At the LA press day for the third film of the series, Eclipse, Rosenberg talked about adapting the books and what we can look forward to with Breaking Dawn.
Melissa Rosenberg Eclipse Press ConferenceHow difficult was it to adapt the novel into a two-hour movie?
Melissa Rosenberg: "I think to begin with it took me by surprise because I actually thought this would be the easiest, because there’s so much conflict in it, and you have this huge battle that you’re building toward. But then once I got into it and actually breaking the story, I realized all that happened in the third act. So then it was looking at what’s going on in the first two acts other than conversations leading up. And what I found was that a lot of the threat that is in the third act, that’s building that conflict, pulling that forward and being able to expand on some of the mythology by... in a movie, we can cut away to another perspective, but in the book, it’s all Bella’s perspective. So it actually ended up being probably the most fun to write in the end, after I got over the incredible disappointment that it wasn’t going to be easy - as if anything ever is."
How did you decide how to add the sly wit to this movie?
Melissa Rosenberg: "It’s interesting. When I first did the first movie, Twilight, I actually wrote it before it was cast; I was sort of writing in a vacuum. It actually had a lot of humor in it, and then we realized as we got it on actors that it just wasn’t appropriate. But some of that is building back, and I think the actors are more comfortable with it, and I think the story lends itself. And Wyck Godfrey actually has the best line in the movie, it was Wyck’s line: 'Does he own a shirt?' I give that one to Wyck. That’s his, but I think there’s a confidence level in the storytelling."
Are you intimidated because Stephenie Meyer is on the set? Isn’t Breaking Dawn the most difficult script?
Melissa Rosenberg: "Well, while I was writing Eclipse, it was. I had not gotten to the fourth one yet. It Before Breaking Dawn, yes — talk to me in another year. But regarding Stephanie, I’m really grateful she’s able to spend the kind of time on set that she does, because she and I are the people on the page, and we see things in a way that I hope is valuable to the director and the producers. And because I’ve been juggling Dexter and Twilight for all this time, and going right from one Twilight to the next, I’ve been unavailable to be on set. And frankly I don’t know that I could have been much use. I mean, if David [Slade] needed a rewrite, [I’d get] a phone call."
How’s Dexter going?
Melissa Rosenberg: "I finally had to leave after the fourth season because I couldn’t do Breaking Dawn and Dexter at the same time. So it was very sad to do that as well. It was the best TV experience of my career."
Are you not still on as a producer in some capacity?
Melissa Rosenberg: "No. I had to bail out, and they were gracious enough to let me out, but someone else is running the show."
What do you think of them bringing Julie [Benz] back for one scene?
Melissa Rosenberg: "What? Oh, it must be a flashback or something like that. There is a language of Dexter of the Harry flashbacks so if anything, I would guess. I have no idea."
Do you miss it?
Melissa Rosenberg: "I already do miss [it]. It came around February and all my friends were going back into the room and I was like [gasping and sighing]. I was home working on Breaking Down going, 'Aww.'"
Did that give you empathy for Stephanie, seeing your characters get passed on to someone else?
Melissa Rosenberg: "Absolutely, but I had already, coming up in television, when you’re a staff writer you have the experience of a lot of people taking your material and rewriting it. And there’s always 'my draft is better' so for many, many years, there’s not a writer alive who feels like their own draft isn’t better."
What will be the biggest challenge of splitting Breaking Dawn into two movies?
Melissa Rosenberg: "They’re very dense with mythology. A lot of characters, a lot of detail, and it’s just really who do you choose to pull forward. It was a lot of the same stuff I had to do with Twilight."
Melissa Rosenberg: "Yeah, like Jane, or how much of Jasper’s story do you get into in Twilight? Well, I couldn’t really. There wasn’t time to get into his gifts."
Are there more backstories to come?
Melissa Rosenberg: "[There are] more backstories to come, but there’s more and more an expansion of the mythology. All these different characters are being introduced and Stephenie’s developed a really intricate mythology, very detailed, which is why it’s so much fun to play in her world."
Do you know the point where you’ll split the stories?
Melissa Rosenberg: "We’re going back and forth a little bit about that but generally speaking, it’s I think the two naturally... Nothing has actually been decided, but the natural split is somewhere between she’s human and pregnant in one, she’s a vampire and a parent in two. You’ve got a sort of natural [split]. And Bill Condon has been looking at that from a visual standpoint, so that’s a natural. That said, there’s a lot of room about where that moment is."
What do you think is the appeal of this series?
Melissa Rosenberg: "I think it taps in so deeply to desire and to this sort of idea of being... First of all, you’re coming in from Bella’s point of view, who is the everygirl, so we can identify with her. She’s the everyperson and then you make her the most desirable human being on the face of the earth and there’s a vicarious excitement to that. There’s a fantasy element to it, but we all have had those experiences in our lives of just that first love and so I think that’s certainly attractive. The mythological creatures does vary."
With the wealth of backstory and appetite for more Twilight, would you see doing movies on Alice or these other elements with Stephenie’s approval?
Melissa Rosenberg: "I think she’s going to do that. I would look at anything she wrote. If this series is going to expand, it will be by her doing."
Will it always be a book first?
Melissa Rosenberg: "I would think it would be. You know what? I haven’t even thought of it, but I would think book first."
Some say Breaking Dawn is unfilmable and not as good a book. How do you approach it to make it work?
Melissa Rosenberg: "I believe it is filmable and I believe there is a great story to be told in that. It was a very bold move what Stephenie did and where she took her characters. She had them grow up and get married and have children and realize her ultimate potential of becoming a vampire. It was a very bold move. I think it lost some of the audience who wanted to continue the other things I was talking to you about, the fantasies and the desire. Now she’s got it all and what do you do with it? So it’s a very different kind of movie, I think, and a different kind of story. I think there’s definitely material enough for two movies in these books but there’s also, for the first time, a little breathing room. There’s room to explore a little bit and to expand. I’m excited about that."
And it’s dark - and Bill Condon does musicals.
Melissa Rosenberg: "Gods and Monsters you saw. He just is a man with a lot of different facets."