Last month I found myself on the set of TWILIGHT. Now this visit was a first of many things for me. First and foremost it was my first set visit, my first time in a different time zone, even my first time on a plane (and a 6 hour flight at that.). So needless to say, it was a pretty exciting experience for me, so let me share it with all of you.
TWILIGHT is originally a #1 New York Times best selling novel written by Stephenie Meyer. It’s spawned 3 sequels (thus far) and has a GIGANTIC fan base I didn’t know about until this set visit. The book has actually been the recipient of A LOT of praise. It’s a New York Times Editor’s Choice, an Amazon ‘Best Book of the Decade… So Far,’ a Teen People ‘HOT LIST’ pick, and a Publisher’s Weekly ‘Best Book of the Year,’ among lot’s more.
TWILIGHT centers on Isabella Swan, more commonly known as Bella. Bella is your average 17 year old girl. Her parents have been divorced for a while now and she’s been living with her mother, Renee, in Phoenix, Arizona. But when her pro-baseball playing stepfather needs to travel around to try and get signed, she tells her mother to travel with her new husband. So this leaves Bella going to live with her father in their hometown of Forks, Washington. Forks is a gloomy place where it’s almost always raining and everyone knows each other. Bella hates it before even arriving there. That is until she meets Edward Cullen and his family of vampires. The Cullens are a different group of vampires… they’re civilized in the sense that they can live among humans without letting their savage roots show through. Bella and Edward fall deeply in love with each other, both knowing what they’re doing is dangerous and wrong. Edward has never thirsted for anyone the way he does for Bella… but he’s never loved anyone as much either. While the Cullens partake in a booming game of vampire baseball, with Bella watching, a new group of vampires show up... a more traditional group of vampires that really like killing humans. One of these vampires, James, takes an instant liking of Bella, and gets excited about the challenge of getting through Edward and the rest of the Cullens to reach her.
I actually took the time to read this 500 page book. Needless to say I was a bit surprised. Seeing how the actual vampire action doesn’t start until the last fifth of the book, it did a really good job of keeping me interested in this teenage love story for the first 400 pages. Stephenie Meyer does a great job of developing these characters and keeping you into it. Let’s hope the movie turns out something similarly entertaining.
It’s directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Hardwicke’s previous works include A NATIVITY STORY, THIRTEEN, and my favorite of her’s: LORDS OF DOGTOWN. So she’s definitely got a unique vision that can pull something like TWILIGHT off without a hitch. Joining her in the telling of this compelling story are stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson as Bella and Edward. Other’s starring in TWILIGHT include Michael Welch, Justin Chon, Billy Burke, Taylor Lautner, and Anna Kendrick. The Cullens are portrayed by Peter Facinelli, Kellan Lutz, Elizabeth Reaser, Nikki Reed, Ashley Greene, and Jackson Rathbone, with Cam Gigandet playing the savage vampire James. It comes from a script written by Melissa Rosenberg. So that pretty much set’s it up, let’s get to the actual visit!
So one early morning (9:30 is early for a guy rarely up before noon...), I found myself on a shuttle bus headed to Madison High School in Portland, Oregon. Yup, they’re filming on location, no actual ‘sets.’ Works for me. Mind you, this was during ‘Spring Break’ (WooHoo!), so the school was for the taking. Once there I’m almost immediately brought to a little side classroom where they’ve got all kinds of stuff set up, including a couple little TVs. (Not before meeting a fellow Boston Red Sox fan on the crew though, both of us sporting our Red Sox hats after a loss in the second game of the season….) This classroom is where I met one of the producess for the flick, Wyck Godfrey. Really cool guy. After talking to him a little about another movie he produced, ALIEN VS PREDATOR, I was directed to the little TVs I had mentioned, where I got my first taste of actual filming.
This first scene had Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) walking into biology class for the first time. At first she’s all excited and perky then BAM, she sees something and immediately becomes taken aback and bit unsettled. When I say BAM I mean with a fan in the background blowing her hair and everything. They even had Bella walk into the lab table and knock over a strategically placed pile of books. I quickly realized this was the beginning of an important part of this story… the first interaction between Edward and Bella. The thing she sees and gets so uneasy about is that witty bloodsucker. After seeing Bella walk into biology class a countless number of times, I’m finally joined by a couple other journalists and we gear up for an interview with Mr. Godfrey. He got into the fan base, how close they’re keeping to the book, and what we can expect in the violence department. You’ll be able to check that, and all the other interviews out soon. We were told off the bat the chances of getting an interview with star Kristen Stewart were slim to none, reason being is because she had to work on school stuff between takes, seeing how she wasn't 18 at the time. So no interview with Kristen unfortunately... although I did make eye contact with her a couple times!
After our interview with Wyck we sit around a bit and are soon told we can get another interview, this time with a group of the supporting cast. So we’re led to another side classroom where we catch a quick word with Michael Welch, Justin Chon, and Jose Zuniga. Mike Welch stars as Mike Newton, Justin Chon as Eric Yorkie, and Jose Zuniga as Mr. Molina (Mr. Banner in the book.). The trio gives us some insight as to what characters they play, what the fan base is like (interesting sock story here…), and what filming is like. Suddenly they're snatched away as quickly as they had come. So we walk back over to the biology room they’re filming in and we’re treated to a scene starring Robert Pattinson now.
This scene we get a little bit closer than the ‘other room with the small TVs.’ We get to witness this one from the corner of the room they’re filming in. The scene at hand is actually the other half of the earlier ‘Bella entering biology’ scene. This one has Edward (Robert Pattinson) reacting to Bella’s entrance by shooting a hand over his mouth like he’s holding back a wave of vomit and grabbing the table violently to stop from springing from his seat. Robert sports a great intense stare and does a great job, showing take after take of utter disgust. After each of us get a turn scoping out the scene from inside the room, we’re led back to the small TV room to watch this scene done a number of times, including having Robert flare his nostrils! Lunch time! There’s Kristen Stewart... cool. Then we feast on skewered BBQ chicken and baked potatoes… very good stuff. Oh and there’s Robert with a rainbow colored umbrella... groovy.
Back from lunch and we’re hoping to score an interview with star Robert Pattinson… well there’s Robert. Time for the interview! Robert gives us a nice deep look to what it’s like playing Edward Cullen and what we can expect, among some other things, but he’s quickly pulled away because... well he’s the star and they need to make a movie here. Now we sit back in the familiar little TV room and watch a biology scene starring both Kristen and Robert this time! This is the second part of the earlier scenes. This one has Edward and Bella seated at the same biology table, with Edward sitting as far away from the young girl as possible, still with a hand tightly clenched over his mouth. The tension is great. Mr. Molina (Jose Zuniga) places a couple cups filled with water on the table, one of which is quickly snatched by Edward’s shaking hand. The hand places the water on his side of the table and quickly retreats to under the desk, where we’re treated to a twitchy, semi-violent reaction from Edward and a very uneasy Bella. I’m pretty sure what Edward did under the table was grip the desk so tightly it breaks, or something along those lines. We see this a few times before being brought back to the other empty classroom… where we wait.
And wait… and wait. We’re told that they’ll be shooting a scene in the hallway we can observe soon, and that we can get an interview with director Catherine Hardwicke. So we wait some more and we’re finally able to pull Catherine away for a short time, enough to shoot a couple questions at her. They are making a movie around here though, so soon Catherine must depart because a star by the name of Kristen Stewart is standing in the middle of a biology room, awaiting her director. So we pull up some chairs and wait around a little more, witnessing all the equipment moving to the hallway for the next scene.
So everything is moving smoothly and progressing and… whoa… there’s Nikki Reed. Is this heaven? Not yet. She walks over and starts chatting it up with Catherine. Soon Nikki finishes her conversation and walks my way again, this time with co-star Ashley Greene. And they meet up with Bella stand-in Katie Powers right in front of me. World stops. Three gorgeous females… chatting away… right there… This could be heaven… if only one of them looked at me (I think Ashley did!)….. Anyway… soon all three depart and I’m back to reality.
Reality has the start of this next scene. In this scene Bella and Edward walk down a crowded hallway, the whole time Edward asking Bella about her family. Once they stop at her locker Edward passes Bella a golden onion and Bella asks Edward if he has contacts, commenting on his eyes changing colors from one week to the next, from black to gold. Edward gets uneasy and walks off down the hall, leaving Bella feeling a bit taken aback and confused. We’re able to see this scene filmed a number of ways right there in front of us. One way with a stable camera and the other with a dude holding the camera and walking. Then we see it shot centering on Bella, then centering on Edward. With Bella walking away then not walking away. Oh, and the golden onion is an award they won in biology class… in case you were wondering. Kristen and Robert seem really into their characters, giving hardly any reaction between takes. Although Kristen did sport a nice goofy face, with her tongue out and everything before sliding down her locker to the floor after one of the takes.
As I said, this scene with Bella and Edward was filmed several times in several different ways and directions. Definately some great chemistry between the two. They even had to have fake rain cascading down the window in the background because it wasn’t raining that day. Gotta love the details. After this scene we saw three smaller scenes knocked out. First there was one of Michael Welch, Justin Chon, and another supporting cast member walking down the same busy hall chatting it up. Then we see a scene with Bella (this time it’s Katie Powers, Kristen’s stand-in). This shot was actually pretty damn cool. It had the dude with the camera at Bella’s back and followed her down the busy hallway. Students randomly bumped into Bella like she wasn’t there. The camera stops and watches as Bella walks down the rest of the long hallway before turning a corner. Very cool shot. And then we have some roaming shots of all the ‘Forks High’ signs on the walls. Very nice touch with the ‘Forks High Prom’ and other Forks High signs. They even had some of the students wearing Forks High letter jackets.
We’re nearing the end of the day when we finally catch a couple more minutes with Catherine, just enough to finish up our questions. She gives us an idea of what we can expect visually and some of the action we'll be seeing. She’s definitely into this flick, and she shows it openly. I see that as a very good sign. Then she’s off to shoot a small scene where Edward’s stand-in does the hand action we didn’t see from the earlier scene. Pretty interesting how the stand-in had to get his hand all done up with all kinds of stuff to get it to look like Robert’s and be ready for the scene. So after our last couple minutes with Catherine, it’s time to depart back to the hotel and end this amazing day.
So needless to say, I had a blast on the set of TWILIGHT. After reading the book, the media I’ve seen thus far, and most importantly this set visit… I can honestly say I’m definitely looking forward to TWILIGHT. It’s gonna be an intense love story with some badass vampire action. It hits theaters December 12, 2008! Keep checking back for any updates on TWILIGHT and keep an eye out for those interviews!
UP NEXT TWILIGHT CAST & CREW INTERVIEWS!