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, actor Michael Sheen (who plays Volturi leader Aro) spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how much fun it was to play the all-out crazy side of his character, how much they shot that was cut out of the film and that he hopes will make it on the DVD, finding the level of theatricality for his performance, how he thinks Aro might have been as a human, and what it’s been like to be a part of this worldwide phenomenon, especially having a daughter that gives him perspective on it. He also talked about what attracted him to the Showtime drama series Masters of Sex, about the pioneers of the science of human sexuality whose research touched off the sexual revolution, in which he’s playing Dr. William Masters. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
MICHAEL SHEEN: I enjoyed it! It was hard work because we spent a long time on that set, in the snow and the forest, but it was great. It was probably the most enjoyable one to do, and I think it’s certainly the most enjoyable one to watch. I really enjoyed it. And it’s the end of the story, as well, which gives it a lot more of a bittersweet quality.
Did you enjoy getting to explore some different sides to the character?
SHEEN: I got to peel a few layers off. There’s a lot that we shot that didn’t make it into the final film, but we did all kinds of stuff. There was a bit where, when things look really bad for Aro, he just reverts back to his more animal self, so we did all kinds of crazy, crazy things. Maybe they’ll be on the DVD. There was some really crazy stuff that we ended up doing. That was really fun, to be able to take a character who is so in control, most of the time, and start to show the hysteria underneath, a little bit more. I’ve always tried to have a sense of that, and that’s where the laugh came from. I wanted him to have something that just seemed out of control and a bit scary. It was good to be able to start exploring that. If you’ve lived for thousands of years, than you’ve gotta be in control most of the time. But, I would imagine that you would also have this insanity in there, as well. He has to give a sense of his authority and discipline, but underneath, guiding him all the time, is this madness.
What was your process for finding the level of theatricality for Aro, his behavior and his laugh?
SHEEN: When I watched the film, I saw which takes the director decided to go with because there were varying levels. If you’re lucky, you get the opportunity to try a few different things. I always remember hearing that in the film The Shining, for Jack Nicholson’s performance, which a lot of people think is really big and theatrical, [Stanley] Kubrick used to make him do so many takes that there was all kinds of different versions of that performance that they could have gone with, but they went with the one that they did. It’s similar to something like this, where you play around with doing certain things quite small and other things quite big. There’s the big speech that Aro has, to his people on the battlefield, where he’s talking about what they should do about this little girl, and the version that (director) Bill [Condon] went with was actually quite small and played down and gentle, in some ways. I did another version that was very different than that, and much bigger and more obviously scary. A lot of that is dependent on what the director ends up going with.
SHEEN: I think he can’t even remember who he was anymore. I think that’s part of his madness. He doesn’t have any memory of it. But, aside from what he can remember, I don’t know. I like the idea that he was someone quite different to who you see in the film. It would be really surprising, if you could find out. Maybe there’s a whole sequel there, where we could go back and see how Aro was turned. That would be interesting. The bulk of the story is obviously focusing on Bella and Edward, and Jacob and their relationship, but you’ve got all these other characters and, now and again, you get a little insight into their past. Each one of them could be a main character in something else. They’re all really interesting. One of the most enjoyable things about this film is that 18 new vampire characters come in, and seeing all their different stories is great. It really brings a new energy to the film.
What has it been like to be a part of this entire phenomenon? Does it give you a better perspective on it to have a daughter who gets it?
SHEEN: Oh, definitely, yeah! It would have been very different to be a part of this without having a daughter who was into it. She’s very much the target audience. She’s at the heart of it all. That’s really helped to get a sense of just how consuming the stories are, for a lot of people, and how passionate they are, and to never forget how meaningful these stories are to a lot of people. Some people, it does nothing for, and that’s fine. Those are not the people the stories are intended for. But, for the audience who really does get it, it’s incredibly meaningful to them.
Having a daughter who was eight or nine when she first started reading the stories, seeing how much it meant to her and how she read the stories over and over and over again, and seeing how she grew up into a young woman over that period of time, that’s a lot of what the stories are about. Bella’s journey in the stories is about growing into maturity and the things that you experience along the way, and the choices and decisions you make. I can see how much that’s helped her, as a young girl growing into a woman, so that’s been important to me, to never lose sight of that with all the hoopla around it. I always remember that, at its heart, it’s a story that doesn’t have a message necessarily, but is certainly there to help give a bit of guidance and allow people to not feel like they’re on their own when they’re experiencing these things.
Going into the teenage years, especially for a girl, can be really confusing and difficult, in lots of ways. What (author) Stephenie [Meyer] has written has really helped a lot of people get through that. At their heart, these stories are about the experiences of all children and young people growing up, but because they’re in the world of magic and wizards, in the case of Harry Potter, or vampire and werewolves, in the case of Twilight, to see your experiences in that journey, dressed up in a world of something that is much bigger and more exciting and colorful and dangerous, allows young people to engage with it, in a way that makes it seem like it’s escapist, yet is not escapist, at all. It’s about their everyday experience. That’s the power of stories. That’s why it’s so great that Harry Potter and the Twilight books have allowed a lot of people to re-engage with reading. That’s where the great stories are, I think.
SHEEN: Oh, it goes there, yes!
Was that challenge of the material part of what attracted you to it?
SHEEN: I think so, yeah. What really attracted me was that there’s such potential there. With something like that, you could potentially end up doing seven seasons, but all you’ve got to go on is one pilot episode. So, when I read the pilot episode, I thought there was such potential, in all kinds of ways. What the subject matter is about is interesting and different, and we haven’t really seen that before. It’s very intense. And I thought there was a lot of opportunity there to really explore something we find taboo, in some ways, and a bit embarrassing. I thought that was interesting. But then, there’s just the lives of these characters because they’re real people. I’ve read about their lives, so I know the major events and the things that they were dealing with. Thinking about how that might play out, over multiple seasons, I thought there was so much richness and potential there. The whole thing, really, was exciting.
How is Lizzy Caplan, as a co-star?
SHEEN: She’s great fun! She’s got a great background in comedy, but she’s a fantastic actress, as well. I think it could be really exciting. I’m looking forward to getting the scripts now, for the first season.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 opens in theaters on November 16th.