Interview: ‘Twilight’ Scribe Melissa Rosenberg on ‘Breaking Dawn’ & Feminism

Published 3 years ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 8:47 pm,


twilight breaking dawn featurette Interview: Twilight Scribe Melissa Rosenberg on Breaking Dawn & Feminism

The penultimate installation in the Twilight franchise, Breaking Dawn — Part 1 was released in theaters today (read our Breaking Dawn review) and is predicted to make upwards of $140 million dollars its first weekend. (The film made $30 million in 3,521 theaters at last night’s midnight opening). Melissa Rosenberg, who has had the unique opportunity to stay on as the screenwriter throughout the duration of the series, has been in a key position in one of the most successful franchises of our time.

We recently spoke with the scribe who described herself as, “the  luckiest screenwriter in Hollywood.” Though she does concede that there is a double-edge to the sword of success. “It does raise the expectation level because the next project you do, if you fail, you fail in an internationally public way,” she said.

“That’s the risk you take by putting yourself in front of a movie. I probably could have been a part of this movie and hidden out in a corner so no one would notice. But I chose to embrace it and publicize it, and publicize my part in it, because I’m very proud of it. But the other side of it is that whatever the next project is there are a lot of eyes on that.”

What (Some) Women Want:

There can be no doubt that The Twilight Saga (the books as well as the films) have struck a chord. The depictions are both revered and reviled depending on the reader/viewer’s perspective, but no one can argue that they have inspired a stunning financial and cultural response. Among other things, the franchise propelled Summit Entertainment from a boutique company to a significant player in the entertainment industry. It is somewhat obvious to us now, but what is clear, is that the themes expressed in the story have filled a void that many were not even aware existed. “Hollywood’s idea has been that what drives a massive hit is 13-year-old boys and so they keep making movies that are geared toward them,” Rosenberg said.

“And what this (series of) movies tells them is that actually you can get a pretty big hit if you write something that women actually want to see. They will see the movie eight times, they will buy the DVD and the t-shirt and all that. Yet they never quite learn that lesson. They think, ‘Oh,  it’s vampires, that’s what they want to see!’ No, what they want to see is actual real human emotional stories that touch some chord with them.  For me it’s about the girl coming-of-age and coming into herself, and she does that through her relationship. But it is unapologetically about love, and that is very unusual these days. And there’s also the wish-fulfillment of being the every-girl who is actually unique and special and desirable even in her awkwardness and insecurity. “

One would have thought that the phenomenal success of Titanic would have already taught the studios about the power of the female demographic in the marketplace.

VolturiLair Interview: Twilight Scribe Melissa Rosenberg on Breaking Dawn & Feminism

Seated L-R Robert Pattinson, Melissa Rosenberg, Stephenie Meyer, Kristen Stewart W/ "Alice" And "The Volturi"

Feminism and Controversy:

As popular as the films are, they are also often surrounded by some degree of controversy. When I told Rosenberg that I hesitated to use that word she laughingly replied:

“Why not? It’s accurate.”

One of the current causes for contention in the public discourse is Bella’s decision to have a child at the risk of her own continued good health. Many see the decision as reflective of a pro-life stance. Rosenberg assures audiences that she is in no way attempting to use the film as a platform for propaganda.

“It was a deciding factor for me of whether or not to do the movie. If I could not find my way into it that didn’t violate my beliefs (because I am extremely pro-choice very outspoken about it, very much a feminist) I would not have written this move,” she said.

“They could have offered me the bank and I still wouldn’t have. In order to embrace it I had to find a way to deal with it. I also had no interest in violating Stephenie’s belief system or anyone on the other side. I feel a great responsibility that everyone should have their point-of-view. And their beliefs respected. So I really was struggling with it until I talked with my sister-in-law who’s actually a former ACLU feminist lawyer and a fan of the books. And she pointed  something out to me (which is quite obvious but which I had overlooked) which is that having a child is a choice.

“It is a choice to have a child. And having not made that choice in my own life, having actually done the opposite, that had not really occurred to me. But when she pointed that out I was like, ‘Okay, I know my way in.’ And so for me, it was that Bella chooses this. Now someone else may not perceive that, and that’s great. They have their own point-of-view which is whatever their own point-of-view is. I didn’t need to make a statement about it, I just needed it to not be a statement on the other side as well. It’s a story about a woman who chooses to have a child. For me. That may or may not be how it is in the book. And some people will have issues with it.”

twilight breaking dawn trailer 2 Interview: Twilight Scribe Melissa Rosenberg on Breaking Dawn & Feminism

Many people find Bella to be a decidedly anti-feminist character, they feel that she is (seemingly) unable to function without the benefit of a male counterpart (be it Jacob or Edward) and are taken aback that she is willing to sacrifice her very person-hood in order to take part in the relationship with Edward in particular. “Someone said that to me and I thought, ‘Sacrificing?’ Wow, I never in a million years saw her as someone who sacrifices,” Rosenberg mused.

“I see her as someone very determined. She knows what she wants and she goes for it; whether it be this guy, or that she wants to be a vampire, or that she wants to have this child. She knows exactly what she wants and come hell or high water she’s going to get it. Okay so she might die and ruin Edward’s life (laughing) well, tough beans. You know she says, ‘I want this child.’ So that’s how I approach it, and that’s how I write. I think that other people see it very differently and I can only do what’s right for me. What fits my perspective.”

The screenwriter’s point-of-view raises some salient questions about how we collectively interpret the idea of feminism. It is interesting to note that self-sacrifice has been a theme in the series for nearly all of the characters, and yet it is only Bella’s willingness to surrender one thing (sometimes her life) for the sake of another that is called into question. It is also interesting to note that if Bella is dependent on Edward, then he is equally dependent on (and willing to die for) her, and yet, her character is the one that the vast majority of people choose to scrutinize.

That is not to say that the interpretations of the text are entirely unfounded, it is only to examine the lens with which we all choose to view feminism. Is a woman strong and capable if she chooses to forgo a family in favor of her work, and weak if she chooses the opposite? That seems restrictive, unfair, and the opposite of what is meant by the word — choice.

“I think it’s something that is often lost in the debate,” Rosenberg agreed.

“We are fighting for choice and she makes choices. She makes choices that I wouldn’t have made, and she makes choices that I didn’t make. But she makes choices that are true to her character. I think that’s an important message. But not everyone is going to hear it. They will see it with their personal perspective. Going in, my objective has always been to make Bella a very strong character. Right from the first movie on, and I think that Kristen has played her very strong. But people see what they want to see.”

The Through-line of the Franchise:

Though author Stephenie Meyer has been on board as a producer for each film, Rosenberg has in some ways been the behind-the-scenes creative constant of the film franchise, (though she does credit Meyer for her work as the “the guardian of the world”). Each film has had a new director: Catherine Hardwicke for Twilight, Chris Weitz for New Moon, David Slade for Eclipse and of course, Bill Condon for Breaking Dawn.

Although Rosenberg says they are all “extremely different,” she does contend that everyone involved in the project has been committed to adapting the book rather than using, “the book as a suggestion for the movie, as often happens.”

 “I had very little time to write “Twilight.” So actually Catherine was probably closer to the Bill experience. I’d write an act and then would get notes and feedback immediately. I had five weeks to write that script because we were fighting the deadline of the writers strike. So she was very involved with instant feedback. Chris Weitz is also a very talented writer. His process is a little bit different. I finished the script before he came on board, and so I did a round of notes with him and then he took his own production polishes for himself. Which if you’re going to ask someone to do that, it should be Chris. David Slade is not a screenwriter and he thinks very, very visually and he works a lot with storyboards. So, I’d work with him and he’d be acting out certain parts and he, like Bill, wanted everything on the page. He shoots what’s on the page and so that had to be very detailed.”

“And then Bill, I have to say, was just an extraordinary collaboration. He’s a writers dream. If you’re a writer/director it could be easier to take the script and do your own work on it. The other kind of writer/director knows your language, and knows what you need in order to do the best possible job. He was pushing me further, and deeper, with each draft. Bill is an Academy Award winning screenwriter (for “Gods and Monsters”). So he’s a storyteller, first and foremost. Certainly he understands character and emotional complexity and theme. And this is a very grown up-story. It’s a very emotionally complex story. This isn’t a high school girl being the new kid on the block. This is a young woman choosing to have a child. There are some pretty complicated emotions going on, this is the story of a marriage and the problems of a marriage. Se he just kept taking it deeper and deeper and deeper and pushing me further and further and further and bringing out everything he could get out of me.”

Rosenberg continues to move forward with her goal to create strong roles for women with her production company, Tall Girls (though she did do a production polish on the more male-centric Highlander and says it was “fun to play in that world”).

“I want to create great, complex, interesting roles for women,” she said. “When I say strong I don’t mean noble. I mean intense. I want to see complicated, damaged, flawed women — who also kick-ass a little bit, that would be nice. I want to see the female Iron Man, the female Tony Soprano.”

She is penning a drama for ABC, but also has a project more in line with her current franchise at Paramount: An adaptation of Pamela Sargent’s 1983 YA novel “Earthseed” in which human genetic material is sent into space to find and seed another planet. Rosenberg describes the film as “‘Lord of the Flies’ in space. It’s a young cast with extraordinarily adult themes.”

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 opens in theaters today.

Follow me on twitter @jrothc 

Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. doesn’t matter what she says, they’re some of the worst films in cinematic history

    • Not so. There are many, many worse films out there. Doesn’t make these films any better, sure, but these films are nowhere near as bad as so many of us make them out to be. That needs to be said.

      • No, you’re wrong. These are definately some of the worse films. The first one was a bore, and I was forced to sit through the even worse 2nd one. I absolutely refused to go see the third and fourth ones with my girlfriend.

        • Sorry to disagree, but I stand by my claim. Do you honestly believe that there is a lack of several films worse than these? If so, then you must be watching some high quality stuff. Look into the all of the crappy C rate horror films that come out, the C rate direct to dvd action films that come out, the crappy comedies and family films that don’t even make it to theaters. There are plenty out there that are worse than this. They’re so bad that they’re forgotten. You’re simply not aware of them.

          Or it could be that you’ve never bashed these movies half as hard as the people I’m aiming my comment toward, in which case my comment wasn’t aimed at you. I’m talking about the people who hate the Twilight series so much that they somehow think an association with Twilight is enough to destroy other franchises too. For an example of this, survey the comments on “Snow White and the Huntsman”, or see the complaints about Andrew Garfield’s hair, etc.

          • I know I wasn’t clear on this, but I in no way think these movies are good. They’re guilty pleasures for the people who are into this sort of thing. I just don’t think they fit the “worse examples of cinema” category. I also don’t think they’re worthy of all the popularity they get, but that doesn’t make them worse films than what they really are. It just makes their presence more annoying. But that’s a different thing entirely.

            • Levi, I agree with you.

            • Levi, I agree with you. :)

            • Balls. My wife likes bad films. She has seen “Dukes of Hazzard” 5 times. She couldn’t even make it through an hour of the first Twilight movie (thank God; she made me watch that turgid crap).

          • The movies are on par with the horribly crappy made by SyFy channel movies. They are the movie version of the romance novel with the main characters being silly versions of the trendy Vampire and Werewolf.

            Yes there are worse out there but these definitely belong at the bottom of the barrel.

            • These are definately examples of low quality cinema. But saying they’re the “bottom of the barrel” implies that these movies out do the vast majority of other bad films out there in being bad.

              In reality, they’re probably somewhere in the middle of being really, really bad and “good bad” (films that are bad, but earn some merit anyway based on entertainment value. A lot of action, comedy, and horror movies fall into this category too, but people are divided based on their tastes).

              I consider stuff like the direct to home VHS Beethoven movies to be worse (the St. Bernard dog family movies), the Are We There Yet sequels that never made it to theaters(the Ice Cube movies), many but not all Tyler Perry movies (this man is really hit and miss). Horror movies like Troll 2 and The BTK Killer, Scarecrow: The Messenger 2, etc. Oh and then there’s Lifetime, which is an entire station that’s devoted to mediocrity. In terms of superhero fare, I think of the Captain America movie from the 90s, Punisher Warzone and the 1980s Punisher movie. I’m not even scratching the surface here.

              Twilight sits smack in the middle of mediocrity, not at the bottom of the barrel.

      • Settle down. I used the term “guilty pleasure” because I actually have read the series, and that’s what it was for me at times. When it comes to that sort of thing, fiction in general, there’s always something else out there that we could be reading that has more importance. Yet we read our fiction anyway because we can.

        • Oops, I didn’t mean to submit that last thing quite yet.
          I still stand by my claim that series is mediocre in many ways. Stephanie Meyer has a style, and she can definately tell a story, but the series is told entirely as a narrative, and the narrator is far from original or refreshing. That didn’t stop me from being entertained though. It’s great that so many people can relate to the story, and it’s also great that people like you can continue to support fiction that you want to support, in spite of the droves of peole who oppose it. If I somehow insulted you as a person, or anyone else by my post, I’m sorry for that.

          The Twilight is one of the less sophisticated pieces of literature that I’ve enjoyed in my life. I can’t help that, and I’m sure that Stephanie Meyer never intended it to be anything beyond that. But perhaps I alienated the franchise by only talking about that.

  2. i was wondering if she was talking about the same movies i have seen.

  3. Wow… she’s screenwriting pre-existing texts, I wouldn’t call it an extreme achievement. Especially since the books are terrible, but the least the screenwriter could do would be to try to uplift the junky source material. Luckiest screenwriter indeed.

  4. blah blah blah, the twilight movies are crap blah. Dont bother seeing them just like I wont bother seeing “I dont know how she does it”, “contagion”, “moneyball” or “real steel”, coz frankly it doesnt matter if they are good or bad I have no interest in them.

    I did see Breaking Dawn part1, however, and I have to say Bella’s neediness does piss me off and I can see why people complain that she is an anti-feminist idol. One could argue that she is an emotional vampire, the way she sucks edward and jacob in. I found her much whinier in the books but also funnier, less taking herself so seriously, in my view.

    I dont take the story seriously, however, I just like some light entertainment and it IS a guilty pleasure. So was harry potter, so was star wars for that matter.

    • How can you include Star Wars in that?! (well the first 3 before Lucas tampered with them……any good artist knows that once you sign your name to the painting you do NOT make alterations)

    • No way the first 3 star wars should be considered in your guilty pleasure argument. They are arguably the greatest trilogy of all time. The movies have a golden script and good acting. No offence to twilight tho the books may be good but the movies have below average acting with soap opera music and a horid script. Breaking dawn was a bad movie, not by any means the worst I’ve ever seen but not good at all. The only actors who deserved to be watched on screen were there for 2 min aka anna kendrick an amazing female actress.

      • I agree with the Star Wars thing you said. The first 3 movies are not guilty pleasures, they’re examples of game changing cinema. I’d also have to disagree with the inclusion of Harry Potter in that list. I’m not a big Potter fan, but it’s obvious that the acting and scripting in the HP franchise is decent. Maybe the concept is silly at times, but it’s very well executed, and I think that it makes those movies good movies.

  5. She makes it sound like having a child is on par with choosing a hamburger or hotdog for dinner. Sigh.

  6. Interesting read, good work Roth :).

  7. Her trying to convince anyone that Bella’s “choice” promotes feminism is about as compelling an argument as convincing scientists the world is indeed flat. It may be her “choice”, but it’s not a good one, and that’s the reason she isn’t a good role model. The series plays out on how important choices are to keep a boyfriend, not be a strong individual woman. Just because some melodrama is added doesn’t make her convictions any less idiotic.

    • That’s right – it’s only a “choice” if it’s the right one, the one you would make.

      That’s the problem with that “collective thinking” that infests the Left, the problem with the idea that there are smarter people out there that will make the right choice for you. I’ve found many “pro-choice” people to be decidedly “anti-choice”. I’ve found most modern feminists to be nothing but a bunch of feminazis and busybodies always ready to tell everyone else what to do and then claim that’s what social conservatives and the Right does. What most social conservatives and right wingers want is for people to take responsibility for their actions instead of being coddled or having bad behavior excused.

      Freedom of choice is not that I only get to choose what YOU want me to choose. For “freedom of choice” to mean anything it must mean that we all get to choose our own path, and then if that path turns out to be wrong, we take responsibility for choosing that wrong path.

      What Rosenberg said was correct – you respect the fact that someone else made a different choice – to have kids or not; to go back to work after having kids or stay home with the kids. Modern feminist leftist women are decidely NOT very supportive of their fellow women in the decisions they make unless they make the decision THEY want them to make.

      • I don’t know what left and right wing thinking has to do with this, as far as I knew this wasn’t a political debate. But anyone who decides to be with someone who’s 100+ years their elder who constantly puts and has their life in danger is an idiot. Straight up.

  8. The Twilight Saga was written for teens. The fact that the franchise has a myriad of followers says billions! I appreciate the writers staying with the books and it is what has made it such a HUGE Success. The very first movie Twilight is my most favorite even with the missed mistakes.
    All of it captured the emotions of change and emotions that are a constant in every teens daily life. Twilight is the movie and book that pulled me into the story and then fall in love with all of the characters.
    I never ever saw the character Bella as weak or making a political stand. I saw Bella making a Bella stand.
    From the fantastical fantasy there are lessons that speak loudly to all. I am so glad Summit picked it up off the dusty shelves and trashed the first screen writers. It was Catherine’s ability to keep Twilight as real to the first book and first movie that set the stage.

    • The fact that you can say “The fact that … says billions…” and “…my most favorite even with the missed mistakes” says to me that Twilight fans, however old, are still irritating children. You write like a twelve-year old girl. I can almost see the little hearts replacing the dots over your “i”s.

      The writing in that movie was pathetic (the first hour my wife made me watch; even she couldn’t make it further, and she has seen Dukes of Hazzard 5 times). My seven-year-old nephew could manage something more interesting. Bella was written as utterly pathetic, someone my 12-year-old niece would slap for being dumb.

      • That is her opinion, you are attacking her because she chose to defend a franchise that she likes. That’s just being blatantly rude. Make a comment and say that you don’t like these movies, that’s fine. But don’t go attacking people when they do like it and defend it. You are no better then the rabid fans then. Then why the HELL are you in a Twilight article and commenting? That make me think that you came here to cause trouble and to attack peopl.

  9. I think Rosenberg is the reason why I haven’t liked any of the movies despite being a fan of the books. Based on disliking the previous 3, I decided I am not spending $20 on a ticket to see this, I’ll wait until it comes out on cable.

    With these, obviously you can’t say they’re bad due to bad directing as there’s been different directors for each flick. The only constant in the films has been the screenwriter, I think she’s done a terrible job in adapting from the books. I would’ve like to see someone like Steve Kloves (who adapted Harry Potters) do one of these, I think it would’ve been a much better movie!

  10. Relax Bill Condon, the movie is not popular because you directed it, but because of the twi-hard fans. Any idiot could of directed this boring movie and still make money. Please stop! Kirsten Stewart is not a role model for female teens or tweens. There were other people suited for her role. People have to remember that the book was popular before the movie. The movie just amped up the sales. Stewart is best at playing a mundane teenager in any movie which seemed the right choice for this movie i guess. She is no heroine but she has probably done some to relieve her teenage emu life.
    she is the queen of emu. What controversy? pro gay vampire or kill the fetus. Yes i am sure all teenagers you have gay vampire boyfriends and conceiving a child for a week, and drinking blood to help the fetus grow will need to face their option of having a child into this world. I should retract this since there are twi-hards fans who believe this to be real. Yes, Neo is Jesus and the Matrix is real. There is program that runs my bowel movements, best yet, there is an app for that.

  11. All my prior comments about the franchise were talking about the first 3 franchise intallments. However, I have now seen the fourth installment.

    IMHO, I think it’s the franchise’s best. Bill Condon did some really good work with the series, and I do think that he took it to another level. Many people will still dislike it (or flat out hate it), and there are valid reasons for doing so, but with Condon came better acting from the key actors (including Lautner, finally), better scripting, better humor, better set locations and cinematography,… better everything really. I was pleasantly surprised with this film.

  12. She’s one of the worst writers to ever hold a job in screen writing.

  13. Ok lets get to the meat of the situation.

    1. Twilight is NOT a Vampire movie. Vampires DO NOT SPARKLE in the Sun.. They Catch Fire and Burn into ash.

    2. This entire series is just one girls tough choice over Pedoiphile who is DEAD, and Beastiality.

    3. There is NO way a Vampire can have any child, no blood flow to thier junk means thier junk is locked in eternal Flacidity.

    4. Stephen King said it best.. “Harry Potter is about courage, bravery, and Friendships.. Twilight is about a girl looking to keep a boyfriend”

    This entire series sucks and should never have been made into a film at all!

    • As much as I am an avid fan of vampire fiction and classic vampire movies, vampires are indeed fiction and they can do whatever an author imagines them to do. Yes, the sparkling is different from all other depictions but when you are dealing with fantasy creatures, there is no written law. Vampire lore has been around since the beginning of humankind and trust for many many centuries they were not the well spoken, castle dwelling vampires such as the one in Bram Stoker’s novel or Anne Rice. They were essentially zombies; hideous corpses seeking human flesh or blood. The limits of what zombies can and cannot do changes in each movie as well. Meyer stated that the vampire poison is a fluid that would assist in the makings of a child; he is indeed frozen but they are still human-like. It’s not a great explanation and is a crutch for the whole Bella pregnancy but its her story.
      I do find the movies poorly acted and very dull. The books were not very well written but it is interesting how popular they became. I think what the article says was right-people like watching coming of age stories with love triangles; this one just has a vamp/werewolf spin.

    • They are not vampires. They’re fairies.

  14. I watched the Twilight movies after the original because of Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, period. They are the only characters/storyline worth watching and the center of the saga. The “love triangle” with Jacob was inflated for marketing purposes, then Meyer decided during Eclipse Bella needed to have romantic feelings for him when in the book she didn’t. This angered a lot of fans. I think Summit made a huge mistake in handcuffing the creative process to Stephanie Meyer’s “wishlist”, a 20-item list of rules they had to follow after rights acquisition, as well as additional power she had in shaping the movies. Then, add in a mediocre film screenwriter (I like Dexter) like Rosenberg who can’t elevate the material, cheap studio like Summit who can’t provide the special effects quality this franchise needed, bad actors, save for Rob and Kristen, and voila. Bad movies. Could have been so much better. The much-hyped honeymoon scene in Breaking Dawn was a disappointment, paired down for a PG13 audience when ironically THR reported 50% of the audience was over 25. How’s that for clueless.

  15. The wife insisted we watch the DVD of the first one, just to see what the fuss was about. We managed nearly an hour.

    It was not that it is sentimental, romantic tosh, insulting to women and men. It is not the terrible production and laughable special effects. I like films, all sorts of films from black-and-white art to modern comedy. The proble is the screenplay.


    There, now. I’ve said it. That’s batter. What a badly-written, truly poor movie.

  16. This article presents an incredibly weak argument. Maybe Rosenberg did not intend to use Breaking Dawn as a vehicle for propaganda, but the person (Stephanie Meyer) who actually wrote the story clearly did. And ultimately, the author’s intention isn’t the main point? Can the film be interpreted as Pro-Life? Clearly. Will the teenage girls who are the film’s main audience read the movie that way? Yes, probably many of them will. Will some of them one day become pregnant and have their experience watching this film affect the decisions they make? It’s not impossible.

    Therefore the film is pro-life, whether Rosenberg or Kristen Stewart or even Stephanie Meyer says otherwise. As an author you are responsible for understanding all the ways your story will be interpreted and affect other people, not just the ones you intended. Loudly exclaiming “that’s not what we meant!” just shows they are either disingenuous or clueless.

  17. Bella never listens to advice from adults (even Ed’s ). This does not make her “strong”. It makes her stubborn and shallow.