ECLIPSE Director David Slade Adds Bite To TWILIGHT

When it comes to vampires, David Slade is no rookie. He directed 30 Days of Night, the 2007 movie adaptation of the Steve Niles-penned hit horror comic book about bloodthirsty vamps on a month-long Alaskan feast. But dealing with the complex, angst-riddled vampires that populate The Twilight Saga: Eclipse was a different matter altogether.

For one thing, he knew wholesale changes weren’t possible, even if that was what he wanted to do. You don’t mess with success; after more than $1.1 billion in worldwide ticket sales and more than 100 million books sold, “Twilight’s” success is indisputable.

There was still work to be done.

The tricky love triangle between Bella (Kristen Stewart), Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) remains the focal point of the story, but Slade wanted to make Eclipse a more frightening and intense experience than the previous two pictures. One glimpse at the ferocious battle sequence between vampires and werewolves that climaxes the film is all the proof you need that he succeeded in that regard.

Slade wanted to do more than just up the intensity level. So he indoctrinated himself into the universe Stephenie Meyer had created, to figure out what made the vampires of Forks tick.

“There was a certain amount of mythology [homework] that had to be done, vampire mythology, on the Twilight vampires. Similar thing with what [I had to do] on 30 Days,” said Slade, the third director in as many Twilight films, after Catherine Hardwicke and Chris Weitz.

The British filmmaker found himself asking all sorts of questions about the particular quirks of the vampires in the story.

“We went through that whole process, where we sat down and mapped out the physiology of the beasts,” Slade said. “For one thing, why does Edward sparkle? How does he sparkle? How does that work? Wouldn’t the light refract all over the place?”

Slade’s primary focus during the film was to bring the edge back to the Cullen family, especially Edward.

“What I really focused on with this film was to give Edward his edge, to make him dangerous, to make him violent. And I think we succeeded in that,” he said, referring to the movie’s climactic scene, where Edward really cuts loose.

The fact that he thought Edward needed to unleash more of his “monster” side, Slade pointed out, is a tribute to the impact Meyer’s books have had on the perception of vampires in popular culture.

“What Stephanie has cleverly done is taken something very fascinating, and a little bit voyeuristic, and made it something a little more institutionalized, [and brought it out] a little into the open, to a wider audience,” Slade said. “She’s basically taken something parasitic and nasty and made it into the ideal man [in Edward Cullen]. And while Edward is beautiful and he’s a cipher for purity, he can’t help but drag some of that carnivore with him.”

Slade is aware that directing a Twilight movie is a no-win scenario, the Kobayashi Maru of filmmaking.

Much like James Bond, and to a lesser extent, the Harry Potter series, Twilight has become known as a director-for-hire series, where the person hired is perceived to have to adjust to a pre-set filmmaking formula that basically entails translating the book word-for-word, scene-for-scene. It’s what the fans want, the thinking goes. Slade dismisses that thinking, saying his Twilight brings a harder edge and more attitude.

“I put [fan expectations] out of my mind very early. [Stephenie] was heavily involved. We would consult her, she would come to the set,” Slade said.

“So we felt really secure in the ‘being loyal’ department because my feeling was if Stephenie was OK with it, then everyone else really should be.”

While the director’s chair has had a different person sitting in it for all three movies, the cast has largely stayed the same (Bryce Dallas Howard replacing Rachelle Lefevre being the notable change). Instead of being shaken by the revolving-door policy at the helmer’s spot, most of the actors view it as a learning experience.

“That’s always good, because as soon as time goes by, as soon as one little thing in the story changes, you can’t just think that you know everything,” Stewart said in an interview with Newsarama.

“David definitely was not [just] concerned with…keeping it the same as it is and just shooting it and being a technician. It’s not just, ‘OK, I’ll shoot it and you guys keep doing the same thing.’ He was totally with us and willing to really explore [the story and the characters].”

When it was first announced Slade would be directing Eclipse, many cited his vampire experience on 30 Days of Night as being a key advantage. But the director thinks his 2005 breakout indie film Hard Candy proved even more useful to him. He feels working on that drama, a bare-bones $1.1 million production, gave him the perspective to pull off crucial scenes in Eclipse like the one where Bella, Edward and Jacob find themselves in a tent atop a freezing mountain.

“Really, the emotional side of the film was really straightforward to me. The emotional stuff was really just making sure the actors were happy, ready, and on the same page,” Slade continued.

Nothing could have prepared him for the most unexpected challenge he faced — the weather.

“It was one of those things,” Slade said about the mercurial conditions the cast and crew faced during the nearly three-month long shoot in Vancouver. “The weather just hammered on us, it rained or … it would be sunny, and we’d have Edward and we couldn’t have him in the sun or a special effect there…it was all the boring stuff I’m afraid [that made it a tough shoot].”

“The hardest thing was shooting this whole damn massive epic movie in 50 days. If you think about it, it’s like shooting two-and-a-half Hard Candys."

More Eclipse:

<li> For TWILIGHT's Stewart, Familiarity Breeds Contentment

<li> Review: Latest "Twilight" Film 'Eclipses' Previous Efforts


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