Q&A: Director Chris Weitz

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True, he'd already made one iconic teen movie. But Twilight fans were initially shocked when American Pie director Chris Weitz was handed the reins for New Moon. TIME spoke with Weitz about his immersion in the Twilight world, dealing with Internet rumors and winning over the fans in the run-up to New Moon's Nov. 20 release.

You were in a tough spot taking over Twilight, not only as a guy, but the guy who directed American Pie. How did you deal with that?
There was a reasonable amount of skepticism when I took over the second movie. I understand that. I directed American Pie. I would be worried too. I tried not to take it personally. I just tried to reassure the fans as much as I could, I even wrote a letter. The Internet is a fantastic, strange place where you can write an open letter and be reasonably assured that people are going to read it. I gathered from people who were monitoring the fan sites that people were willing to give me a shot. After that, I figured the next message was going to be the film itself.

Perhaps you should have had Michael Sheen read the letter as a Volturi proclamation.
Actually, I should have had Rob [Pattinson] read it.

How much Twi had you spoken prior to the film?
Like many people with a Y chromosome, I hadn't delved into the Twilight books. I tried to experience the books in the way that I thought the average reader would — which is to gobble them. The way that you read a book at 13 is different. You read it at a gallop, while you are eating. You avoid human contact. I read New Moon over the course of a day and a half in Ojai, Calif., at a very crunchy retreat that included a sweat lodge. Actually, my only pause was for a sweat lodge during which I asked the Quileute ancestors to come and give me good luck. Somewhere Jacob Black was pleased. I was channeling Team Jacob because he needs it in this movie. Everyone already knows about Edward.

In your letter to fans you said you'd "protect" the work. What was it like dealing with the author, Stephenie Meyer?
We had a long talk on the phone before she gave the green light. In my corner was the fact that she really liked About a Boy. But I think she wanted some assurance about fidelity to the books, which was already important to me. It really did come down to the buzzwords from the books themselves — protection and fidelity and devotion.

Was blood involved in that oath?
That did not involve any rituals. That was just a simple conversation.

How much do you pay attention to what the fans are saying on the Web?
During shooting I tried to not go onto the Internet at all if possible. I started to pay attention to fan reaction to the trailers that have been out and what kind of stuff they like, just in order to get a temperature of where things were heading. I think you end up being a politician responding to polls if you pay too much attention to the Internet. Because it's a quick way to convince yourself that one particular person who happens to be Twittering at the moment just happens to be the authority. I try to put out fires when bizarre rumors get started. One rumor I addressed was that the Volturi scenes were supposed to be set in a bathhouse with everyone naked.

Real or not, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are reported breathlessly to be a couple — does that help the franchise?
I don't know whether it helps it or not. I just know that it will be around as long as they keep making these movies. People always want the stars of movies to fall in love with one another. There's no calculated effort to make it seem that way on the part of Summit Marketing. You really want it to be about the characters themselves. It neither helps nor hurts. It just gives fans waiting in between movies something to talk about.