Based on Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling book series, the Twilight novels and films constitute a full-blown cultural phenomenon with a dedicated fan base that eagerly awaits each installment. The translation rights for her six Twilight titles have been sold in nearly 50 countries and 116 million copies have been sold worldwide. Her books have spent over 303 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. While filming in Louisiana, local fans created a Facebook page called Twilight Takes Over Baton Rouge that gained nearly 10,000 followers. And in Brazil, there were at least 250 people with signs outside of the stars’ hotel, around the clock, screaming and doing cheers. It’s a series that has fans camping out about a week before the premieres in order to secure their place on the sidelines of the red carpet.
For those of you who do not know the plot of the latest installment, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I, let’s just describe it this way: A human girl marries a vampire whilst a pack of werewolves are unsure of how to react, since circumstances appear to break an old contract. Beyond that, the plot becomes too complicated to describe without spoiling all the surprising details. So, if you’re not one for spoilers, read no further. If, however, you are an avid Twilight fan, you likely already know every inch of the story and are here to learn more about what the film version will include and how it will deal with the more gruesome details found in the last book, which has been broken into two films.
Most fans need not fear huge changes in the films. Meyer had a major part in the creation of these films, but none more so than in the last two films, for which she stayed on set the majority of the time.
“I can’t thank her enough,” said Taylor Lautner, who plays Jacob, the werewolf in love with Bella, who is about to marry a vampire. “She created these characters and having her here has been amazing because, let’s face it, this is probably the most confusing and complicated movie yet.”
As the film opens, Edward and Bella are planning their wedding and experience pre-wedding jitters. Their honeymoon is cut short by an unexpected pregnancy which is not the normal human pregnancy, but rather, one that’s actually life threatening.
Esme and Carlisle, Edward’s “parents,” research vampire legends, trying to figure out more information about the nature of the unborn baby.
“The pregnancy throws Carlisle for a little bit of a loop,” said Peter Facinelli, who plays Carlisle. “Carlisle was not aware that it was even possible. We have no idea what’s inside of her. None of the machinery that he’s using as a doctor can actually read inside the embryonic sac. So this could be some demon child, this could be a vampire, or this could be human. We have no idea.”
“The fantastic thing about this is within a day of being pregnant, she’s where she should be at three months,” producer Wyck Godfrey explained. “Within a week, she’s where she should be at two trimesters, so whatever is inside of her is growing at an incredible rate. It’s certainly not all human, it’s half Edward, and they don’t know what that’s going to do. It’s bruising her and breaking ribs. She believes she can live long enough to deliver and be turned at the last second, but perhaps she’s bit off more than she can chew. All the nutrition is being rejected from her body. The fetus is growing and using up all of her energy and she’s looking more and more emaciated.”
“Bella’s forced to make decisions that you just don’t have to make at this age. That’s the weight that she deals with throughout this series, and she deals with her struggle really well,” said Kristen Stewart, who plays Bella. “I know some great young parents, so you can root every aspect of this story in reality. Bella’s just been put in a unique circumstance, but it really wasn’t hard to imagine what it would be like if that happened. I felt like fighting for the baby. How could you let something like that be destroyed after all of this, after everything you fought for? They’re definitely adult matters, but they all could really happen.”
Breaking Dawn – Part 1 focuses on Bella creating her own family, and Part 2 is about protecting it. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg added, “Part 1 is about leaving home. It’s about growing up and really becoming an adult, becoming a wife, becoming a mother and becoming powerful… really owning your own power. It is coming of age really, being on your own for the first time. It’s a very adult story, happening to an 18 year old. Part 1 ends with the moment Bella wakes up as a vampire, and Part 2 begins at exactly that same moment.”
Character reactions to the news of Bella’s unexpected pregnancy range greatly.
“The Cullens are divided,” states Meyer. “We have some people who fiercely protect Bella’s choice of wanting to have this baby. On the other side are the people who only care about Bella’s life.”
Edward enlists Jacob to convince Bella to abandon the pregnancy that he fears she can’t survive.
“Jacob is scared for her and thinks that this is a monster inside of her,” continues Godfrey. “Worse yet, Sam, [the alpha werewolf of Jacob’s pack,] finds it unacceptable. Jacob doesn’t want the wolves to kill Bella. She’s still human. So, there’s a real internal debate amongst the wolves about what to do. At that point, Jacob finally takes the leadership role that he’s always been destined to, and he makes the enormous decision to break away from the pack, runs to the Cullens and warns them that the wolves are going to attack.”
But Jacob’s feelings toward the baby are destined to change.
“Jacob has a very different reason to want to protect Bella,” Stewart said. “He has an innate desire to protect literally the child inside her, which we don’t find out why until the end of the movie. But, he thinks that she’s ridiculous for wanting to keep the baby, but he doesn’t want her to die. So for whatever reason, Jacob just can’t let go.”
“Bella has always liked being around Jacob and she’s always drawn to him as a friend. But there’s an almost supernatural pull that she has towards him when she’s pregnant,” adds Rosenberg. “She really craves his presence.”
After Bella gives birth, audiences find out the reason for this pull.
“Just as the wolves are coming to attack, Jacob looks into the eyes of baby Renesmee for the first time and experiences the magical wolf phenomenon of imprinting. “When the baby is born, Jacob is initially intent on killing it. It is a monster… it’s a beast that killed Bella. But the moment he sees her, the entire world disappears and there’s only her,” Rosenberg said.
“Imprinting is a melding of spirits, so that visually we take it immediately to a place where you’re trying to find her soul,” explained director Bill Condon. “It’s not a baby that is imprinted on, it’s the essence of that person.”
Bringing the horrific birth, itself, described in gory detail in the book, to the screen was a daunting task for the filmmakers.
“That’s been a real well thought out process for Bill Condon and the rest of us to figure out how to capture the texture from the book without crossing over into something that may be too grotesque for our audience, because the descriptions in the book are pretty incredible,“ Godfrey admitted.
“The challenge is to capture that in a PG-13 movie. Very early on, I decided it’s got to be shot from Bella’s point of view. From the minute we get down there on that bed until the baby is born, we’re not going to see anything beyond what Bella could see,” Condon explained. “Edward will disappear out of frame and we will hear something, he will come back and he’s bloodied, and something’s happened. It’s really wild. If you’ve read the book, you know what’s happened. If you haven’t, you wonder what’s happened. I think that’s exactly how it should’ve been. It needed to be just impressions, as the morphine begins to spread through her system. So hopefully we hit the right balance there.”
“The way Stephenie wrote it in the book is very much from Bella’s point of view and that’s what really inspired me,” added Rosenberg. “The birth scene is really about the life or death moment. It’s about the terror. Because Bella’s at the center of it, her point of view conveys everyone else’s terror, as well as her own.”
Godfrey is excited for fans to see how Part 1 ends, leaving them breathless to see Part 2. “The final act of Part 1 is the traumatic birth itself. Carlisle, Esme, and Emmett have left to try to get food; Edward, Jacob, and Rosalie are left to deliver this child, which has come at an unexpected moment; and Bella’s back breaks. The real climax of our movie is, as Bella’s about to give birth, the wolves are charging to the Cullen’s house. Jacob and Edward are just trying to save Bella’s life. Will she live through it or not? We think we’ve got a great way to leave the audience for the next movie.”