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 talked about what his 13-year-old daughter thinks of his portrayal of Aro, what led to him injecting some comedy into the chilling character, wearing the red contact lenses, what he thinks the franchises means to the fans, what it was like to stay in Vamp Camp (at the same hotel in Louisiana) with all of the new vampires, shooting the big battle scene, and the strangest fan encounter he’s had. He also talked about his upcoming comedy feature Admission, with Tina Fey, and his Showtime drama series, Masters of Sex. Hit the jump to watch the press conference or read the full transcript.
In addition, we posted 6 clips and over five minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from the final Twilight film. Also, here’s our coverage of the Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and the Taylor Lautner press conferences.
MICHAEL SHEEN: When I first told her that I was going to be playing Aro, she said, “But, Aro’s bald. Completely bald.” And I said, “Oh, I see.” Everyone gets their own idea of a character. I thought she was going to be really excited, when I said that I was going to be [Aro], but in fact, she was really annoyed. It was her thing. She was eight, at the time, and if someone had come along when you were eight years old and said, “I’m going to take this thing that is really special to you and that you think is yours, and it’s going to be mine,” you would be upset, too. I slightly underestimated the effect on her. But, she got very excited. For the really big fans of the books, nothing can be what you imagine in your head. So, even though I wasn’t a bald Aro, hopefully, she still liked it.
Aro is obviously very scary, but you play him with a bit of comedy. What led to that decision?
SHEEN: Well, one of the things I always liked about the character, that Stephenie [Meyer] had written, or hinted at in the book, was the idea that he thinks of himself as being this sentimental old fool. He just enjoys watching the young people having fun, and then likes to kill them. So, I like the idea of someone who, instead of just being the big bad guy, has something a bit more fun about him. He’s been around for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years. I would imagine the biggest problem is that you just get bored. Who wants to live forever? So, he has to come up with things that are new and interesting, as well as being quite threatening. That’s quite interesting because it’s something different. I like the idea of someone who is constantly trying to amuse themselves, as well. That brings more to it. And then, especially in this film, it allowed the moments where it really is horrible to be more chilling. I really creep myself out, in this one. I don’t usually, but there are moments where you see how much the character enjoys violence and just the general meanness, and then there’s that smile. The insanity of him really runs underneath. So, I kept it light and playful, which really helps when you go for the nasty moments.
What was it like to wear the red contact lenses?
SHEEN: Well, I’m wearing contact lenses now. I’m wearing human being contact lenses because I actually do have red eyes. For once in my career, I could actually not wear contact lenses, which was kind of handy. Listen, having anyone fiddle with your eyes is not what you want to be happening, first thing Monday morning. In the Underworld films, I had to wear lenses, too, when I transformed into the werewolf. Also in Tron, I had to wear contact lenses, as well. But, I’d never worn them for this long before, having to wear them all day. Annoyingly, the ones that I had to wear had to be bigger than everybody else’s because they wanted to affect my entire eyeball, rather than just my iris. So, rather than just changing the color, as with the Cullens, because I was supposed to look much older, it affected the rest of the eye. They were like half golf balls. So, in order to get them into your eyes, you have to have someone lifting the top eyelid just to put the first bit of it in, and then lift the bottom part of the eye to get the rest of it in. Human beings are not meant to have things shoved in their eyes. Everything in you is trying to stop it and resist it, but the more you fight it, the more they’re going to just have to take it out and do it again. I used to say, “Can’t we just CG my eyes, at the end?” But, I mostly just learned to relax. And then, you have to have someone with you all day because they have to put drops in, so your eyes don’t dry out. Everything goes to a pinkish hue, and you don’t have much peripheral vision. So, I just got very quiet all day. It’s the character, I suppose. Having that slightly contained hysteria all day was quite good for the character. I used it. You have to use everything. I’m always acting, always working.
Are you able to take a step back from your character and look at these five films and four books from your daughter’s eyes to see what a fan really gets from all of this?
SHEEN: I’m in quite a peculiar position because I’ve come in and out with them. I’m not like Rob [Pattinson] and Kristen [Stewart]. Those guys have been right in it, all the way along, and I feel like I flit in and out. I still feel like I can get a sense of what it’s like from the outside, as well as what it’s like from the inside. That’s quite a rare position to be in. Also, the younger fans don’t recognize me because I’ve got long black hair and white skin [in the films]. People tend not to know that it’s me, until some parent goes, “That guy over there is in Twilight,” and then, they go, “Aah!” Otherwise, they have no idea who I am or who I play. So, I do feel like I have a slight sense of it with my daughter. She was just a little kid when it began. She’d read all the books, multiple times. She was just so into it. Now, she’s 13 and doesn’t go trick-or-treat anymore, as I found out yesterday. I feel like she’s really grown up with these books, as I’m sure a lot of young girls have. I think Bill [Condon] has done a really lovely job of respecting that. So, by the time you come to the end of the journey in the film, there’s also a sense of coming to the end of some kind of journey for the audience, especially for a lot of the young girls who have grown up with Bella. They’ve gone through Bella’s journey with her. It’s very moving, by what happens at the end of the film, and I really feel like Bill was really sensitive to that. I’m sure a lot of young people can relate to this, even if it’s in the world of vampires and werewolves. Bella’s journey allows other people to live vicariously through it with her, while they are also actually going through that journey, feeling things for the first time. I think the journey of Bella and Edward is like a little light, guiding them along that path. I’ve seen the film twice now and, each time I get to the end, I’m bawling. Goodness knows what a 14-year-old girl is going to be thinking. I find it very moving, coming to the end of the story.
SHEEN: Not on screen, I didn’t. Funnily enough, because we filmed it in Louisiana, there are 18 new vampire characters introduced in this film and we were all put in the same hotel. It was like Vamp Camp. There were a lot of very excited vampires, running around the place. With vampires, there is such a great tradition that you suddenly find yourself a part of. Each generation reinvents what that means to them. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do a huge amount of research on vampires because I really love those films, anyway. I just recently had the chance to meet Willem Dafoe, who did the film Shadow of the Vampire, where he played Max Schreck. He’s great in that. And I love Gary Oldman in Coppola’s Dracula. I love that kind of look and what he did with it. And Frank Langella played Dracula, as well. There are some fantastic vampire killers, as well. It’s the same with Nazis. I haven’t played a Nazi yet, but you join the pantheon of all those. I’m looking forward to my Camp Nazi next.
Can you compare playing Aro with playing Tony Blair?
SHEEN: Well, one is a slightly self-delusional psychopath, and the other one is Aro. Funnily enough, there was one moment when I realized Aro is trying to convince all the other vampires about what they should do about this child, and he’s trying to persuade them while he’s being so disingenuous and laying it on quite thick and sounding reasonable when, in fact, he wants to cause havoc and mayhem. I noticed that I instinctively started using some of Blair’s hand gestures, which is quite funny. They were both in positions of power. But, I think Aro has an insanity, the depth of which goes way beyond Tony Blair.
How was it to shoot the big battle scene?
SHEEN: Because it’s set outside, I thought we were going to be in the forest, for weeks and weeks and weeks, and that I needed to bring all of my warm clothes. So, when we were doing the costume design, I’ve learned from experience that, if you’re going to be somewhere cold and doing a lot of night shoots, you should have a warm costume. I made sure that my costume was layers and layers with a cloak and really heavy things. Then, of course, I turned up on day one, and we were in a studio. It was all CG with green screen. I was boiling, for weeks and weeks and weeks. We were on this snowy set with all the other vampires. Team Arrow were at one end, and then Team That Lot were at the other end, miles away from each other, so we couldn’t even talk to each other. We just had to stay at either end of this huge set. There were poor vampires that had to stand around, for ages and ages. At least, for me, I was involved in it, all the time, so I had something to do. A lot of other people just had to stand there. And then, towards the last day of the battle scene – and I think it might exist on the DVD – there was this huge dance that happened, where the Cullens had choreographed a dance. So, as they said, “Action!,” they suddenly went into this choreographed dance routine to “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” It was fantastic! That broke the boredom, for once.
What’s been your strangest encounter you’ve had with a Twilight fan?
SHEEN: My strangest encounter with a Twilight fan was in a changing room in a store, here in L.A. I think I was buying a new pair of jeans, and I came out of the changing room, just to look in the mirror, and there were two 13-year-old girls. I don’t know how they knew, but they found out that I played Aro and they just screamed at me. I thought, “I’ll take these jeans! I’ll take two!” That was rather strange.
Can you talk a little bit about your work, post-Twilight?
SHEEN: Well, since wrapping this, I’ve done lots since then. Recently, I did a film with Tina Fey, called Admission, where I got to, once again, take on the role of Tina Fey’s British, bonkers boyfriend. That was great fun! It was lovely to work with Tina again. That was brilliant! And I did the pilot for a show on Showtime, called Masters of Sex. We will start shooting the first season in January. I play a real person, named William Masters, of Masters and Johnson fame, for anyone who knows them. That will be fun!
Why do you currently have a mustache?
SHEEN: The mustache is just for you. It’s Movember. But to be honest, I really don’t need an excuse. The thing is, if you have a slightly rubbish or off look, people assume it’s for a character. But no, I just like it! I can get away with it because everyone assumes it’s for a character because who would want to look as knobbish as that? I do!
Going back before the franchise, what advice would you give to yourself about being involved with the entire thing?
SHEEN: I probably would have gone into therapy, just to prepare myself for what it’s like to be on set with some of the most attractive young people in the world today. There is nothing like being around Rob and Kristen and Ashley [Greene] and Nikki [Reed] to make you feel like an old, fat Welshman. When you look at the white make-up, you’re supposed to look pasty, but it’s really not an attractive look for the slightly older generation. But, the younger ones look fantastic! They look pale and interesting, with their cheekbones. I have to wade through about 10 inches of subcutaneous fat, before I find the cheekbones. You stand around everyone and, just by osmosis, you feel like you’re a bit more attractive because you’re around these attractive people, but you get back to the make-up trailer and you’re just like, “Argh!,” when you see yourself in the mirror.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 opens in theaters on November 16th.