COPIED AND PASTE
Across the globe, armies of teenage girls – and more than a few of their middle-aged mothers – are gearing up for the movie event of the summer. Eclipse, the third film adaptation of author Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, is not released for another fortnight yet, thanks to the franchise’s countless, indefatigable fans – the self-styled Twilighters and Twihards – the film has already racked up impressive advance ticket sales and its success is pretty much guaranteed.
Before it was transmuted into box office gold, Meyer’s tale, which recounts the romantic travails of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a teenage girl who moves to a Pacific Northwest town populated by vampires and werewolves, captured the imagination of a generation of young female readers. They, like Bella, have given their hearts to a benign bloodsucker called Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, or RPattz to his fans), a beautiful and surprisingly honourable hero.
Last year, Meyer’s series of four Twilight books sold copies to the value of more than £29 million in Britain alone, accounting for one tenth of the entire children’s market according to analysts Nielsen, while the first two chapters in the movie franchise, Twilight (2008) and New Moon (2009), have together taken more than £750 million at the international box office. Add in DVD and merchandising sales and that figure will more than double.
“I think the success of the Twilight movies, not just the books, comes down to Stephenie Meyer,” says Bryce Dallas Howard, who joins the cast of Eclipse as the vengeful vampire Victoria (replacing Rachel Lefevre, who played the character in the first film). The 29-year-old actress, daughter of Oscar-winning director Ron Howard, fell for the novels before being approached for the movie because she thought Meyer’s account of Bella’s romantic struggles felt authentic, even though the object of her affections is a vampire.
“You really see the world through Bella’s eyes,” says Howard, who initially turned down the role of Victoria in the first Twilight movie, because she felt the part was too small, “and you fall in love with Edward, and then get your heart broken, and fall in love with Jacob [Black, a werewolf played by Taylor Lautner], and then you’re in danger.
“It’s like you’re feeling these things yourself, and the way that she expresses Bella’s emotions just feels so honest and true. Stephenie Meyer has taken us on an extraordinary ride, and I think that they’ve captured that in the movies. The film-makers listen to what the fans are saying, and it’s a rare instance where you’re making a film for an audience that you know really well.”
MORE AFTER THE JUMP
Howard’s character drives the narrative in Eclipse; Edward killed Victoria’s soulmate at the end of the first film and now she’s out for revenge, planning to slay Bella in a bid to make Edward suffer. In their efforts to protect Bella, the vampire clan must forge a fragile alliance with a werewolf clan – the two are old enemies – forcing Edward to work alongside the hunky Jacob, a rival for Bella’s affections.
“This film is definitely a bit darker than the others,” says 20-year-old star, Kristen Stewart.
“Bella’s conflicts intensify – she must choose between Edward and Jacob – and the climax of the movie is more violent than anything we have dealt with before. Also, it feels as though the characters can handle a little bit more of a mature storyline, because they are older,” she says.
Ageing with their target readership, the characters in Eclipse do get a little frisky. Whereas, previously, sex had remained a subject for future discussion, here it bubbles to the fore, with Bella keen to give herself to Edward in every conceivable way. Even loyal Jacob gets a bit beyond himself, and steals a kiss from Bella. Victoria’s vampire army, meanwhile, prove merciless, destroying whatever gets in their way. These are dark times in Bella’s world.
As with the Harry Potter franchise, the Twilight producers have opted to vary their directors, and Eclipse boasts their most exciting choice yet. Forty-year-old English director David Slade has a short but impressive CV, featuring the critical hits Hard Candy, a taut, low-budget drama, and the vampire-infested graphic novel adaptation 30 Days of Night. In Eclipse he brings an urgency and sense of irony to proceedings, which counterbalance the Twilight series’ inherent melodrama.
The latest chapter in the film saga also features the sharpest script, with regular screenplay writer Melissa Rosenberg, who also writes and produces hit serial killer television series Dexter, feeding in a number of wry lines, one of which acknowledges the proliferation of naked male torsos on the screen. “They’re good lines,” Slade says, “and the thing I had to be delicate with was how to get those lines across without being overly cheesy or too knowing. We didn’t want to wink at the audience.”
Slade coaxes the best performances yet from the Twilight cast, who are growing into their roles. The principal cast-members also seem to benefit from their director’s decision not to show them any of their takes on the monitors during the shoot.
“By doing it that way I think that young actors become more confident,” Slade explains, “because they can’t worry about what they look like. They’ll just stay in the scene.” Billy Burke, who plays Bella’s father and has many of the more amusing moments, was allowed to improvise, but the other, younger actors stayed tightly on script.
Of the three principle players, Stewart is the most accomplished actor, having worked for 13 of her 20 years. The two male stars, though, Pattinson and Lautner, also show signs that they are beginning to discover their chops. “With Eclipse, everything’s bigger,” says the 24-year-old, rather bashful English heart-throb Pattinson. “The budget is bigger and everyone’s more famous, so this was a very different experience.
“David Slade was saying in the week before we started shooting that he wanted this to feel different from the last two films, so trying to figure that out was a little bit different as well. But we are pretty comfortable with the characters now.”
The cast has a few more months to tie up other projects before work begins on the final chapter, Breaking Dawn, which, as with the final instalment in the Harry Potter franchise, will be released as two separate movies. It will also prove the most epic chapter and will build towards Edward and Bella’s betrothal. Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) will direct, and shooting is scheduled to last six months. The box office figures will, once again, be enormous.
“I think that the Twilight series continues to be so popular because the story is about more than being in love,” concludes Nikki Reed, who plays Rosalie Hale, a vampire Meyer’s book identifies as “the most beautiful” of her kind. Reed’s character enjoys a grim and grisly back-story in the new movie.
“I think the whole series is infused with this idealistic love,” Reed says, “and while I guess that does exist, it only really exists when you are Bella’s age, when you first meet a person who you think that you actually would be ready to die for, and give up everything for. Now, at 22, I know that is not going to happen, but we all kind of crave that,” she says.
“We want to step into that world of carelessness, of just not thinking, of just being naive. That’s why these stories appeal to so many women, as well as girls.”
* The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is released on July 9 in the UK.