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comic-con 2011

Bill Condon Was Not Ready for Your Screaming, Twilight Fans

It seems inconceivable that anyone could underestimate the ardor of Twilight fans, particular those dedicated dozens who camped out overnight to get into yesterday's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn panel at Comic-Con. And yet, director Bill Condon swore to Vulture yesterday that he was caught off-guard.

"I was surprised by all the screams," he told us earnestly. "I was!"

Had Condon learned nothing from when Chris Weitz brought New Moon to Comic-Con two years ago? It was a panel so shriek-filled that journalists suffering from sudden hearing loss could have had grounds for a class-action lawsuit. "Oh, I heard," Condon said, remembering. "Because Jacob took his shirt off for the first time?" He chuckled. "It was wild, right?"

It was, but "wild" doesn't even begin to cover the twists in the Twilight installment that Condon is directing, which features the year's most anticipated sex scene, a bloody vampire-baby birth, and an unlikely love story between a teenage wolf-boy and a newborn. Condon is cognizant of the pressure, especially when it comes to the coupling of Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella (Kristen Stewart).

"You can play with expectations, and in terms of the lovemaking, that's what I tried to do a little bit," he told Vulture. "You think you might see something, and then you get something else. I can't describe it any better than that because I don't want to give it away now, but the fact that there is such anticipation can actually let you play with it. And let's face it, it's the most intimate thing, and it all comes down to the relationship between the actors and the chemistry they have. I couldn't be luckier than to have Kristen and Rob, who are just so comfortable with each other and are able to explore that."

Sure, sure … but what about Bella's birthing sequence, where vampires have to gnaw the baby out of her belly? "It's not hard to shoot," Condon insisted. "You still depict the actions, it's just a question of how explicit you are in showing them."

And what of the scene where Taylor Lautner's Jacob suddenly "imprints" on said vamp-baby, meaning they're destined to fall in love? "I think what you have to go for is the spiritual element, more than anything else," said Condon. "I don't know that 'weird' is the right thing to say, but it is a completely original idea. There's no question that you have to remind people that this reflects Jacob's magical nature, and not just Jake, the guy who grew up on the reservation. Imprinting is not something you or I could do."

We asked Condon whether the pressure of adapting Twilight was anything like what he felt when making Dreamgirls, and he laughed.

"That's interesting. Wow. I never thought of that! In that case, it was kind of this doubled thing where people loved The Supremes, and people also loved the original production in 1981, so you kind of had to honor both of those as well as let it be its own thing. This is different, I guess, because it's about a book as opposed to another thing that existed in dramatic form. But you're right, the expectations are so specific and there's so much passion. Inevitably, you just have to make it in the way that's best, and there will always be people who don't agree." He paused, still earnest. "Right?"

Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty Images