Since the release of the first film, the Twilight phenomenon has just continued to grow exponentially. With the highly anticipated final installment, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, hitting theaters on November 16th, fans will finally get to see the conclusion of the romantic epic that has entranced millions worldwide.
At the film’s L.A. press junket, screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about moving on from the Twilight franchise, her favorite scenes to write in this final installment, which new characters she wished she could have had more time to explore, what it was like to see all of the vampire powers come to life from off the page, what encapsulates the entire experience for her, and how she thinks fans might react to the additions in the script. She also talked about what it’s like to be one of the highest grossing female screenwriters of all time, her new deal with ABC, under which she’s the showrunner on the mid-season drama series Red Widow (starring Radha Mitchell), the status of AKA Jessica Jones, and juggling TV and film work. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Collider: Writers often talk about needing a mourning period after they finish a project and before they move on to the next one. Do you feel that way yourself, especially working on something as long as you did this franchise, or are you able to move on pretty quickly?
MELISSA ROSENBERG: I actually finishing writing these about two years ago, and then worked with (director) Bill [Condon] for awhile, before they started shooting. So, all of us behind the camera have been moved on for at least a year, if not two. But, I remember finishing it and it was very gratifying. The story came to a close and I felt like, “Okay, it’s done.” I was ready to move on, at that point. I wasn’t like, “Oh, thank god!,” but I took a moment and took a breath, and then was really excited about telling some different stories. I felt complete.
Did you have a favorite scene to write, and did that correlate with the scene you were most excited about seeing brought to life?
ROSENBERG: Yes, it does. It correlates a lot. In this particular movie, Breaking Dawn 2, there were probably more scenes like that. The book is all from Bella’s point of view, so Jacob comes to her and says, “Oh, I told your father I was a werewolf,” but (author) Stephenie [Meyer] couldn’t go away to that. Bella had to hear about it secondhand. I get to go away for it and actually write that scene. It’s in the book, but it allowed me some invention, in terms of how that would play out. This kid was taking his clothes off in front of this other guy. Also, it was the same thing with the gathering of vampires. From Bella’s point of view, they show up and she hears about some backstory. I got to actually go on the journey to find them. I got to find Garrett in New Orleans, having dinner. That, to me, was actually some of the most fun work I got to do.
ROSENBERG: Oh, all of them! Absolutely! For the very smallest characters, Stephenie has this very complex, rich history, for each one. Any one of them, for me, were so cool. There just wasn’t the time [to tell all of their backstories]. Pacing dictated what stayed in and what didn’t.
Did you catch yourself writing too much for any of the characters, in particular?
ROSENBERG: Yeah, the character of Garrett. I wanted to write more for Garrett and Kate because I love that relationship, and Alistair. I had more for the Amazons because Stephenie has such a complex backstory for them. I love those guys. They’re women of few words, but who doesn’t love an Amazon?
How challenging was it to add all of these new characters without overshadowing the main story?
ROSENBERG: The challenge was bringing in all of these characters and not leaving any of them out. You’re introducing each one and, in many cases, I had to just [give their name]. You have to keep the drive going, which is that the bad guys are coming, so you have to fight them off and find an army. It was a very tricky balance between those two.
Was it exciting to see all of the vampire powers brought to life, from off of the page?
ROSENBERG: It all has to be written, and that was something Bill was very helpful with. It has to be on the page. How do you show Bella’s shield? That was the hardest thing to do, from a writer’s standpoint. In that case, it was making suggestions, and then Bill and the special effects guys had to figure out what that actually looked like. I wrote, “She’s standing there and puts a shield over Edward. We see a little ripple in the air.” But, it’s very hard to imagine. I’m not sitting there with effects people. I’m just sitting there with the black page and going, “What does that look like?!” So, I did my best, and then Bill and I went back and forth while he talked me through his vision. And then, the special effects guys got ahold of it and I was like, “Okay, now I see it!”
When you think back on this entire experience, are there moments from seeing the films that stand out to you, or is it more moments from writing it? What encapsulates this whole thing for you?
ROSENBERG: Many different things. The biggest, of course, has to be the premieres. The premieres are such extraordinary, five times in a lifetime events. They will never happen again. And to be a part of that, as a writer, and to be walking those red carpets and seeing those fans interacting with the actors, and seeing how they respond to Rob [Pattinson] and Kristen [Stewart], it’s stunning. Because it’s so visceral, that will always be one of the first things I think of. But, the process of writing them was very much about working with the directors, Stephenie, the producers and the studio. We just had a really great creative relationship that we developed over the course of five years. It’s the creative team that I like. More than anything, what I remember is that creative team.
ROSENBERG: At this point, I’ve pulled myself out of that. I’ve tried to shut that off. Fifty percent are going to absolutely despise it and think I should have my hands cut off for having written it in the first place, and fifty percent are going to be going, “Oh, my god, it’s the best thing ever!” The wonderful thing about this is our audience and fan base, which is primarily women and girls. Women, in general, are very passionate fans, and that’s what you love about them. Whether they hate it or not, they’re all going to come see it, and they’ll see it five times, and they’ll buy the t-shirt and the DVD. That’s also the difficult thing about it because they are not particularly forgiving. They all have different opinions about what should have been in there and what shouldn’t have been in there, and how dare I leave out this word or that scene. My objective was that, if I make Stephenie happy and she sees the story she wrote in my script, that has to be enough. If I were to violate her storytelling than I know that I’m off of the fan base, but she is the books. Stephenie actually really embraced what they were. Of course, I worked very closely with her, and that was always my bar. She got to take those journeys with me into things that were happening off screen in the book. She got excited about being able to bring some of her other mythologies and histories into the story.
When you hear that you’re one of the highest grossest female screenwriters of all time, is that just bizarre and surreal, or can you feel an ownership of that?
ROSENBERG: It’s a little of both. What I’m most excited about, with that, is that I look forward to being usurped. I think, if you look at Box Office Mojo and you look at the highest grossing films of all time, there’s not a high number of women writing them. There are more and more, as we go forward, but these big tentpole action movies don’t have a lot of women behind them. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has a couple of women involved with Peter Jackson, and you’ve got Alice in Wonderland. What I want is to be the highest grossing screenwriter, or to have some other woman be the highest grossing screenwriter, instead of being number nine on the list. That’s my goal.
Are you excited about your new deal with ABC?
ROSENBERG: I’m so excited about that!
Are you happy that people will finally get to see Red Widow soon?
ROSENBERG: We’ve tweaked it a little bit and added Goran Visnjic, as Schiller. He is phenomenal. It changes the series a lot. But yeah, I’ve now been working with ABC on a couple different projects. It was a little bit like the Summit relationship because it was that kind of creative collaboration. I was like, “Yeah, let’s bring Tall Girl Productions here. This is a happy home.” And I would never have said that a few years ago, when I was working in cable. I would have been like, “To hell with network! I don’t want anything to do with that madness!” But, it’s a happy place to be and I’m really excited about it. We’re just shooting the last of the eight episode run for Red Widow and it’s some intense storytelling. And the ensemble we have is unbelievable. This is the vehicle for Radha Mitchell.
Did you originally sign on with ABC to do AKA Jessica Jones?
ROSENBERG: Yeah, I did the Jessica Jones pilot, but they didn’t pick it up to pilot. The studio still owns it, and I think we’re going to go shop it around to some other outlets to see. So, that’s on hold. But, they just came back to me the next season and said, “Well, we have this Dutch series.” Red Widow is based on a Dutch series, called Penoza. I watched the series and went, “This is not a network show. You can’t do this on network.” But, Paul Lee was like, “No, I want to do it on the network.” And I thought, “Okay, but are we going to be dialing back the edge and the violence?,” but no, we’re really not. Aside from swearing and maybe too much blood, and a little writhing and sex scenes, the storytelling has been incredibly edgy. So, we’ll see if the audience jumps on board.
Were there any challenges in switching back from the young adult headspace to writing for adult programming?
ROSENBERG: Well, I never got into the young adult headspace. With Twilight, they are pretty adult themes, aside from maybe the first one, but even that. They’re very adult themes, actually, particularly as the characters age. I never wrote for young adults. I wrote for myself, as an audience. The difference might be that the humor can get a little more edgy. My humor tends to be a little more edgy than is appropriate for Twilight, although I got some in there. That was fun! There’s just a tonal difference. For me, storytelling is storytelling. But, I do like writing for grown ups.
How did you approach the adaptation for Red Widow and deciding what to keep?
ROSENBERG: It has the exact opposite challenge that Twilight has. With Twilight, you have these massive tomes that you have to condense. With Penoza, we had an eight episode Dutch series that, just for the pilot alone, I condensed there episodes. So, there’s a lot of filling in and a ton of invention that has to happen to fill out eight episodes. I used a lot of the same plotting stepping stones, but I really had to develop all of the secondary characters and their relationships. What you’re building, hopefully, is seven years on the air. When they did Penoza, they thought it was a mini-series and killed everybody at the end. Everyone dies, and then they got picked up for a second season. I can imagine being that showrunner going, “Oh, fuck!” But, right from the beginning, we knew that every one of these characters has to have at least five years in them.
How will being a showrunner affect your film work?
ROSENBERG: I’m juggling both. I’ll always juggle both. But, I think I’ll be producing in film, even more than writing. Tall Girl Productions will eventually step into that arena, too. I like being in control of things.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 opens in theaters on November 16th.