International Film Critic Debbie Lynn Elias had the opportunity to sit down with Twilight Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg last month during the Breaking Dawn Part 2 Press Junket in Los Angeles. They chatted about Melissa working on Dexter and Twilight simultaneously in addition to who she writes for when doing adaptations!
This has been quite an undertaking, and quite a roller coast, for you the past few years. A big chunk of your life. During the first few installments of the Twilight saga, you were doing dual duty as showrunner for Dexter as well as being involved in other television ventures, but then you walked away from it all to focus on the adaptation of Breaking Dawn and the two films. Now that you can see the light at the end of the Breaking Dawn tunnel, do you have any regrets about walking away from Dexter when you did?
You know, I don’t. I have missed being in that room with those writers. That was a really great room. I have a new room of writers now with my own series, which is great! [laughing] I left after Season 4 of Dexter and it was a helluva way to go – this is when we killed Rita – and the year of John Lithgow as the attorney killer. I think that I was probably ready to move on. I had been there for four years. I had been juggling Dexter and the first three Twilight movies all that time, which was an interesting…… [bursts of laughter]
How you did that, I will never know!
I don’t know! I actually don’t remember how I did it! The whole thing goes by in a blur. But when it came to Breaking Dawn it was two movies and Dexter. There was no way I could do both. But, it was a good time for me to move on actually; just for me as a writer. I’ve never left television, though. The minute that all the Twilight stuff was done, I was talking with ABC about an early project. I still had a Paramount movie, and continue to have a Paramount movie which is moving closer and closer to, God willing, a greenlight. But, I now have a deal with ABC and I have a production company, Tall Girls Productions, which is now going to be housed at ABC. I have a series that’s coming onto the air, hopefully Spring of next year, called Red Widow based on the Dutch series called Penoza. That’s what I’ve been doing now. We’re doing just eight episodes for the Spring and we’re shooting the eighth episode on Monday and I’m (1) exhausted, but (2) it’s been extraordinary showrunning! To be a part of every decision from whether or not they wear false eyelashes to what shoes they wear to what the set should or shouldn’t look like and what car they should drive and what the story is and what each character goes through – – EVERY single aspect. I’m just having the time of my life! I’fs like a duck to water. I’ve been waiting a long time for that. I think I didn’t quite anticipate just the shear volume of decisions one must make in a day and the shear volume of work, but it is a writer’s dream, I think.
When you’re writing, and specifically with Twilight, where does your loyalty and responsibility lie? Does it lie with making the fans happy? Does it lie with being true to the source material? Does it lie with making the characters how you want them to be perceived? Or does it lie with yourself, being true to yourself, even if it means changing the rules?
A little bit of everything but primarily being true to the source material because then you’re being true to the fans and the original author. That is sort of the Bible, the original book. Indistinguishable from Stephanie [Meyer] herself, she’s really my gauge. Is she responding to it? Does it feel like her story? And for me, I put myself in the perspective of an audience member. Is this something I want to see? I’m the audience in my own mind. I don’t write for an audience out there. You can’t possibly sit there and go, “Oh, the audience is going to love this scene? I don’t know. They may hate that scene.” But, do I love it, do I want to actually pay money to go see this, go see this character. So, it’s sort of all those things working in tandem.
With Breaking Dawn Part 2 it’s very visual, perhaps moreso than the others because of the twist and the “scene that shall not be named”. When you were constructing the script, and particularly that scene because this is a story twist not in the book and originates from you, do you visualize the scene and then give strong visual instruction to Bill Condon?
I give him visual “suggestions.” He and I work closely on every aspect of the story. He’s an Academy Award winning screenwriter. It’s tremendous to be working with him and bouncing ideas around him is a dream come true. He really brought me up several levels. Learned a lot from him in that process. I wrote an original draft of that whole sequence, and kind of placing people here and there and try to tell the story of what would happen in that situation, and then he would work with his stunt coordinators, special effects editor and he would come back and he’d say, “What if we put this character there?, etc.”. So, I would map it out per their stating. It was a little bit of my coming to them with, “Here’s sort of a general vicinity” and then him working with that and going back and forth and actually mapping it out on the page. Everything needs to be on the page, whether it’s my original idea or his or the stunt coordinator. It all gets there – somehow. It eventually lands on the page. [laughing]