Twilight Saga scribe Melissa Rosenberg should consider dabbling in espionage. For years, she’s kept a giant secret: how she and Twilight author Stephenie Meyer decided that the series’ final film adaptation would conclude with a thrilling, violent battle scene that — spoiler alert! — ends up being nothing but a vision of a possible future. “It hasn’t been a hard secret to keep, though, because no one suspects it’s going to be any different,” Rosenberg says, pointing out that the scene doesn’t really diverge from Breaking Dawn, the novel: “Fans get the book, but they get a little detour on the way.” Of course, there’s a little more to it than that. Here’s the tale of Breaking Dawn — Part 2‘s shocking battle scene, from conception to screen.
As told by: Melissa Rosenberg
We were filming Eclipse up in Vancouver, and Stephenie and I were having dinner at a steakhouse. At the time, she was debating whether she even wanted to make the fourth book into a movie, and I was debating whether I wanted to continue on with the series. Stephenie knew the book ended with this really tense conversation, and she knew that that wasn’t cinematic. We started talking about the ending, and I don’t know who had the idea [to do the battle scene] first — neither one of us can remember exactly. It felt simultaneous. We just went back and forth and were like, “That’s it! That’s gonna work!”
I always write out battle scenes, not because I think that they’re going to shoot the action sequences as I write them, but because we need to know who dies when, why they die, how they die, who kills them, what is the emotion of the moment. Ultimately it lands with the director and the stunt coordinator; I took it as far as I could on the page.
The way I approached it was, who would be the most shocking to kill? Because the first death initiates the battle, it has to be someone who everybody cares about. And because they’re all there for Carlisle, it made sense that he was the one. Well, actually, the first one who is killed in reality is Irina. But the whole company doesn’t actually know her — Carlisle, they’ll go to battle for. And you also want, like, who’s going to be the most satisfying to kill? Who have been the various nemeses? So everyone kind of gets a moment. Of course, Bella and Edward had to be the ones to kill Aro. That was the ultimate, and that they do it together felt really right. I really wanted to see Bella just rip his frickin’ head off. [Laughs]
The gloves were off [in Breaking Dawn: Part 2]. The very first moment when Bella squeezes Edward, and he’s like “Uh, I can’t breathe” — that just starts the ball rolling. They played it very comedically. When you have Bella turn into a vampire, you get humor. And it’s less about the tortures of love and more about kicking some butt. Her taking down the mountain lion, and her throwing Jacob around, kicking his ass — that was just so satisfying after four episodes.
I don’t think there’s anything in there that actually does deviate from the book. The thing is, the book is all told from Bella’s point of view — for instance, Jacob tells Bella, “Hey, I told your dad I’m a werewolf.” Stephenie can’t write that scene because Bella’s not there. But I get to write it! [Laughs] That is so much fun for me. My general approach throughout all the movies was to take the characters on the same emotional journey that they take in the books. Stephenie always had, contractually, a list of certain things that could or could not happen — there cannot be any fangs, no one can die in the movie that doesn’t die in the book. I never actually really looked at those lists, because essentially what the lists say is, “Adapt the book. Don’t use the book as a launching pad for a whole different story about how Bella is a CIA agent.”
[The cast] didn’t find out [about the battle scene] until I had finished the script, so it was many, many months later when they first got on set. I wasn’t there, but I can guarantee you they were pretty psyched because they got to do some pretty fun stuff. And at the premiere, it was just — the screaming just went on and on. Every time someone would die, people were just screaming, “Oh my God!” And then when they realized what the truth of it was, they screamed all the more. It was so funny. My only problem at the premieres is, I love watching it with that kind of energy and the fans — but they scream so much that they step on my lines. [Laughs] And I’m like, “Shut up, that was a really funny line right there! You just missed it!”