Take a look at the list of movies Bill Condon is responsible for as a writer or director during his career.
One’s first thought after scanning that list of Academy Award-nominated films is probably not, “Hey, that guy should direct the final chapters in the wildly popular ‘Twilight’ series.”
But that’s exactly what Condon, 56, has done. The reportedly sexy and gory results of his efforts will be visible when “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1” — the film in which Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire lover Edward (Robert Pattinson) get married, consummate their relationship and deal with a decidedly, um, unique pregnancy — opens Friday.
Asked why he ditched the world of awards-ready musicals and serious dramas to explore the ongoing Team Edward vs. Team Jacob debate, Condon says the project allowed him to get back to his cinematic roots.
“I started out making horror movies, and although this isn’t literally a horror movie, it is a genre film, a combination of romantic melodrama and a certain amount of suspense, you know,” explains Condon, whose previous forays into shock fare include the 1995 sequel “Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh.” “So I was looking to do another one.”
“Also,” he adds, “to be truthful, it was on the heels of having spent huge chunks of time on two movies that weren’t coming together. And it was time to make a movie.”
And that movie — actually, two movies, since Condon also directed Part 2 of “Breaking Dawn,” set for release in November 2012 — is a practically guaranteed blockbuster. Each of the films in the “Twilight” series have made progressively more at the North American box office; last year’s “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” brought in more than $698 million worldwide.
Condon, of course, is hardly the first filmmaker to take a pause from prestige pics in order to do something outside his usual cinematic box. This movie season alone, Academy Award-winning filmmaker (and frequent genre-hopper) Steven Soderbergh directed a virus thriller (“Contagion”), one he will follow with January’s action flick “Haywire.” And Martin Scorsese, master of the modern crime saga, will release a 3D family adventure (“Hugo”) later this month).
Condon says there may be more connective tissue between a movie like “Breaking Dawn” and your typical Best Picture nominee than there initially seems.
“We have as many — more — visual effects across the two movies than ‘Avatar’ did,” he says. “So it was a huge opportunity for me to learn that world. And not only in kind of obvious ways, like [CGI] wolves and things like that, but in subtle, realistic ways, things I would carry into a small drama if you had the means to do that. So opening up to that world was really exciting.”
It also turns out that “Breaking Dawn” and Condon’s “Kinsey” — a look at unconventional sexologist Alfred Kinsey — have something else in common: racy subject matter that caught the attention of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
In the case of “Breaking Dawn,” it was the honeymoon scene between Bella and Edward — the one in which they fully act on the passion that had simmered in the previous trio of films — that nearly pushed the movie’s rating from a “Twilight”-demographic-friendly PG-13 to an R.
“If you do certain things, that will get you an R. One of those things, to be absolutely clinical, is thrusting that suggests intercourse,” Condon says. “And we had a hint of that with Rob and Kristen and that’s what we pulled back on.”
Did the MPAA express similar concerns about Bella’s bloody, disturbing birth scene?
“None,” the horror veteran says. “Didn’t change a frame of it.” He pauses. “Interesting, huh?”