Who’s the best choice to direct ‘Breaking Dawn’? An appraisal


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As startling as it would first seem, the scuttlebutt that three Oscar-winners -- Bill Condon, Gus Van Sant and Sofia Coppola -- have been approached to direct ‘Breaking Dawn’ shouldn’t really surprise.

First, the key is approached. Big directors are approached all the time, the same way you might approach the edge of a cliff but never actually go over it. It still seems far-fetched that the auteur who gave us ‘My Own Private Idaho’ would return to the Pacific Northwest to track Quileutes and Volturi.


But we live in an era when the greatest filmmakers take on Batman and Robert Ludlum properties. And if nothing else, the selection of one of these auteurs could induce some tweens to become suddenly familiar with the early work of River Phoenix. (We suspect ‘Kinsey’ could be a little tougher.) Look at it as directing as demo-expansion.

With that in mind, here’s a quick assessment of both the virtues and problems of giving the ‘Breaking Dawn’ assignment to each of the directors on the reputed shortlist.

1) Bill Condon
Pro: He knows how to hit the high notes, literal and figurative, in his love stories. And movies such as ‘Dreamgirls’ adroitly tell of misunderstood and underestimated women, descriptors that certainly fit Bella Swan.
Con: The guy does prestige dramas like ‘Kinsey.’ And musicals. Musicals. You know, those movies in which people belt out their thoughts, not whisper tortured nothings to their paramours in-between flying chase scenes. Tonally, we don’t see it.
2) Sofia Coppola
Pro: Girl’s got talent. But she’s been a little diffuse since her breakout ‘Lost in Translation’ came out nearly seven years ago, working slowly, and then turning out messiness such as ‘Marie Antoinette.’ The twin facts of existing source material/mythology and fan expectation could prove the kind of discipline she needs to return to form.
Con: Coppola does smart, complex dramas, not binary, genre-tinged ones. Not saying she can’t branch out. She simply hasn’t done anything to show her skills would be best applied here.

3) Gus Van Sant

Pro: The Goth thing. If any filmmaker today can peer into the dark corners of the soul and find something new and interesting, it’s GVS. And he captured the aimlessness of high-school adolescence well in the underrated ‘Elephant.’
Con: Van Sant is at his best when he’s casting a sharp and cynical eye, when he’s not trying to be commercial or overly heartwarming. We loved ‘Drugstore Cowboy’ and ‘To Die For.’ But the world probably does not need ‘Finding Edward.’

--Steven Zeitchik