Set Visit: “Twilight”

Last week Dark Horizons got invited to the set of “Twilight”, a film based on Stephenie Meyer’s very popular novel series. I decided to send along fellow webmaster and a personal good friend of mine, Mugglenet editor Andrew Sims, for the mission.

A big fan of the book series, and a rising writer in his own right, he’s come back with the following feature report from the set. I hope you enjoy. – Garth Franklin, Editor.

“Twilight” Set Report by Andrew Sims

The making of the Twilight book series is the classic story of an author having a vision for a story and running with it. The author, Stephenie Meyer, had a “very vivid” dream that included now leading characters Bella and Edward. Not even five years later, she has completed 3 of the promised 4 books in the series and has a screen adaptation of the first book well underway. It was this first movie’s on-location set I had the pleasure of visiting on March 27th.

Having read the three books in the Twilight series released so far (the fourth will be released in August), I knew what to expect in terms of characters, a setting, and a script. The Twilight series is a love story between a teenage girl named Bella and a teenage boy (in physical age) vampire named Edward. It takes place in rainy Forks, Washington, and for good reason. The story’s vampires cannot be exposed to sunlight while in public because they will shimmer and glow, therefore exposing their true identity to humans. Upon stepping off the airplane in Portland, Oregon, I knew the cloudy and dreary weather meant I was getting close to the bloodsuckers.

The following day I took a 15-minute ride to the set, located within Madison High School, in the suburbs of Portland. The kids who normally attend Madison were on spring break, so the Twilight crew had it exclusively for a week. The school is being used for just a few scenes – the Biology classroom, the Cafeteria, some hallway dialogue, and the school office. Wednesday was entirely the Biology classroom, and Thursday (the day I visited) was entirely the cafeteria. Being a Twilight fan myself, as soon as I walked into the large white hall I searched for the Cullen kids and Bella. At 9:45 in the morning (having arrived at 7), they were wrapping up rehearsals and started getting into some filming. “What a concept!” Director Catherine Hardwicke yelled repeatedly, when cameras finally started rolling.

The scene went like this: Bella was sitting at a lunch table with friends Jessica, Mike, and Eric. As they mind their own business and try to snap Bella out of her depressed mood, the Cullen kids (Emmet, Rosalie, Jasper, Alice, and Bella’s future love interest, Edward) enter from the outside. Bella, having just moved to Forks, takes notice and asks her friends who they are. “They kinda keep to themselves,” Jessica explains. As a teenage girl would typically sound gossiping, she goes into an explanation of each Cullen. After a few takes, the shot is wrapped and they move onto different angles. This continues throughout the day, and about 8 hours of rehearsing and filming will eventually transpire into a 4 or 5 minute scene.

The Twilight fan in me needs to take this opportunity to talk about the how pleased I was with the Cullens. I was immediately stunned by what the Cullen kids were wearing. Matching in silver and white clothing, you really get the feeling of a group of people who are together – who are a family. They are described in the books as beautiful, and luckily for casting’s sake, they don’t have to look alike because they’re an extended family.

We sat down with three of the Cullen kids for one simultaneous interview, and it was one of the most relaxing and down-to-earth talks that I’ve had with stars. “The cast is really cool and easy-going,” Kellan Lutz (who plays Emmett Cullen) explains. “Everyone’s really cool and I think a lot of us knew each other prior. I mean, I knew of Jackson [Jasper Cullen] and Ashley [Alice Cullen], who’s been a good friend of mine forever since I’ve been in L.A. It doesn’t feel like work, it’s like hanging out with your friends.” Ashley was quick to agree, and I agree too. Having observed them throughout the day, their family-like qualities go beyond their acting. The Cullen actors were always talking, holding hands, laughing, and fooling around with one another.

Directing a film like this is exciting for any director, but Hardwicke is one who can embrace the content especially. “I got swept away, how it would be to be a teenage girl that’s so obsessive and so in love with this guy,” she explains while emphasizing her words with frantic arm movements right on set. “I thought that was kind of cool. Just like, head over heels insanity love. I like that. ” She even hints that she’s aware of some little bits in the fourth and final novel from Bella’s perspective, Breaking Dawn. “At least I know it, it’s in my head. I’m sure it helps give me a little, you know, a little deeper perspective.”

Furthermore, Stephenie has given her bits of Midnight Sun – of which Chapter 1 is available exclusively on Stephenie’s website. It’s the first chapter of Twilight but from Edward’s perspective. “So what’s he thinking in every one of these scenes?” Midnight Sun answers that question, and she has made strides to use that knowledge in the film. And even though we didn’t have the chance to interview Kristen Stewart because of her classes, Hardwicke had some positive things to say about her. “You feel like she can be this girl that this family of cultured interesting vampires would be able to love her because she’s so deep. She and Rob too have gotten so far into it and trying to understand and be these characters. I mean it’s radical. They’re living and breathing these characters.” I quickly pointed out that while interviewing Pattinson (portraying the thought-hearing vampire who is madly in love with Bella at first site), he went so deep into the character of Edward. “Ohh yeah,” she breathes with a relief, “he’s just been living it and feeling it. Which is exciting because all those layers you feel. Every word that they say and every line and every scene is not just walking from A to B. He feels it, he lives it, yeah.”

Pattinson, who most notably played Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, has a real passion for his character. “I went out really early to Portland to try and, you know, separate myself. I mean, I just wanted to make it more serious than your average kind of teen romance thing. It’s really strange, if you look at what it’s specifically about. If you just try to think why Bella likes this guy. He tells her, ‘I wanna kill you. Every time around you, I wanna kill you. And I could never ever have a relationship with you.’ And she’s like ‘I don’t care.’ It’s like, what? I mean, there’s nothing comparable to any story.”

What’s more, the 21-year-old Englishman has really given his Edward character a lot of thought. “You gotta establish what he feels as being a vampire, you just can’t be like ‘all right, that’s that.’ The whole relationship depends on how he stays consistent to what it actually is to be a vampire. I had a conversation with Stephenie just before we started shooting just about Carlisle and why [Edward] kind of accepts this family situation. I mean he sometimes treats [Carlisle] like a father, and sometimes treats him like a kind of mentor figure and stuff. If you put the situation in reality, what Carlisle did is like completely ridiculous. I mean, he steals somebody’s soul when they’re unconscious for absolutely no reason. Stephenie said he treats him like a father because he thinks Carlisle deserves to be his father because he wanted it in the beginning. And I was like ‘well that’s, bizarre.'”

If you weren’t aware, Pattinson has a pretty big fan base built with mostly teenage girls. Coupled with the huge fan base of the Twilight series, you can bet this movie will be getting plenty of attention. That is, if you even want to wait until then to notice it. While spending the day on set, a quick glance out the window found a small group of girls waiting at the entrance of the high school for a glimpse of the stars. I inquired with the publicist for the film, and she told me that fans have gone so far as to camp out overnight in hopes of getting an autograph or taking a picture with a star.

As the publicist, another site representative and I walked from the high school to where they were standing, they stared intently at us to see if we were one of the stars. Upon finding out that we are just journalists, I began asking some questions of which they were happy to answer. Some of the fans had spent only 1 or 2 days there and found out about filming through the local newspapers, online fan sites, and word of mouth. “I HAVE to go! You HAVE to go!” explains one fan, who told me how you must react to filming nearby your home. She was hoping for “a chance to meet these fictional characters and who’s portraying them. It’s exciting and awesome.” Luckily, they scored a couple pictures and autographs from a few of the actors that day.

With this kind of fan base already in tact thanks to the huge success of the books, the cast and crew are already anticipating a big release. Everyone is very happy with the amount of hype surrounding the books and films, including Producer Wyck Godfrey. “Obviously you have a big responsibility to get it right, which is why Stephenie’s been so pivotally involved in every step of the way. In terms of the script, in terms of talking to her about the cast, she came up in pre-production, she’s here now, she’s very excited about what we’re doing and feels like it’s the life of what she created, so that’s important.”

I went on to ask Godfrey another important question about a book to film adaptation, which is if Meyers has given them input while filming. “She’s really been good about understanding that ‘that’s filmmaking and I’m a novelist.’ She has yet to come up with something that she’s like ‘Okay that doesn’t work’ and that’s because Catherine’s been very in tune with her in terms of – if you do all your work in prep, you got the right script, you picked the right actors, and you picked the right place to shoot it you’re not gonna get a lot of that last minute like ‘oh my god, this isn’t how I saw it.’ If anything she keeps going ‘ah I never imagined it like that, like, you can do little things with looks that actually tell me an entire story that I spend pages and pages writing, sort of an interior life to the character, that you guys have learned to do visually. It’s just exciting for her because she hasn’t worked in this medium.”

Looking ahead to future Twilight films, Godfrey says they’re already making plans for the second book’s film adaptation, New Moon: “The goal is, we got the script ready to go come December. We’d want to shoot it around the same time just for the weather and stuff. You don’t want to be in the heat of the winter here and whatnot. Obviously you know the next one you can be out in the sun a little bit more. So, hopefully with that one you have it ready to go and ready to start prepping by the beginning of next year.” Is Hardwicke willing to direct New Moon at least as well? “Yeah, hopefully it’s all gonna be good. We’re just gonna keep on going. I mean, we hope!”

At the end of our interview with Hardwicke, something clicked in her head as we talked about Pattinson. She whispers quietly to us, “In fact, I hate to say this, but there’s a couple girls in Portland… he bit their necks and drank their blood – two days ago at a bar.” We laugh hysterically, and the cast, crew, and I wrap up our day on the Twilight set.