‘Twilight’ Countdown: Catherine Hardwicke talks about the meadow and making Robert Pattinson ‘dazzle’
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When I asked you guys which scene you were most excited to see, hundreds of your wrote in “The meadow!” -- and told me how lame it was that I didn’t even list it as a choice in the poll.
You were right. It was lame.
So when I spoke with ‘Twilight’ director Catherine Hardwicke on Monday, I got her to talk about what she went through to get that pivotal scene right, (in two words: a lot!), how she got Edward (Robert Pattinson) to dazzle in the sun of that meadow, and what moments in the book she had to chop from the movie. (This is the first of a two-part interview. Check back for the second half later this week.)
How did you find the perfect meadow?
That was my misery, I gotta tell you. You are just stabbing the knife into the weak point. That was really hard because on one logistic level, we didn’t have a “Harry Potter”/“Lord of the Rings” budget. On a normal movie you would have built a beautiful meadow on a soundstage, that way you could control the sunlight so that Edward can step into and out of it. But with under $37 million, that was impossible. So, oh my, picture me in the middle of January wearing snow shoes hiking up trails for miles trying to find the perfect meadow in the middle of Oregon, freezing. (It was my first time in snow shoes -- that part was pretty fun.) We finally, after hiking all over and getting stuck in chains and seeing zillions of potential spots, we found a beautiful place.
It wasn’t exactly a meadow. It was by a river. But it was just stunning. We moved the filming of the meadow scene to the end of the schedule so we would have the best possible weather, closest to spring time. And then about two weeks before shooting, we discovered that it was still covered in over 12 feet of snow -- my perfect meadow. You couldn’t even get there, there were fallen trees, logging trucks would have had to clear the place. So at the last minute, even in the middle of filming, we had to find a new location for the meadow. I was so stressed out as you can imagine. Running around shooting all week, freezing and trying to find another place.
Finally, we found an absolutely stunning location ...
It had these upturned boulders and aged, old growth trees. Just stunning -- but it doesn’t really look like a meadow. So, I’m like, “Oh no!” But the clock was ticking. I had to shoot on a certain day. And it has to be accessible. So we shot a lot of the scene there. And it looks gorgeous, I mean it looks like a fairy tale location, covered with moss and green and very Olympic rainforest.
But when we wrapped the movie, I said there was one thing I still had to shoot. I was just begging and begging, “I’ve got to shoot a meadow. Something that looks like a meadow. Or people are going to stone me in the streets.” So we ended up shooting a piece of the scene in a magical place in the middle -- bizarrely enough -- in the Griffith Park golf course. There are these old growth Redwood trees and we brought in all this amazing grass and rocks and moss and made it into our meadow. So we finally got the meadow, but man, it was not easy.
Can you talk about how you got Edward to dazzle in that meadow?
That again was super challenging. We had probably 10 special effects companies trying out experimental ideas on some footage we had to see how we can make him dazzle and sparkle and shimmer. Most of it wasn’t good. We ended up going with ILM (Industrial Light and Magic, George Lucas’ company) and they, of course, are masters at creating amazing effects. We did a full body scan of Rob, which we turned into a 3-D model of him -- (laughs) there is a 3D model of Rob somewhere! -- and did all this very high-tech mapping of every surface of his face and body.
Besides reviewing zillions of versions of it, I wound up flying to ILM with the visual effects supervisor three different times and spending whole days working with the three-dimensional models and the geometry and the physics going, “How can we get this to be beautiful?”
You know, the description in the book is a tiny bit contradictory. On one level, he is supposed to look like cut diamonds, on another, he’s as smooth as marble. So you’re like OK, when you think of encrusted cut diamonds that’s faceted -- and when we first did that it almost looked like acne, like a skin condition. And you want it to be smooth.
So it’s been very intricate science to get something we felt looked beautiful. And kind of scary, too, you know.
Are there scenes or moments from the book didn’t make it into the movie?
Well it’s almost 500 pages -- you do have to do the sweetened condensed milk version of that. We really tried to have all the most crucial potent exciting stuff be in the movie. That goes without saying.
But there are some things, for example, a scene that I kind of liked in the biology room where they do the blood typing. That’s not in the movie. We already have two scenes in biology: the first time they’re in there and then the second time when they connect. For a film, when you condense, you don’t want to keep going back to the same setting over and over. So that’s not in there.
The meadow scene is 23 pages in the book and, actually, Bella reveals in the car, way before that, driving back from Port Angeles, that she knows Edward’s a vampire. So, we took all those 23 pages in the meadow and the reveal in the car and made a more dramatic scene out of it. So instead of two characters sitting in a car talking, it’s a more visually dynamic setting -- the meadow -- where she reveals her knowledge.
-- Denise Martin