Catherine Hardwicke’s adaption of the popular Stehanie Meyers book mixed high-school drama with supernatural fantasy to pleasing effect, making overnight stars of its young cast. Having changed directors for the second instalment in the saga, New Moon looks set to replicate the commercial success of its prequel Twilight. Peter Facinelli reprises the role of Dr Carlilse, charismatic patriarch of the mysterious Cullen clan.
Dr Carlisle is an interesting character because he’s a family man and a doctor but also a vampire which are quite conflicting ideals. We’re used to vampires being portrayed as villains on screen. What was it like to play a vampire with a conscience?
That’s actually what drew me to the role. I thought of it as a study about human nature because Carlisle suppresses all his vampire tendencies and desperately tries to hold on to his human traits. I like that twist to the story and the interesting thing is that the nomads in the movie are perceived to be the bad vampires but in actuality they’re just doing what vampires are supposed to do. They’re the normal ones and the Cullens are actually abnormal for rebelling against their nature. Vampires have animalistic tendencies so what Carlisle is doing is almost like trying to domesticate a lion. The Cullens are pretending to be something they’re not which appears weak to the nomads, but I think that it requires more strength to practice that restraint then to give in to your natural tendencies.
Dr Carlisle is a central character in the books and in the movie ‘Twilight’ his background is briefly alluded to but not fully expanded upon. Do we learn more about your character’s origins in ‘New Moon’?
‘New Moon’ actually has more to do with Werewolf mythology. In ‘Eclipse’ we delve further into the history of all the family members and hopefully in that movie they will include more of Carlisle’s back-story. I think it would be interesting to explore his background a little more.
Vampires have figured quite prominently both in literature and in cinema from very early on. Why do you think we are so fascinated by them?
There’s a lot of underlying issues that come to mind when we think of vampires. There’s a certain seductiveness about them that people are drawn to. I think there’s also an obsession with immortality. People are attracted to the idea of living forever. There’s more to vampires then just teeth and blood. It’s about what they symbolize. That’s another thing I enjoyed about the books and the films, there’s no fangs. When I first got a call from my agent asking if I wanted to do a vampire movie I immediately said no. I thought they wanted me to do some B-grade slasher film with lots of blood and gore. Then they told me it was based on a book with a huge following and Catherine Hardwick was directing it. I love her movies so I asked them to set up a meeting, which turned out to be the next day. They sent me the book and I sat down and read it from 5pm and finished at 2am. I met Catherine the next day, very groggy but definitely onboard at that stage. I became a fan of the books that night.
You’re an avid advocator of the importance of reading, which is something you instil in your children…
I read a lot of books and I like to read to my children. I’m a big Dr Seuss fan! I think it’s paid off. My twelve year old loves to read. I wanted to rent out a DVD the other day but she wouldn’t watch it before she had read the book. I think that’s fantastic. I was the exact opposite when I was younger. I went straight for the movie! The fact that she loves to read is great and she’s become a great writer as a result.
Taking that into consideration, how important was it to you and everyone involved to create a faithful adaptation of the book that stayed true to its original style and tone?
Doing what I do I know that you can’t condense 500 pages very easily into a film. When I look at a script I try to forget to some degree what the books are doing and instead try to understand they’re overall intention. There are a lot of really great parts and amazing writing in the book to the point that people actually tattoo quotes from it onto they’re bodies. When we shot New Moon I remember going back to the book for inspiration before I shot my scenes. Sometimes I would see things in the book and felt I’d like to put them back into the scene. I liked being able to insert those lines because some fans of the book know them by heart. There’s a part in the book when I’m stitching up Bella and I light one of the swabs on fire, and it wasn’t in the scene. I thought it was such a strong image and I wanted to have that in the movie so Chris put it back in. We managed to work a few other lines back in too.
Sequels are often subject to a lot of scrutiny. Did you feel a lot of pressure to deliver on the second film?
I felt there was a lot more pressure with the first film because it was put under the microscope by the fans. When we were shooting the movie we didn’t know it was going to be such a cultural phenomenon. We were just trying to make a good movie for the fans of the book. We were aware of the fan base so we did feel obligated to take our work seriously and make sure that they all liked it. There was a certain amount of pressure there though. When we first got cast so many people were complaining online. They didn’t like Robert in Edward’s role. I did a movie called ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’ about ten years ago and my character was a bit of a jerk. People were associating me with that jock character I played so long ago and decided I wasn’t right for the role of Carlisle. In the end it was fun to be able to create Carlisle and have people be receptive to it.
The first film is very visually impressive. The special effects were also enhanced by the beauty of the shooting location. Can we expect more of the same in ‘New Moon’?
When you do a movie you’re really only responsible for you’re role. You can’t see what the bigger picture will be like or imagine the tone of the finished movie. We were all so thankful then that Catherine put together a great tone for the first film that really worked. I hope that the second film will be even better. The director Chris White shot the Golden Compass and there’s a lot of CGI in that film. It was really beautifully shot. That’s why I thought that he was the perfect director for New Moon. There’s a very fine line with material of this kind. It can get hokey really quick. In New Moon we have humans morphing into werewolves and that can look really bad in the hands of the wrong person but I think we all felt quite confident that Chris would be able to pull it off.
What did you make of the decision to change directors for the second film?
It’s always really great to work with different directors. I was sad when Catherine wasn’t signed on to do the second feature because had become like a family. She hand-picked the entire cast to play those roles and we really enjoyed working with her. There’s a level of comfort already established if you’re familiar with the director. When you have a new director you have to be aware that with this new director comes fresh ideas. It becomes a new challenge. Their energies are totally different. Honestly I can’t say that I enjoyed one experience more than the other. They’re like apples and oranges, to be considered separately. I had fun working on both films. Catherines very passionate and energetic and Chris is more laid-back. He’s quite like the Carlisle character in fact. When ever there’s any chaos going on you go to him for calm.
Twilight: New Moon’s taking over the cinemas from the 20th of November.
Words: Aoife O’Regan