The greatest challenge in making “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1,” a fantasy involving werewolves, vampires and all-too-humans, was trying to please everybody, he says.
“These books are beloved by so many people you want to make sure that its your take on the material, but that it doesnt betray what peoples expectations are, and yet still becomes a fully cinematic experience.”
Condons no unfamiliar person of movie encounters. He wove his own spell with the “Dreamgirls” adaptation, conjured up filmmaker James Whale with “Gods and Monsters” and took on Controversial sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in “Kinsey.”
Still, the encounter was nothing like this. “Making two movies at once wasnt fun either,” he says. “It was fun, but it was hard. Kristen (Stewart, the shows star), would be young Bella, a high school girl in the morning, then a vampire in the afternoon and then a pregnant mother in the evening. She had days like that. It was crazy.”
In “Breaking Dawn Part 1” Stewart not only marries her vampire sweetheart, she encounters her first sexual union with him, becomes pregnant and bears his child.
That is a tall order for a nearly two-hour film. The birth scene was the big hurdle, says Condon.
“Obviously its very, very kind of powerfully described in the book. You want to be true to that experience, but how do you show some of those things? As with a lot of other things, I think the key to doing it is to tell it from Bellas point of view.
“The same thing as with the wedding, walking down the aisle. In that case just giving myself that limitation that were only going to see what Bella can see as these things are happening to her, only through her eyes, as she gets weaker, as the morphine takes over … it is kind of intense.”
It was so intense that there was some question about its PG-13 rating. “They told us we werent hitting PG-13 yet,” he says. “Its a very clinical thing. They have very specific guidelines for ratings. … It was never explicit.”
Condon says he constantly consulted with Stephenie Meyer, author of the books, and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg.
“If we take vampires and werewolves out, what is this about? Its about the first year of marriage. Its about how you fantasize about something for so long and actually attain it. And then the reality: Youre waking up with that person every day in this case, one of you is waking up. Whats that like?”
Condon attended a Jesuit high school and studied philosophy at Columbia University, but filmmaking was always a goal.
“I was writing some reviews while I was in college but basically I decided that was the time not to do anything about movies,” he says.
“I had this Catholic education, and when I went to college I expanded it to general philosophy. I have to say the analytical skills that you need to be a screenwriter beyond Aristotles Poetics in general the things that you learn in philosophy give you a certain kind of rigor. As soon as I graduated I started pursuing movies. I always thought of that period as a timeout.”
He started writing scripts with “Strange Behavior” and “Strange Invaders,” and made his directorial debut with “Sister, Sister.”
Though it may not be trendy, Condon, 56, says hes always been fond of melodrama, which defines “Breaking Dawn.”
“It was part of why I wanted to do it. Im a big fan of classic Hollywood genres. Thats a genre thats sort of fallen out fashion. Like other things like detective stories it became the thing that TV took over. And it became devalued.
“But some of our greatest directors worked in that form. It allows you to immerse yourself in emotion, and do that both with the camera, music, design and color. I very much embraced it and didnt fight against it, didnt try to make this into something that was super real.
“Its a valuable genre. Because it often puts women and womens concerns in the center, it gets devalued too, thats too bad. But I was excited by that.”