Eclipse Producer on the Rob-Kristen Romance

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Kimberley French

From left: Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

While some producers dream about winning big on one certified box office bonanza, producer Wyck Godfrey has hit the jackpot with two: a little movie called Twilight and its follow-up New Moon. More than $1 billion in box office totals later, Godfrey is back with the third installment of the vampire love saga, Eclipse, which opens on Wednesday. The hoopla will continue through the final book in the Stephenie Meyer series, Breaking Dawn, which has been split into two movies, the first scheduled for November 2011. Godfrey talked to TIME about shirtless werewolves and the real-world effects of vampire-human relationships.

Taylor Lautner's onscreen shirtlessness has become a national punch line. But instead of cutting down on it in Eclipse, you make a joke about it.
These movies have to take the piss out of themselves, if you will. New Moon was such a serious, depressing movie that people felt we had lost a little humor of the books. That joke happened to be mine.

Everyone is talking about whatever is going on between Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. Is that good for business?
Do you want the honest answer? I haven't even thought of it that way.

That's not the honest answer.
It really is. I honestly don't think of it in terms of business. It doesn't affect our core business at all. The thing I do think about is, Oh my God, I hope they stay together. Because it could be awkward on set in the next movie if they have a huge falling out. It's like, Wow, they have to portray this love story through two more movies. God, I hope they stay together; please stay together. That's what affects my day-to-day.

But you walk by newsstands and it's a publicist's dream: they are on every cover.
I don't feel it's out there anymore. Do people still report on it? If you look at people who have a stable personal life, the rags get tired of them. I think we're heading to that place where they are together and that's their life and we better find someone new to create drama out of.

Breaking Dawn is an rated-R book. Will it be transformed into R movies?
I personally believe no. Fundamentally, I don't believe the audience of the franchise is an R-rated audience.

Rachelle Lefevre, who plays Victoria in the first two movies, had to be replaced in Eclipse. You have said it was a scheduling conflict on her part. Missing a box office hit for scheduling? How does that happen?
I think her management told her it would be fine and that she could do both [projects] without really understanding the realities of our schedule. We were locked into shooting her those first two weeks, and those were the weeks that she wasn't available. That was a hard lesson. As a producer you can work around [scheduling conflicts] when there's lead time, but when you find out at the last minute, you cannot. And it was heartbreaking for her and us. As much as people like to report differently, no one likes to replace people in a franchise. You don't want to rock the boat.

This is the third movie in the franchise, and it's sort of the middle. How do you keep the momentum going?
You pray. I think switching up directors is a way to keep it visually exciting. And we are doing it from books, so it narratively flows and you are not scrambling. You have a story that was intended to be told.

But prayer helps?
Prayer helps. Just ask my mom.