Where was possibly retirement-contemplating director Chris Weitz around lunchtime today, mere hours before the release of The Twilight Saga: New Moon? Sitting in the back of a Town Car snarled in Manhattan traffic, answering Vulture’s questions. We caught up with him en route from an interview on Elvis Mitchell’s radio show to a taping of the director’s cut for the DVD. He talked to us about breaking the book’s rules, his estrogen levels, and being “the world’s biggest hypocrite.”
How did you convince Stephenie Meyer to pick you as the director?
Her first reservation was that I’m a man. She had liked About a Boy [which Weitz helped adapt], so that helped a lot. It also helped to talk about the book and Bella’s feelings, and how I would see it realized. We became thick as thieves. I could always e-mail her and ask if it was okay to do something. She’s the pope and I’m the cardinal.
Had you always had a thing for vampires?
A week before [I was offered the Twilight job] — I’m friends with David Benioff, and he had said you should see this movie, Let the Right One In. And I said, “I don’t understand why everybody’s doing so many movies and TV shows about vampires. I just don’t get it. You have Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you’re through.” Then I got offered Twilight and became the world’s biggest hypocrite. But I don’t think it’s about vampires at all. Part of the appeal for adults is it’s a guilty pleasure going back to your teenage emotions, like your first love and first heartbreak and obsession.
But as a 39-year-old married man, how do you relate to the emotional state of a teenage girl?
I’m a teenage girl at heart, really. I could show you the doctor’s report. I have a very high estrogen count. My wife is here to confirm it. But I never thought the story was gender specific. It’s just the degree to which everyone wants to be seen letting [their emotions] all hang out watching it; guys don’t want to do that necessarily, and girls are willing to go there. But it’s in all of us.
How do you go from directing a movie like American Pie, where the object is getting laid, to Twilight, which has been called a Mormon allegory, with the writer of the series, Stephanie Meyer, being a Mormon?
It’s funny now to work with a writer who is a practicing Mormon. I don’t mind that at all. I’ve never had a problem with religious people. I rather love that it’s men being objectified and the attitude towards sex is “think about it, be careful, this is a really big deal.” Considering the number of 17-year-old girls objectified in film, I think this is just one back for the ladies. It’s almost revolutionary for a character to be a virgin and for the male to want to wait.
Was there anything Meyers had to correct you on?
You can’t cut a vampire with a knife. I should’ve known that. But there were rules she would stretch, for instance, Edward’s face cracks at one moment. I said, “How do you show a vampire being hurt or damaged in a fight?” It’s fun to take Rob [Pattinson]’s porcelain beauty and crack it.
The Golden Compass was also supposed to be a religious allegory geared toward a teen audience and it was a disappointment at the box office. What happened there?
The Golden Compass became a bad experience because the studio didn’t have faith in the strength of the ideas of the novel, which is ironic because it’s one of the greatest fantasy novels ever written, if not the greatest, and they took the religion out of it and tried to turn it into a popcorn movie. We had an inferior product, which was trying to avoid anything with any religious content in it, which emasculated the film. I think there were some very unwise decisions that led to its financial ruin here, and in turn, to the destruction of New Line as we knew it. This movie, I suppose, is redemption for me, because I was able to accurately depict the book on film.
Is this really your last movie?
That’s become Internet Chinese whispers. I said something like, “Oh I’m so tired of doing all these movies” but that became “I’m not doing any more movies now.” There’s always a time I say never again, but it’s more like a bad hangover.