Over the weekend, Summit Entertainment released Breaking Dawn – Part 2 on Blu-ray, along with an Extended Edition of Part 1, providing fans with one last, long, long look at the end of The Twilight Saga.
In their theatrical incarnations, the two films weirdly represent the best and the worst that the series has to offer: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is unequivocally the best made and most entertaining of all of the films, offering even strangers to the franchise something to enjoy, while Part 1 has the flimsiest story and the most lackadaisical pacing, and generally exists only to satisfy the appetites of longtime fans eager to see Bella and Edward’s wedding brought to life in minute detail. And the Blu-rays, both of which look terrific, capably re-create the experience of watching both parts, during their most glorious and disappointing moments.
Nevertheless, their home video incarnations provide fans and critics with countless new revelations – not just about the two-part finale, but about the Saga as a whole. As such, we sorted through the comments made by director Bill Condon on the two films’ commentary tracks to find a few new details – some of which even Twi-hards might not know.
1. Bill Condon cut out the original opening scene for Breaking Dawn – Part 1 – featuring the Volturi – because it undermined the fact that the saga ultimately is Bella’s story. “The Volturi felt like a red herring,” Condon says. He also explains that he added it back in for the extended edition specifically because it provides an “appropriate” beginning for the complete Breaking Dawn story.
2. Kristen Stewart is the ultimate Twi-hard and she remembers how she felt when she read the books for the first time. She remembers what interested her, she remembers what made her cry. According to Condon, part of the final script process was that she would lobby for certain moments to be put back in or certain lines to be put back in – and often succeeded. “She knows this as well as anybody,” he says.
3. This is the real bookend to Catherine Hardwicke’s film, using the prom song (Iron & Wine’s “Flightless Bird”) from the first film.
4. The actors embellished their wedding toast speeches after Stephenie Meyer wrote outlines for most of them.
5. When time came to film the first part of the lovemaking scene where Bella joins Edward in the water, it never stopped raining and it was too cold. “So we bailed out on that idea,” Condon explains. “And then once the film was finished, we went down to the Virgin Islands and did this one scene there – which is the literal last night of shooting Breaking Dawn.”
6. There was a more explicit version of the “consummation” scene. “It wasn’t that much different,” he says, “but there was more of a sense, probably, that they were having sex. And always done romantically, but those things become so subjective: that thrust that he did just as we fade out, there was more of that.”
7. Condon looked at Breaking Dawn – Part 1 as a chronicle of the early days of a marriage. “It’s about the adjustments of a first-year marriage, and that’s what these characters are going through. They’ve both attained their fantasies and now they’ve woken up and they’re living with the reality.”
8. Per Condon, Kristen is a great cook!
9. Condon has a grand vision for his stars’ respective futures in Hollywood. “I can see Kristen as a director. I can see Rob [Pattinson] as a writer. I can see Taylor [Lautner] as a producer and studio head. They’re very much movie lovers.
10. Condon was happy to restore the “you’ve got food in my hair” scene where Jacob throws a food bowl at Rosalie’s head after she condescendingly places it at his feet like he’s a dog. “We took it out because it was such an intense moment,” he explains. “But it was a close call, because it provided some comic relief just when you wanted it.” Condon adds that Lautner became an expert at lobbing that bowl at actress Nikki Reed’s head. He wanted to make sure he got the bowl exactly where it needed to be and he got quite good at it by take 12 or so.”
11. There were moments of mythology that even Condon occasionally didn’t understand. “Alice gave this complicated story about how the baby was taking away her vision, but it seemed very convoluted – I couldn’t even make sense of it when we were shooting it.”
12. Robert Pattinson is a natural-born dad. “He is unbelievably tender with babies, with children,” Condon reveals. “There’s something about him that changes when he’s with babies. He’s just so sweet and caring, and I think you get a little glimpse of that here.”
13. Condon says he created specific rules about the way to shoot the Renesmee birth scene, not only because of MPAA considerations but because it was the best way to keep the film’s point of view consistent with the rest of the storytelling. “We only see what Bella can see,” he says. “We see her, and then we see her point of view. So when Rob goes out of frame, if you know the book, you know what he’s doing down there. And you can hear what he’s doing down there, but we’re not showing what he’s doing down there. I think that tends to make things more potent.”
14. Even in Breaking Dawn – Part 1’s climactic death scene, Condon used a little movie magic to enhance the emotional weight of the moment – although Stewart evidently provided them with more than enough footage of “dead Bella” to get what the filmmakers needed. “When Bella dies, we just added a little dilation of her pupils, but you could feel it on the day we were shooting it. Kristen Stewart has a lot of talents, but playing dead [Laughs] – I wish sometimes I could show a take where she’s just lying there for 90 seconds and not breathing and not moving her eyes and I don’t know how she did it.”
15. The opening scenes of Breaking Dawn – Part 2, which take place in the forest, were all actually shot in a parking lot in Canada, with a green screen behind actors Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.
16. After cutting a scene between Jacob and Edward in Part 1 where the two have a violent confrontation about Jacob imprinting on Renesmee, Condon was grateful to get that explanation out of the way in Part 2, especially since he knew it was something fans and critics alike would be closely scrutinizing. “The imprinting always loomed – it’s meant to be a pure thing, so this is the scene where he gets to explain not only what it is, but how it kind of informs everything they’ve been through.”
17. Condon enjoyed the scene with Lee Pace in New Orleans because it allowed him to indulge a more traditional, or perhaps more complex, portrait of vampire lore. “I like seeing a vampire kill a human,” he says. “They’re all nice, and this is someone who’s on our side.”
18. Condon was unsuccessful in championing a scene which would have given the Native American actors an opportunity to be seen in human form, and to solidify the completion of their respective stories. “I made a strong pitch that we needed an additional scene where Jacob would have moved from the Quileute campsite into the vampire campsite, because he’s moving between the two worlds, and it would be a chance for us to see all of those characters in human form and give some resolution.” Among the plot details that would have been included are Leah being accepted by Sam as a member of the wolfpack, which is never fully explained in the battlefield finale.
19. Ripping off Jamie Campbell Bower’s head was the moment they had the most trouble with in terms of the MPAA. Condon explains that he was unhappy with the marble effect used in earlier films when characters’ heads are severed, and wanted something “squishier,” but he eventually achieved a compromise with the ratings board by toning down the sound effects that accompany the beheadings.
20. Per Condon, “My favorite moment in this movie or any of the movies: Michael Sheen’s absolutely demented laugh.”