done a fantasy adaptation in 2007’s “The Golden Compass” and felt a connection to the material. On Nov. 20, “Twilight” fans — and Summit Entertainment, which is releasing the film — will determine whether he was up to the task.
The Hollywood Reporter: Why did you want to do a “Twilight” movie?
Chris Weitz: The tonality of the movie, which has a lot to do with heartbreak and longing, depression and reunion and ecstasy — these were emotions that struck a chord in me. I really loved the cast; Kristen (Stewart) and Rob (Pattinson) both are exceptionally talented. And I wanted to get my hand back in the game. There were a lot of things in this movie that I knew how to do: A combination of telling a character-based story but also handling special effects and working with young actors.
THR: And adding another genre of film to your resume?
Weitz: It gets a bit boring to be in a particular zone. I like the idea of switching genres and different types of stories to keep things interesting. But it might be the way to become unmemorable as a director, I suppose. There aren’t that many dilettante directors who get remembered. John Ford did all kinds of movies. Billy Wilder did too, but they get remembered for one particular kind.
THR: So how do you want to be remembered?
Weitz: I’m not sure. I don’t think I have to be remembered. I’ll be dead anyway (laughs).
THR: How much did you interact with Stephenie Meyer?
Weitz: A lot; we’ve had a real good collaboration. Crucially, she approved me as director, and she didn’t have to. We had some discussions that were very important — my convincing her that I didn’t want to take her baby and run away with it, or tell a story that was counter to the spirit of what she was trying to tell. I see myself, in the last few movies I’ve done, as adapting literary properties into film, so that’s how I treated this one. We got along like a house on fire.
THR: What kind of suggestions did she give you?
Weitz: It would normally be me e-mailing her and running things by her when I felt I was on the edge of getting a detail wrong, everything from the powers of a given vampire to the look of a particular scene or what she imaged a location looked like. And sometimes, when I felt that I was creating something new within the framework she had set up, making sure she was aware of it and that it didn’t make her sick.
THR: For example?
Weitz: A good example is the headquarters of the Volturi. The oldest vampire family lives in Italy, and it was important to me there be nothing in their surroundings that reeked of any other vampire movie. So the interiors are done in a very classic Renaissance style and are very crisp and very bright, which you would not normally expect from a vampire movie.
THR: Speaking of Italy, how have you dealt with the problem that your heartthrob is gone for most of the book?
Weitz: There are two heartthrobs in this movie, not just Rob but Taylor Lautner. Part of the point was that Edward was away. Readers of the book know this and appreciate it. The story is about loss and heartache; he is present as an absence. Bella is always thinking of him and affected by him. His return to the film is really powerful and made more so by not having millions of “back at the ranch” scenes. And the middle of the movie is sustained by Kristen’s amazing performance and by Taylor doing a lovely job as her best friend. There are people who would like nothing more that two hours of Rob Pattinson standing there, and I sympathize with them. But I think they’ll appreciate getting him back after the second act.
THR: So you didn’t alter the story at all?
Weitz: No. We didn’t want to shoehorn him into the story. I did alter the visuals of the story in the sense that in the book, Kristen’s character has aural hallucinations — she hears his voice — and we’ve built in a very beautiful subtle effect so that we see him as well. But those are brief, if impactful, moments. A lot of the film is sustained by her loss and Taylor’s character bringing her back to life.
THR: How much do you interact with the Twi-hards?
Weitz: Quite a bit. I don’t have an online, direct relation with the fans; I was too busy making the movie. But I sort of feel as though every bit of footage I get out is speaking to the fans in a way. I’ve only addressed the fans directly twice: At the very beginning, when I said, “Don’t worry, I’m going to take care of this book,” and then to address an insane rumor that all the Volturi were naked in their introductory scene. But I listened to what they have to say by checking in on the Internet. I didn’t do it that much while we were shooting because I didn’t want to get swayed one way or another; it would be like a politician just going by the polls. But now that the footage is complete, I kind of enjoy just checking in various sites and seeing what they like.
THR: What is your favorite “Twilight” blog?
Weitz: I don’t really have a favorite. All the blogs are, in a really delightful and noncompetitive way, poaching and linking to one another’s material. So if something is on one blog, it’s very likely to be another blog as well. I think it’s great that there are fan sites that are not there to make money but to express enthusiasm for these books and the movie and they are happy to share information with one another.
THR: Based on the success of the first film, people are expecting a big movie. How do you create a tentpole feel when there isn’t a tentpole budget?
Weitz: The budget isn’t a huge budget; it doesn’t have to be. It comes down to being very efficient with special effects. Also key was the construction budget and the scheduling of the Italian shoot. We squeezed everything we can out of that.
THR: Is it true you have an offer to direct the fourth “Twilight” movie?
Weitz: No official offer has been made. The fans have been enthusiastic about the footage and the trailer, and the studio responds to that by feeling good about me. We’ll have to see how people feel about the entire movie, not only the studio but the fans, before the verdict is out whether I direct Number 4. David Slade is doing a great job on the third film, and by the time that comes out, he’ll be the flavor of the moment.
THR: What really happened with Rachelle Lefevre being replaced for “Eclipse”?
Weitz: I don’t know much more than everybody else as to why it went down. I think it was a scheduling conflict. I feel very badly for Rachelle, while at the same time think that Bryce (Dallas) Howard is a terrific actress. She’ll do a terrific job.
THR: That’s a very PC answer. Are you getting coached?
Weitz: No, I seriously believe that Rachelle is very good and very talented and this is not the end of the world for her. I think she would have continued to be a great Victoria, but there are other roles in which she’ll be terrific.