Eclipse Director David Slade: ‘I Have No Idea Why Anyone Would Hire Me!’
When David Slade was announced as the director of the third Twilight film, Eclipse, it seemed like a risky proposition: he had only made two other movies (Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night), and both indicated a sensibility that might be too aggressive for the romantic Stephenie Meyer series. Perhaps that’s exactly what the franchise needed, though, as Slade’s turned in a well-received installment that’s a good deal more propulsive than Chris Weitz’s sluggish New Moon.
The day after Eclipse’s Los Angeles premiere, Slade was still riding high from the audience’s reaction as he talked to Movieline about the tough shoot, his thoughts on the controversialBreaking Dawn, and the follow-up he definitely isn’t making next.
How are you feeling right now? Do you feel like the hard work is over, or are you nervous?
You know, it’s funny. Walking out of the screening of the premiere, I felt this great weight lift off of me. We’ve still got to support the film in Madrid and London, but I feel pretty good about it, I must say. I felt like the film played so well to the fans at the premiere, Stephenie likes the film and I have her approval, so I feel pretty good.
It’s interesting, because Alfonso Cuaron came in and made the third Harry Potter film and it was the most acclaimed, and I suspect that will hold true for the third Twilight movie. Did you look at that as kind of an example, coming in?
If people make that comparison, I’d be very flattered — I just tried to make the best film I could. The one thing I did was that I came in trying to make the film that I saw without referencing too much or worrying too much about what had come before. I just immersed myself in the material and followed my instincts. Quite honestly, the film was such a hectic and grueling schedule to make, and I was so immersed in the making of the film that I managed to sidestep a lot of that perceived pressure.
“We shot this in 50 days, which is probably about half the time that a major studio would spend shooting this type of film.”
Yeah, it’s interesting — other franchises of this scope tend to have these megabudgets and huge shooting schedule. That’s not the case for theTwilight films, is it?
No, it isn’t. We shot this in 50 days, which is probably about half the time that a major studio would spend shooting this type of film. I mean, Summit is a major studio, but they’re kind of independent, and it meant we had to work guerrilla-style. It had a lot of pros and cons, but mainly pros — you can see the end in sight, but you have to work long hours, and everyone has to pitch in. It’s actually quite a good way to work.
How do you think you got the gig, David? What made you go after it, and what was it about you that gave you the edge over the other directors who wanted this film?
I have no idea! I have no idea why anyone would hire me. [Laughs] It’s funny, because I didn’t particularly go after it. I was asked, and I was actually asked briefly if I was interested in [directing] New Moon. At the time, I didn’t have the book to read and it went to Chris Weitz, so that didn’t really happen, but they came back to me. I had met with Summit on a project before that didn’t come to fruition, but we got along, and they just invited me in to talk. I guess I said the right things, because the process of reading the first script, going in to talk, and being offered the film was just over a week. When it came down to it, there was no time for deliberation — it was just, “Yes or no? Go!” [Laughs]
Do you look at the movie and think, “Here are the things that are very David Slade about it?”
I don’t know. I just appreciate the fact that people seem to like it at this point. These are things that are instinctual; people say, “Oh you have such a specific style,” and I’ll grant that I really think about the vocabulary for each department I’m working with and I really do design shots and work with actors in a specific way, but I don’t know how to describe it as a style. I couldn’t give you the formula — I guess if they come out in a way that people go, “I recognize that,” then that’s a good thing. I don’t know.
How do you approach something like the proposal scene, which could so easily be the cheesiest thing ever? Do you try to underplay it?
I really tried to keep the actors in the moment and not be premeditated about things. We had a policy of not changing lines unless specific issues came up, in which case we’d discuss it well in advance. I also had a one-on-one actor rehearsal policy, where I would meet every actor individually to discuss scenes and talk about their characters so that by the time we got to the full rehearsal with all the actors, we had just the content of the scene [to concentrate on]. We’d answered all the questions, so we could deal with the meat and potatoes of getting the scene right. I think the actors appreciated that time we spent with them. When it came down to it, one of my goals was to make things realistic and believable without leaning on the fantastical elements at all, but trying actually to be antithetical to that. I wanted the fantastic elements to be as believable as possible.
I know Kristen Stewart knocks herself out to be believable in her performances.
One of the things she said to me early on was, “If I don’t believe in it, I can’t do it. I’m a terrible liar, and if I don’t believe the words I say, then I can’t go through with saying them.” Sometimes it was tricky, massaging some of the line readings, but it was always in the process of getting it down. Kristen can be an exceptionally naturalistic actress in that way, but that’s really what I was looking for. We knew that this was the most mature of the books in how the story was told. It’s the conclusion of the love triangle, and a lot of the the themes in the first two books conclude in this book. We knew it would be a more adult and cinematic film, and we wanted to treat the drama as drama. There’s comedy, but the comedy is intentional.
The actors were saying that you had to reshoot the tent scene to make it more erotic.
What actually went on there was that it was really a two-day shoot to begin with, but we only had one because of our schedule. We were scheduled to do some pickup shoots — little shots here and there — and then we decided that it’d be great to have another day on that scene. It wasn’t that much different, actually. In the actual film, we intercut between the first day of shooting and the pickup shooting in that scene, so I think people made a lot more out of it than was actually there.
The fourth book really pushes the envelope as far as violence and sex. Had you not directed this film, could you envision a David Slade version of Breaking Dawn?
Oof. You know, I don’t know. [Laughs] I’m not dodging the question, I just don’t have a great answer. I feel blessed that we got one of the better stories — you’re only as good as your story, right? I’m sure Bill Condon’s going to do a great job with Breaking Dawn, but I’m pretty happy to quit while I’m ahead.
Have you lined up your next project yet, or are you like, “I think I’ll wait until those opening weekend grosses come in…”
I just want to sleep. [Laughs] I’ve been talking about various projects, but I’m not out of the woods on the press tour yet. I’ll be thinking about that after I get back from Europe, and maybe after a short break. I’m not going to be directing The Shadow, though — that’s just a rumor.
So where did that rumor come from?
I wish I knew! It’s one of those really strange things where I have no idea.
If Eclipse is the highest-grossing movie you ever make, would you be fine with that?
Yeah. I’m pretty sure it will be! I’m pretty sure this will be seen by more people than any other film I make, but listen, who knows? The world of cinema is changing, the way we make films is changing, everything’s changing. I try not to think like that.