SAN DIEGO — Chris Weitz made big news when he stepped in for Catherine Hardwicke as director on the second "Twilight" film. Over the months, and recently at Comic-Con, the fans have come to embrace him with as much affection as they did his predecessor.

As Weitz gets back to work editing November's "New Moon," we caught up with him to discuss such key fan issues as a Stephenie Meyer cameo, Dakota Fanning's evil ways and Taylor Lautner's abs.

MTV: Chris, "New Moon" has a lot of disparate elements. You need to portray a love that's Shakespearean, like "Romeo and Juliet," but at the same time do action scenes and car chases, and at the same time do effects work with werewolves and vampires. Which is the hardest, and how are you dealing with it?

Chris Weitz: The hardest thing to do is to blend all these elements into one thing that seems like a coherent whole. We [need to make sure we] don't just stop for the action sequence or stop and have the audience say, "Oh, what a great special effect!" You want it to be a complete, seamless experience in which the emotions of the characters are what's foremost. The hardest thing, but also the most enjoyable thing, is working with actors. You can control everything else, except the weather — what really matters is the characters and the feelings that they evoke in the readers of the book. It's the hardest stuff, but it's also the stuff that makes it the most satisfying when you get it right.

MTV: In last year's "Twilight" movie, Stephenie Meyer had a cameo that the fans really loved. Will we see her in "New Moon"?

Weitz: You have to look very carefully for it. No, she doesn't actually. If she had asked, I would have definitely put her in. But I think that she may have decided against experiencing that again, because frankly, to be an extra in a movie or a day player is a lot of sitting around. People don't realize the sheer tedium that a movie set embodies; she was probably like, "Well, I'll sit this one out."

MTV: We all remember that there was a lot of drama around whether Taylor would return for "New Moon." How close did he come to not being asked back?

Weitz: When I first met with him, I took off my shirt and I said, "You've got two months to look this good." And he said, "I'm willing to try that." Finally, he came back, and the results were just about as good as my abs. [Laughs.]

MTV: You must have a real six-pack.

Weitz: To answer your question seriously, the character in the second book is meant to be 6-foot-5, let alone transform into a werewolf and all that stuff. And Taylor, having only done three days of work in the first [movie], it was time to take a pause and say, "Should Taylor go ahead and do it?" My overwhelming feeling was, "Yes, absolutely, let's go forward with it." To me, it wasn't a very difficult decision. For Taylor, it wasn't difficult at all. He knew the character, and he embodied the character — as people are going to see in the movie. So it wasn't really as tense and as scary a moment as it was portrayed in the media.

MTV: What can you tell us about Dakota Fanning's performance as the evil vampire Jane?

Weitz: Well, it's the scariest performance probably you've seen out of her so far, because she's evil for once in her career. I think she really appreciated the chance to do that.

MTV: Yeah, she must turn that "adorable Dakota Fanning" thing on its ear.

Weitz: Absolutely. But what you expect from Dakota Fanning is uncannily grown-up, experienced and clever acting — and that's what she did. I think she was just keen to do this part and to be part of the franchise, and she is genuinely scary.

MTV: Fans at Comic-Con saw a few brief shots of "apparition" Edward. What was your thought process as you reinterpreted Bella's feelings of his presence?

Weitz: I would best describe him [in the movie] as an image that represents Bella's sense of self-protection and her love for Edward. Really, it's very subjective to Bella's experience. It's our filmic way of representing what Stephenie describes in this book, which is hearing his voice. It's ephemeral and very subtle. We didn't want to hit things over the head. The thing to describe him best is a flame-like apparition ... very subtle and elegant. That's what we're aiming for.

Check out everything we've got on "The Twilight Saga: New Moon."

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