Chris Weitz just joined the ranks of a very select group of directors such as Chris Nolan and Sam Raimi who have opened their films above the $100 million mark. The news is sweet revenge for a man who had his last filmThe Golden Compass complete re-cut by his previous studio bosses. Check out our Q&A with Weitz where he reveals his favorite cast moments and how he’s dealt with the fan adoration and the paparazzi intrusion.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your biggest fear going into [opening] weekend?
CHRIS WEITZ: I didn’t have any particular fears. The tracking numbers were enough to indicate that I wouldn’t be letting the studio down. But if one could imagine their biggest fears, it would be complete rejection of the movie, by the fans. What I’ve realized over the last week is I won’t necessarily get good reviews for this movie. Having swallowed that, this was made for the fans, and if you don’t get it, then you don’t get it.
Did the negative reviews surprise you?
Nothing surprises me in terms of reviews. Having been a reviewer myself, there are only two ways to spin this story. You can either be the one guy who says this is a great movie, or more likely, take a more jaundiced view of the whole thing. And given the media blitz that has accompanied New Moon, it’s rather unsurprising. I do wish there was more appreciation for cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe. I think he’s a genius and I think he made something beautiful.
A lot of fans say they like the movie more than the book, that New Moon was their least favorite book in the series.
New Moon takes a lot of time to read and you have a lot of time without Edward in the picture. And here in the compressed scenario of the movie, there is less time without RPatz. And the fact that Taylor [Lautner] does such a great job, to the reading audience who’s been very skeptical of him, here he is in the flesh, and it’s quite something.
Were there moments that you felt constrained by the book? Anything you wanted to take out but couldn’t?
The studio, my editor, and I were all working off the same piece of music. The only way I can make that interesting is to compare it to my previous experience of The Golden Compass. I don’ think the studio had read the book. Maybe they had heard the audio book while sipping Zinfandel. Eventually, they were appalled and frightened by it. At a certain point they considered cutting loose the author. They considered and executed the complete regearing and destruction of what I thought was going to be a pretty good movie. It was a shame and pursued me through what should have been my sleep for a good year.
Really, you didn’t sleep for a year?
Yes, I lost sleep over it. Literally. I stayed up at night pondering how I could have saved it or turned it around or if I had acted differently could I have made it what it ought to have been. Unfortunately, my experience was I went down with the ship. I could have quit at one point. In a parallel universe — and [author Philip] Pullman is really big on parallel universes — I get up and say fine, re-cut, but you won’t see me back again. At the same time, I loved the book so much that if there was any way to abdicate for the better version of it I couldn’t let go.
It’s interesting then that you went forward with another book adaptation with another studio, considering how badly it went the last time.
I really liked the actors. I saw the first movie and I thought there was something special about Kristen [Stewart] , Rob [Pattinson], and Taylor. I liked the emotional tones to the book. It was stuff I knew how to do. I had this theory that if you stay true to the book, you would win. You would not only win with the fans, but other people will get what the fans care about. If the box office tells us anything, then it’s a win. It’s made more in its first day then the entire domestic run of Golden Compass. It’s extraordinary.
What were the highest and lowest points of making New Moon?
The lows had to be shooting at 5 a.m. in a forest and struggling to get certain shots so a sequence would string together properly. It was a very cold forest in British Columbia, and we knew we’d have another night shoot just like it the next day. The highs were the moments of real identification with the actors. With Taylor, the moments early on when he realized he was going to do it. That was very gratifying to me.
What do you think is Taylor’s best scene?
When he jumps into Bella’s room. There is so much pathos there even though it’s melodrama, there’s something touching about it. Or maybe the last moment he has, just when he says Bella’s name. You sort of understand just how crushed he is at that moment. There are a few times where he’s absolutely that guy and it’s really lovely. He’s that guy for the fans and that’s what I always thought he could do.
Do you think Kristen evolved as an actor in this movie?
I’m not sure she evolved as much as she had room to run. She’s a thoroughbred as far as actors go. To me, she can do no wrong. The experience of working with her and the caliber of work she was doing was pretty extraordinary. Let’s put aside girl in love with a vampire, her ability to manifest these emotions below the surface, above the surface just to get things right. She’s extraordinarily exacting of herself and in those moments where I was able to give her the room to do that are things I’m very proud of. That’s a high point.
You made the movie you wanted to here?
Yes, pretty much. In terms of what I wanted to do with the gloss of the picture, the look of the picture, I’m very satisfied with it. And satisfied to touch back with the crew and the actors and to feel we made it under humane conditions as well. No actors were harmed in the making of this movie.
The music was such a big part of this film. How did that all come together?
The songs that came in didn’t have to be as good as they were. We asked bands to come up with something in days or weeks. We screened the movie for The Killers, Death Cab, Lykke Li, Anya Marina. In the case of Thom Yorke, it was surprising and delightful that the song he did worked for the action scene. There were a lot of songs that didn’t make it because they didn’t fit a particular moment or mood, not at all due to their quality. Somewhere out there is a Anya Marina recording of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day. There’s some lovely work by the Republic Tigers, some lovely work by Moby. You could make a pretty good album of the stuff that didn’t make it.
You’ve been around the world promoting this movie. Have you ever been part of something like this?
Never. It’s like being Ringo Starr. There are the big three and then there’s Ringo. It’s probably what he faced a lot. Hey Ringo, Can I meet Paul? When I meet the fans there’s a lot of enthusiasm for me, if one of the kids is nearby or, if they think I can arrange some tryst.
What about dealing with the paparazzi? Did you have any run-ins?
I did a bit of a Sean Penn at LAX. When we were leaving for the European tour. We had left from our L.A. press junket to go to LAX and someone nearly ran us off the road trying to get to one of the cars. We were followed by eight different vans and there was some really dangerous driving. And I understood for the first time how things happened to Princess Diana (I don’t think I’m Princess Diana), and I understood for the first time why celebrities lash out and what’s that about. My first thought upon getting out of the car was, “Who was that driver of the car?” I never found him, but I did lift someone by the hood. A photographer. He was in my way. They have a legal right to be there but they don’t have an ethical right, and he was obstructing my path, and there was someone else I threatened to knock their teeth out. It’s not like me but I felt very protective at that moment and very attacked. There is a huge difference between the attention of the paparazzi and the attention of the fans. The fans have been lovely. The paparazzi in my opinion are a very low form of primate.
Do you think you’re going to get some boys into the theater for New Moon?
I think so. I just hope it’s not just guys who were dragged there. And if they were dragged there, I hope some part of them is enjoying it. And I hope they can admit it if that’s the case. But if not, I hope they have a nice night with their girlfriend. I had an imaginary ad campaign saying “Will your girlfriend go in thinking of Edward, Jacob, or you.” I thought that would force men to go.