HOLLYWOODD (RushPRnews)11/28/08-A few days ago The Movie BlogÂ had a chance to sit down and chat with Twilight Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg about the film, the challenges that come along with adapting such a popular novel and how she approached it.
The Movie Blog: You were given the daunting task of condensing Twilight, a 600+ page book, into a 110 page screenplay, while at the same time trying to handle the expectations of the huge fan base that Twilight has gathered. Was it intimidating? What principles did you use in deciding what to cut out?
Melissa: In terms of â€œwas it intimidating,â€ I was not all that aware of the fan base. The minute I became aware of it, I stopped looking because I knew that it would become intimidating. So I purposefully kept myself in the dark because I wanted to be in a place of being able to tell the story and translate the story without the outside influences of the fans. And just to be able to tell the best story possible.
The most important thing [principle] was to stay true to the charactersâ€™ emotional arts. There are going to be scenes that are either compilations of a couple of different scenes of the book or missing scenes, but the important thing is if the soul of the book is there and if you go away feeling the same way you feel when you read the book. Thatâ€™s what my objective was – to keep the soul of the project.
The Movie Blog: Besides introducing the villains early on in the screenplay version, there were virtually no differences I was able to catch. and I guess thatâ€™s a good thing. Were there any significant changes you included in the script?
Melissa: That was my absolute objective, if you felt the same. There were actually a lot of adjustments, but again, itâ€™s really about â€œDid you have the same experience? Am I taking you along for the same emotional ride that Stephenie did?â€ That was the objective for both Catherine [Hardwicke] and I – to make sure that nothing fell out.
In the middle of the book, there are several chapters that have got question and answer dialogue, which is all very compelling when you are reading, but to see two people sitting and talking for long periods of time is not very entertaining. One of the biggest challenges of condensing the book is that you want to be able to hear that mythology. It was a matter of picking and choosing the specific parts of dialogue and dispersing it through several scenes. As well as having other scenes where that information can come across that isnâ€™t just two people sitting at a table talking.
The other thing that was different was, for example, with Bellaâ€™s discovery that Edward is a vampire. In the book, the way he is revealed as a vampire is through a conversation that rolls out over the course of several chapters. Itâ€™s the conversation Bella has with him [Edward] in the car that she approaches the idea. What we did was to condense all that and have that a real turning point in the movie, making it more of a confrontation. It was really about hyping up certain moments in the book, condensing long passages, while keeping it true to the book because you are still getting that emotional moment.
The Movie Blog: I did notice a lot of instances in the film where much of the conversation that occurs between characters, such as those between Bella and Edward, were illustrated not by dialogue, but through musical montages. Is that how you wanted to portray a lot of the lengthy dialogue from the book?
Melissa: As a writer, you have to recreate scenes to leave space for the actors to act and the director to direct. You always try to let something be portrayed visually as opposed to verbally.
The Movie Blog: What was the hardest scene(s) for you to cut?
Melissa: There were a few things, but ultimately when I saw the film it was hard to remember what those were. I have to say that I didnâ€™t miss any of those scenes on screen.
The Movie Blog: Did you consult with Stephenie Meyer when writing the screenplay?
Melissa: Yes. Initially, I was very protective of my creative process. I was intimidated by her celebrity and sort of afraid, on some level that I would be overshadowed and my own creative voice would get drowned out. When I met her I realized that was completely unfounded. She is a very down to Earth, grounded and kind person, who was open to collaboration. She ended up being really valuable in terms of giving me insight into the development of the characters.
I approached Twilight the point of view of a reader and I really wanted to adapt the book without any outside influences and to have it be, in some ways, pure. So, when I say â€œYeah, I collaborated with Stephenie,â€ Iâ€™m talking everyday, every line. It was like having a writing partner.
The Movie Blog: Was there a character in the book that you could not get a grasp of?
Melissa: Bellaâ€™s character was quite interesting. Initially, when I read the book, my first thought was that we should just shoot the entire film in Forks and forget about the parts of the book that are set in Arizona. It was Catherine who expressed how important it was to keep the scenes that were set to shoot in Arizona because it was such a significant part of the book. We then met with Stephenie and she spoke to us about being a normal girl in Phoenix, a land where there was a great deal of money and artificial beauty. She discussed how even an attractive girl would feel out of place in such an environment. Stephenie also touched on Bellaâ€™s relationship with her mother, Rene. She illustrated the idea that Rene is the only person that Bella would risk her life for because Rene canâ€™t even take care of herself. Therefore, going back to Arizona to save her and risk her life for her made much more sense to me after Stephenie emphasized that point.
The Movie Blog: The Movie Blog is developing a post on the top 100 film adaptations of a novel. What would be your favorite film adaptation of a novel?
Melissa: I thought The World According to Garth was really well done. Iâ€™m also a big John Irving fan, so I would add Cider House Rules. The most recent one I saw was Brokeback Mountain, which is probably one of the best adaptations Iâ€™ve ever seen. If youâ€™ve ever read the short story, itâ€™s just so beautiful and spare. They had the opposite challenge that I did, turning 30 pages into a screenplay. It was a true lesson in how to adapt a book into a screenplay.
The Movie Blog: Whatâ€™s next for you? Will you be involved with the next film, New Moon?
Melissa: Weâ€™re talking about it, but nothing has been decided in regard to me being involved in the Twilight saga. I canâ€™t really say much more than that.