24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Bill Condon

Breaking down 'Breaking Dawn -- Part 1': What do you think?

November 28, 2011 |  3:25 pm

Twilight Breaking Dawn
When it opened Nov. 18, the long-awaited, long-titled vampire romance "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" didn't fare particularly well with movie critics, many of whom found it corny, toothless or at best a guilty pleasure. The lack of critical praise didn't stop legions of Twihards from turning out at midnight on opening night to see the film, or from catapulting it to box-office success two weeks in a row. We're curious to hear what readers think about "Breaking Dawn — Part 1" and what you expect from the series conclusion, "Part 2," due next November.

Steering the ship for that final installment will be British director Bill Condon, who made his "Twilight" debut with "Breaking Dawn — Part 1." For some people, including Times film critic Betsy Sharkey, Condon's entry into the series disappointed. In her review of the film, Sharkey writes, "I'd really hoped for more that just a well-polished look from Condon. With his 'Dreamgirls' and 'Gods and Monsters' background, he seemed a perfect fit for the final chapters of the tale of this dream girl and her godless monster. Such a pity."

"Breaking Dawn" star Robert Pattinson, who plays the vampire heartthrob Edward Cullen, would disagree with Sharkey (though he might be a bit biased). The 25-year-old English actor told 24 Frames that he appreciated Condon's point of view, his sense of humor and his poise. "Bill would always have a great explanation for why it's not ridiculous and it's not corny," Pattinson said. "It was great to have someone on set who could convince me of those things."

Online, "Breaking Dawn" viewers are displaying a range of opinions about the film. Some, like Sharon Grant, thought Condon nailed it (Team Bill?). In a comment on 24 Frames, Grant wrote: "I thought this was the best of the series.… Bill Condon got it. He understood what it was about the Edward/Bella story that drew us in."

Another commenter, Sue Nebgen, thought the film dragged on: "Could have cut an hour out of this movie, long on stares and short on action. It felt like every scene was drug out to have the movie run two hours. Very disappointed and would not have wasted the money seeing this one at the theater."

Where do you stand on "Breaking Dawn — Part 1," with the critics or the supporters? Do you think Condon will rise to the occasion for "Part 2"? Has the franchise worn out its welcome, or is the best yet to come? Tell us your opinion in the comments below or on Twitter, @latimesmovies.


Photo gallery: Vampires: sexy or not sexy?

Honeymoon with 'Twilight' director Bill Condon

'Breaking Dawn': Kristen Stewart's extreme 'Twilight' transformation

— Oliver Gettell

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1." Credit: Andrew Cooper / Summit Entertainment

'Breaking Dawn': Robert Pattinson cheers 'Twilight' director Bill Condon

November 21, 2011 | 12:54 pm


Reviews for "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" might have been, well, mixed, to put it kindly -- as of Sunday evening, the movie had a 29% fresh rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes. But the film's director, Bill Condon, has at least one very prominent supporter: the movie's star Robert Pattinson.

The 25-year-old English actor, who plays Edward Cullen in the series, had nothing but kind words for Condon, the fourth director to sign on for a "Twilight" film and the man who will conclude the saga next year when "Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" is released. He said he appreciated what the filmmaker was up against: a tonally challenging narrative, a special-effects-intensive production and pressure to meet outsize fan expectations for the first half of the finale of the franchise adapted from author Stephenie Meyer's bestselling vampire romance novels.

"It was a massive undertaking, much bigger budgets and huge expectations, since it was the last one in the series," Pattinson said of the production. "There was much more pressure than the last one."

Pattinson said he felt that Condon had a point of view with the film -- Condon told The Times that he wanted to marry melodrama and horror in telling the story of Edward's marriage to Bella (Kristen Stewart) and the fallout from the unplanned pregnancy that happens soon after. The actor also enjoyed Condon's humor, which showed up both on-screen and off. 

"It's very easy to become cynical about stuff, especially where you are doing five movies in the series," Pattinson said. "It's a very sentimental story in a lot of ways, and I'm an incredibly cynical person. Bill would always have a great explanation for why it's not ridiculous and it's not corny. It was great to have someone on set who could convince me of those things."

Pattinson said that from the beginning, the shoot was a challenge. The six-month filming schedule for both parts of "Breaking Dawn" kicked off in Brazil, where Pattinson said "everything went wrong."

"Just the fact that he didn't get overwhelmed within two seconds was a big deal," Pattinson said of Condon. "We were in Rio [de Janeiro] for one day. Two cameras broke down, a crane broke down and everything was crazy. There was no crowd control, and he stayed perfectly calm. Bill was really thrown in the deep end, and we came up with really nice stuff. It was really pretty and nice."


'Breaking Dawn' with 'Twilight' director Bill Condon

'Breaking Dawn': Twihards gather to watch Bella and Edward wed

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Bill Condon is flanked by Robert Pattinson, left, and Taylor Lautner at the Barcelona, Spain,  premiere of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1." Credit: Job Vermeulen/Associated Press

'Breaking Dawn': Kristen Stewart's extreme 'Twilight' transformation

November 20, 2011 |  4:17 pm

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1"

The fans who lined up over the weekend to see "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" — and there were a lot of them, considering that the fourth installment in the franchise adapted from Stephenie Meyer's bestselling young-adult novels raked in an estimated $139.5 million — witnessed some pretty radical upheaval in the lives of young Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire beau Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).

The couple marries, and during a romantic honeymoon getaway, they finally consummate their relationship. But Bella unexpectedly becomes pregnant and fights to carry the child to term, though the fetus is seemingly incompatible with her body.

To depict the great physical toll the pregnancy takes on Bella's body — she's unable to eat and essentially is withering away as her stomach swells — the "Breaking Dawn" filmmakers looked to Lola Visual Effects, the company responsible for downsizing muscular Chris Evans to a pre-transformation weakling in this summer's comic book superhero film "Captain America." The results are certainly eyebrow-raising, with Bella becoming increasingly pale and extremely gaunt. 

"The idea was to leave you with a question mark about how they did it," said the film's director, Bill Condon. "We wanted you to think it was possible that Kristen actually lost a lot of weight for it."

The visual-effects team added prosthetics to Stewart's face (a process that took three hours of application) to make her eyes look more sunken and her ears larger. Stewart likened wearing the prosthetics to having a "big, skinny head" for the scenes. Still, the 21-year old actress was game for the transformation.

"I'm so happy that they were not afraid of it — to have your main character look so awful for half of the movie is a bold choice for a huge film," Stewart said. "It was the one thing I wasn't fully responsible for concerning Bella and it made me really nervous. I didn't know what it would look like until I saw the movie."


'Breaking Dawn' with 'Twilight' director Bill Condon

'Breaking Dawn--Part 1' review: Vampire tale is lifeless

— Nicole Sperling

Photo: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson as Bella and Edward in 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Week in review: Golden Globes hires Ricky Gervais; 'Breaking Dawn' debuts

November 18, 2011 |  4:31 pm

Ahh, popularity. It's one elusive beast, and one that makes people do funny things. Like hire Ricky Gervais.

The British comedian's popularity with audiences was the primary reason why the organization behind the Golden Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., decided to bring him back to emcee its 69th annual ceremony Jan. 15. Despite the acerbic barbs he delivered as host of last year's show, which came at the expense of both the A-list stars in the audience and the heads of the HFPA, Gervais is back, likely to appease NBC, a network looking for a ratings bump for the telecast.

The popularity of the "Twilight" series will again be widely talked about this weekend, as the fourth movie in the blockbuster film series adapted from author Stephenie Meyer's bestselling novels debuts worldwide. Times' writers Nicole Sperling and Steven Zeitchik talk about the machinations behind the series and why director Bill Condon, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for "Gods and Monsters," signed on for the two-part finale of the highly commercial series.


'Breaking Dawn' with 'Twilight' director Bill Condon

Week in review: Academy Awards implosion [video]

Ricky Gervais will return as host of 2012 Golden Globes


-- Nicole Sperling

'Breaking Dawn:' Director on giving 'Twilight' vamps a CG makeover

November 14, 2011 |  2:42 pm


You only had to take a quick jaunt to downtown Los Angeles this weekend to find proof that "Twilight" fever is alive and well. Fans set up a tent city in advance of Monday night's premiere of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" -- the fourth film in the franchise and the first installment of a two-part finale that sees teenage Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) wed her vampire beau (Robert Pattinson).

"Twilight" fans have been camped out around the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live for days now in order to secure a wristband that will grant them access to watch the stars of the movie arrive for the premiere. To entertain them, the film's distributor, Summit Entertainment, has screened the preceding three movies in the series and sent supporting cast members -- and author Stephenie Meyer, who penned the "Twilight" novels -- to say hello.

Bill Condon, the writer-director behind "Dreamgirls" and the Oscar-winning "Gods and Monsters," is taking the directing reins of the franchise for its all-important finale, and he said he set out to marry melodrama and horror for "Breaking Dawn." He also made a point to utilize special effects to enhance the storytelling.

Taken together, the two parts of "Breaking Dawn" have more CG shots than James Cameron's groundbreaking "Avatar." Even the vampire makeup in "Breaking Dawn" is being done digitally for the first time.

"We didn't use any of the pancake make-up [on the vampires], just a simple base," Condon said. "And we didn't go super white because that makes everyone look so ... unattractive. We actually used very little makeup."

The director told The Times that the post-production crew spent three weeks removing the film grain from the vampires' faces to create the perfect ethereal look.

"That quality that Stephenie Meyer describes, I think we finally got it. And it has nothing to do with makeup. It's all CG."


'Twilight' stars grow up, show skin in 'Breaking Dawn' trailer

'Breaking Dawn:' Checking in before the live-streaming premiere

'Twilight' screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg talks Kristen Stewart, Bill Condon and 'Breaking Dawn'

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: A fan waiting for the Monday night premiere of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" poses for a photo at the Nokia Theatre.  Credit: Valerie Macon/Getty Images

With a yearlong gap between films, 'Breaking Dawn' waits until dusk

August 3, 2010 |  1:25 pm

After releasing the first three movies in "The Twilight Saga" in a span of just 19 months, Summit will take its time with the franchise’s final two films. Plenty of time.

The studio announced this morning that the second installment of "Breaking Dawn" will follow the first one by a full year, coming out on Nov. 16, 2012. This despite the fact that Bill Condon is shooting the movies back-to-back beginning this fall, which would mean the second film would certainly be ready by the summer of 2012.

Breaking We were already a little perplexed that the first "Breaking Dawn" was being held for November 2011, putting nearly a 1-1/2 years between installments. With this announcement it's clear what Summit is thinking: Stick with the autumn and avoid the summer.

It may not be the worst move from a seasonal standpoint. Despite bringing out "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" in an expectation-laden summer, Summit has been able to gin up only marginally more business for the David Slade film than it did for the November release of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." (Domestic grosses at a comparable point in the release cycle sit at $288 million, compared to $277 million for "New Moon.)

But in taking its time between the movies, Summit is increasing the risk that that fans will get distracted or lose some enthusiasm.

Warner Bros.' Harry Potter franchise was able to wait longer stretches between a few of its installments -- for much of the film series, a stream of new books kept the property front-of-mind. "Twilight" doesn't have that. It has to hope interest carries over between films all on its own, and that filmgoers don't outgrow it or move on to a new phenomenon in between.

The yearlong wait between the two "Breaking Dawn" films is even more striking because the two movies come from source material that was initially conceived as a whole. No matter where Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg choose to split the book (spoiler alert: Bella's traumatic childbirth is a logical option), for filmgoers it will mean waiting a full year for what’s essentially the same story to pick up again.

With its bang-bang release of the first three “Twilight” films, Summit was initially perhaps a little too worried fans would age up or lose interest over time. With the more languid pacing for the final two, it's possible they may not be concerned enough.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: 'Breaking Dawn' book jacket. Credit: Little, Brown

Breaking Dawn will be broken up (and feature a very large cast)

Twilight won't dawn again until November 2011. Can fans handle the long layoff?

Bill Condon to Twihard Nation: I want you to want me

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'Twilight' won't dawn again until November 2011. Can fans handle the long layoff?

May 5, 2010 | 12:12 am

By now it's becoming a ritual as familiar as chilly weather and early turkey shopping. Summit announced late Tuesday that it would follow a pattern with "Breaking Dawn" that worked well for two other movies in its "Twilight" franchise: It would bring out the film the week before Thanksgiving, announcing the date of Nov. 18, 2011, for its release of the Bill Condon-directed film.

Daw The surprising news here is that the movie, which will likely shoot in the fall, won't be accelerated to come out next summer (as the third film, "Eclipse," will when it's released in June). Instead, Summit will wait another five months to bring out "Dawn" -- which means it will be nearly 18 months between the release of the third and fourth movies in the franchise, the longest layoff since "Twilight" began. (While Summit said in the announcement that it wouldn't confirm a fifth film carved out of the latter part of the "Breaking Dawn" novel -- which furthers the mythology of Bella, Edward, Jacob and everyone else you've either devoured or struggled to avoid lo these many months -- it would be almost shocking if they didn't do just that.)

It's hard to know what's motivating the 17-month lag. Talent schedules would seem to be a factor, but almost as likely, especially given the fifth-movie talk, is that the fourth and fifth films would need to be shot back-to-back -- which, depending on how it's shot and edited, could require more time.

Will fans tolerate the long hiatus? The logic until now has been to push the movies forward at an accelerated clip to generate and play off fan interest. By the time June rolls around, three movies will have come out over a 19-month period. But for reasons either creative or financial, it will be another 17 months before the next one hits. That lag could further stoke anticipation among Twihards -- or it could cool interest.

--Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Bill Condon to Twihard Nation: I want you to want me

May 3, 2010 | 12:55 pm

We live in odd times. It used to be that when a director came on to a movie, he had to satisfy his studio, his producers and his screenwriter. (OK, two of the three.) These days, a filmmaker has to make sure he’s square with a movie’s fan base – and before he ever shoots a frame.

Condon So it goes with “Breaking Dawn,” with newly hired director Bill Condon taking to Facebook to make a detailed and at times self-deprecating (“No, there won't be any musical numbers”) plea to the nation of "Twilight."

In the post, Condon does his best to solidify his vampire bona fides. "I'm pretty busy bringing myself up to speed on what you already know by heart: I've read ‘Breaking Dawn’ twice, rewatched Catherine's and Chris's movies 2-3 times each, have all four CDs playing in my car, and have Catherine's notebook, Mark Cotta Vaz's companion books, and even Volume 1 of the graphic novel here on my desk."

Apart from the thought that it must not be pleasant to be Bill Condon right now, the missive stirs another feeling.

Condon isn’t the first director to go proactive with the "Twilight" fan base; Chris Weitz did the same right after he was hired on "New Moon," and that worked out well for him. And the idea of greater interaction between audiences and previously anonymous directors has its virtues.

But there’s also something a little strange, even unseemly, about a director prostrating himself like this. He’s won an Oscar and worked with some of the best actors of this generation, but has to make a (hopefully) embellished claim that he’s “a huge admirer of the already-iconic Kristen, Robert, and Taylor”? And that he plans on making numerous glowing assessments of the “Twilight” canon? ("I hope that this will be the first of many occasions I'll get to check in with you.")

We get that Condon has to post letters like this, if only to head off any possibility of an online revolt. We just cringe a little watching him do it.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Bill Condon. Credit: Writers Guild of America

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

What kind of 'Breaking Dawn' will Bill Condon make?

April 28, 2010 |  1:20 pm

Summit confirmed this morning that, as the rumor mill in Hollywood has been churning for weeks, "Dreamgirls" director Bill Condon will come on to direct the fourth installment in the "Twilight" franchise, no doubt prompting an unlikely spike in "Gods & Monsters" DVD sales among teenage girls. (Condon's name was first reported as a "Breaking Dawn" candidate back in March by Entertainment Weekly.)

CondonCondon has generally been thought of as the more logical choice, at least compared to some of the other directors under consideration, like Sofia Coppola and Stephen Daldry.

In making the choice, Summit, which has gone for a different type of director for each film in the franchise, clearly wanted someone with more Oscar chops (Condon's won one and been nominated for a second). That's both because the "Breaking Dawn" material is a little more complicated than the previous books and because with the franchise already an unstoppable juggernaut, they can afford to take a risk, at least a small one.

So what kind of teen-vampire fable will the man responsible for "Dreamgirls," "Gods & Monsters" and "Kinsey" make? None of his previous directing credits are obvious analogues to this movie (though the initial frenzy over him as a candidate was a little baffling; good filmmakers reinvent themselves all the time. And it's nothing compared to Rob Marshall, another man known for musicals, taking on "Pirates of the Caribbean 4").

Each of Condon's directorial films (he also wrote "Chicago," but we'll leave that one out) contains a strand that can be put front and center in "Breaking Dawn" if the director chose (some spoilers ahead if you're not familiar with the novel).

"Dreamgirls," for all its pomp, centers on the larger world persecuting an anointed one, a neat parallel to the ordeal faced by Bella's child. It also tells a sprawling story from several perspectives, as the "Breaking Dawn" novel does.

"Monsters," which tells of the personal and creative trouble of "Bride of Frankenstein" director James Whale, could come in handy if Condon wanted to explore the demons that come from within, a plight particularly faced by Bella throughout the series.

DreamAnd a "Kinsey" influence would mean the foregrounding of a misunderstood but right-minded outsider, which kind of describes all three main protagonists in the series but especially, in this book, describes Jacob, who breaks away from his family over their murderous intentions for Bella's child.

As a rule, Condon has been preoccupied with the underdog in his movies, though one who ultimately triumphs and finds vindication,  which fits nicely with the themes of "Twilight."

Still, plenty of other questions will arise as production moves forward -- namely, whether the film will shoot in 3-D, how the likely second film that will come from the "Breaking Dawn" novel will be developed, and how the timing of this one will unfold, with Summit eager to keep the momentum going but Condon, like most Oscar winners, accustomed to working at a slower pace.

In "Gods & Monsters," Condon depicted a filmmaker beset by troubles as he tried to make an expectation-laden tale of the supernatural. Here's hoping life doesn't imitate art.

--Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

Photos: Bill Condon. Credit: Writers Guild of America. "Dreamgirls" poster. Credit: Paramount Pictures.
Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Who's the best choice to direct 'Breaking Dawn'? An appraisal

March 17, 2010 |  3:47 pm

As startling as it would first seem, the scuttlebutt that three Oscar-winners -- Bill Condon, Gus Van Sant and Sofia Coppola -- have been approached to direct "Breaking Dawn" shouldn't really surprise.

Dawn First, the key is approached. Big directors are approached all the time, the same way you might approach the edge of a cliff but never actually go over it. It still seems far-fetched that the auteur who gave us "My Own Private Idaho" would return to the Pacific Northwest to track Quileutes and Volturi.

But we live in an era when the greatest filmmakers take on Batman and Robert Ludlum properties. And if nothing else, the selection of one of these auteurs could induce some tweens to become suddenly familiar with the early work of River Phoenix. (We suspect "Kinsey" could be a little tougher.) Look at it as directing as demo-expansion.

With that in mind, here's a quick assessment of both the virtues and problems of giving the "Breaking Dawn" assignment to each of the directors on the reputed shortlist.

1) Bill Condon
Pro: He knows how to hit the high notes, literal and figurative, in his love stories. And movies such as "Dreamgirls" adroitly tell of misunderstood and underestimated women, descriptors that certainly fit Bella Swan.
Con: The guy does prestige dramas like "Kinsey." And musicals. Musicals. You know, those movies in which people belt out their thoughts, not whisper tortured nothings to their paramours in-between flying chase scenes. Tonally, we don't see it.

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