No matter what your age group, if you watch television, you've probably enjoyed the writing of Melissa Rosenberg even if you don't recognize her name. Rosenberg's script work has appeared on Party of Five, Ally McBeal, and The O.C. She stepped into the feature world with the surprise-hit dance movie Step Up in 2006 before joining the writing team of a new Showtime series about a serial-killing vigilante, Dexter.
This year has been a banner one for the writer. Her screen adaptation of the first book of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series is about to premiere, and she returned to the acclaimed Dexter for a third season.
ReelzChannel recently sat with Rosenberg for an exclusive interview to discuss her introduction into the world of Twilight and the challenges of doing justice to Meyer's hugely popular series on the big screen.
ReelzChannel: How did you get involved with Twilight, and were you familiar with the books beforehand?
Rosenberg: I wasn't. I had written Step Up for Summit a couple of years ago and that had been a really great collaboration. I wasn't available to do Step Up 2 and when I had to turn that down I was really worried that I had destroyed my relationship with Summit. Then eight months later, they called and said "How do you feel about teens and vampires?"
I was at a friend's house and I hung up the phone and he said, "I've got a [Twilight] book right here. So I begin to realize some people [were into] this book. I picked it up and devoured it in an eight-hour sitting.
RC: Did you feel an added pressure once you became aware of the fan base and how they'd be going through every change from the book with a fine-toothed comb?
Rosenberg: You know, that's gonna happen. Some people are going to be upset about this little detail or that little detail, and then other people are going to be fine with it. I really didn't focus too much on that. I focused in on "What would I find entertaining?" I try to entertain myself and I find if it's something I want to see, then other people will want to see it as well. Another thing that will hopefully appeal to fans of the book is that we, as a group, stayed as close to the book as possible. It may not be word-for-word, but it's certainly the soul of the book and the emotional storytelling.
RC: Did you read ahead on the other Twilight books, and were any elements from the other books brought into the first film?
Rosenberg: We're strictly loyal to the first book. I purposefully did not read the books moving forward. I really wanted to write this as a reader would experience it. I didn't want to be influenced by what happens going forward. As soon as the script was done, I was able to devour the last books, but it was really conscious on the first one just to stay with the first book.
RC: Were there scenes from the book that had to be altered primarily to make them more cinematic, and did Catherine Hardwicke guide you on some of those decisions?
Rosenberg: The tree scene was definitely a Catherine invention. We want to see Edward's powers. We want to see that he's a vampire. We want to see him do something superhuman, so she had invented the idea of him leaping into the trees and seeing his strengths and powers there. What happens over several chapters [in the book] in terms of her discovery, it was very much about condensing all of that.
RC: Stephenie Meyer mentioned how the superhero aspect was really closer to her than the vampire mythology, in terms of the origins of her vampire characters.
Rosenberg: She really reinvented the mythology. Vampires is definitely one of the most overdone genres, but every once in a while you have someone who comes along and reinvents the genre and it pops. Anne Rice. I remember when [her books] came out. That was a very big deal. And Joss Whedon with Buffy. That was a reinvention of the mythology. I think that was one of the great series on television. And then Stephenie, she's not breaking the rules, but she's bending them.
RC: What was your first meeting with Stephenie like, and what was her reaction to the script?
Rosenberg: I hadn't finished the script. At that point I was right in the middle of it. I will say her reaction to the script was really one of the more gratifying moments of my career, to me. To have her pleased with it was a true compliment.
My first meeting with her, I was nervous that she was going to try to [influence] the script. I had not adapted someone's novel before, so I was worried that I would be imposed upon. And the moment I met her, I knew that wasn't going to happen. She's very down-to-earth and very real. She really was just anxious for it to be truthful.
RC: Were you still writing once it went into production?
Rosenberg: A little bit. You know, I handed in my script and went on strike for three months. When I came back, there had been some rehearsals and they had changed some dialogue, but it was still the same script. There were a couple scenes that I took passes at for the reshoots. But I didn't have as much to do with it because their first day of shooting was my first day on [this season of] Dexter. That's the curse of being over-employed, as if that's a curse.
RC: What was the most difficult aspect of the adaptation?
Rosenberg: The hardest part is definitely externalizing [Bella's] internal voice. Also getting the mythology in there, but to do it visually.
RC: What was your favorite part to write?
Rosenberg: I loved doing the genre stuff, the action stuff, and the baseball scene. I loved getting to come up with what the evil vampires were doing before they got there [in the book]. I have to say, I really loved writing the Charlie-Bella stuff. I think that relationship is the other beating heart of this movie. That actor, Billy Burke, is really good and he brought so much to it.
RC: Are you signed on for New Moon, if it happens?
Rosenberg: I'm not really supposed to comment. But we're talking.