A Beginner’s Guide To Twilight

From writer's dream to all-consuming vamp franchise...

 

Twilight, it would seem, is here to stay. At least for a few more films.

The first – eponymous – film, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, was a hit (not really surprising given the built-in fanbase) and profitable given the carefully low budget.

The sequel, New Moon is currently wrapping its final shots and continuing post-production to meet a tough November release deadline.

So as the anticipation mounts, we thought we’d offer newcomers a look back at the franchise that spawned a million enthusiastic fans...



1. Dream A Little Dream


Author Stephenie Meyer says that she got the idea for Twilight and its blend of romance, horror and glittery-skinned vampires on 2 June 2003 as part of a dream.

Despite limited writing experience, Meyer was inspired enough to sit down and crank out the first book in three months, before editing it and convincing publishers Little, Brown And Company to hand over $750,000 for a three-book deal based solely on that novel and the concept.

Editor Megan Tingley apparently signed on after reading just half the manuscript, believing she had a bestseller on her hands.

The first book arrived in 2005 and won several awards. But unlike Harry Potter, it became a sensation targeted  towards a specific audience - teenage girls and their mothers, who loved the blend of romance and drama.

Edward Cullen, Bella Swan and the rest of the gang were on their way to phenomenon status.

And given the earning power and the three-book deal, it was only natural that sequels would follow.

But first, let's go back to the beginning…

Next: The Basics: Twilight...

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2. Twilight

Set primarily in the small American town of Forks, Washington (“The Logging Capital Of The World”), Twilight revolves around the romance between Isabella “Bella” Swan, a teenage girl who comes to live with her policeman father in the area and Edward Cullen, a young man who moves to her high school.

At least, he seems like a young man. But there’s something odd about Edward and his family. Bella can’t quite place it at first, but she’s irresistibly drawn to him.

She soon learns that he’s a vampire – albeit one in the Twilight mould, which means no fangs (just sharp teeth) and no particular aversion to sunlight (though he prefers to avoid it since it makes him glitter) – and that to love him is a very dangerous proposition.

When other vampires, including twisted psycho James, realise that Bella and Edward have made a connection, they plot to kill her and drink her blood. Soon she’s fighting for her life.

But it all ends happily when Edward comes to her rescue, kills the villain and the pair are reunited in Forks.

Happy ever after? Well, not quite…

Next: New Moon...

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3. New Moon

The second outing, in the grand tradition of sagas, brings a much darker tone to the story.

Fearing for Bella’s life if she stays with him, Edward ditches her, leaving Forks with his family.

In return, Bella falls into a deep funk, which is only alleviated by her relationship with hunky young werewolf Jacob Black. So that’s all right, then...

Well, no. A new threat to her life emerges when Victoria, the lover of the first book’s bad guy James, decides to enact a little revenge and tries to kill the heroine.

Learning – mistakenly – of Bella’s death, Edward decides to kill himself in Italy, but is stopped by his sister Alice and the woman he loves.

Bella and Edward's relationship has caught the attention of the Volturi, a powerful ruling coven of vamps and while the pair secure their freedom from punishment, they’re released only on condition that Bella be turned into a member of the fang club as soon as possible.

And Victoria isn’t completely defeated, either. She’ll be back…

Next: Eclipse...

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4. Eclipse

The third book  opens with Victoria returning with an army of “newborn” vamps to take out Bella and co.

Despite centuries’ old antagonisms, Jacob Black’s werewolf pack and Edward’s vampire clan join forces to defeat her devious plan.

Bella, meanwhile, finds herself caught between her love for Edward and her feelings for Jacob.

After keeping them both dangling for a while, she eventually chooses Edward and agrees to marry him.

The book was a huge bestseller, selling more than 150,000 copies in the first 24 hours. Some copies were released early due to a computer error.

And Bella’s story isn't over yet…

Next: Breaking Dawn...

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5. Breaking Dawn

In the fourth book, Bella and Edward finally get over all their angst and tie the knot, which would seem to point to a nice happy ending.

Sadly, that sort of thing doesn’t seem possible with this couple, and though Bella gets pregnant, the mixed parentage of the baby causes big problems.

The half-human/half-vampire child quickly weakens its mother thanks to a fast gestation period and Bella nearly dies giving birth to it.

Thinking quickly to save her life, Edward injects her with his venom and turns her into a vampire. She gains new powers and abilities (such as being able to lower her shield so her hubby can read her mind) and is able to survive the birth of baby Renesmee.

Their troubles are only just beginning however, as another coven snoops on them to the Volturi, outing the new arrival as a possible “immortal child”, a violation of Vampire law.

The Cullen clan rallies round the new parents, and, after a nasty conflict with the Volturi, the family is left in peace.

Though Dawn essentially wraps up the Twilight saga in book form, Meyer responded to fan pressure for more stories by starting to write a fourth, Midnight Sun, which would essentially retell Twilight from Edward’s point of view.

Unfortunately, an early draft of several chapters leaked out online, causing the author to cancel the book. She did stick the chapters up on her website for fans to read, but for now, the Twilight series is over.

At least, in book form…

Next: Twilight On Film...

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6. Twilight: The Movie

Twilight’s journey to the screen began before it even came out as a novel, thanks to Paramount’s hunger for finding the next Harry Potter.

But while the studio nabbed the rights in 2004, the script it developed bore scant resemblance to Meyer’s novel and shoved Twilight into turnaround.

“They could have filmed it and not called it Twilight because it had nothing to do with the book,” Meyer said at the time.

“When Summit came into the picture, they were so open to letting us make rules for them, like, ‘Okay, Bella cannot be a track star. Bella cannot have a gun or night vision goggles. And no jet skis....’”

It was grabbed up by new studio Summit Entertainment in April 2007, with the company envisioning its own ideas for a franchise.

That summer, Catherine Hardwicke was hired to direct, while Melissa Rosenberg would write the script.



Kristen Stewart was the first person cast on the movie, with Hardwicke visiting her on the set of Adventureland, hav being “captivated” by her screen test.

With Bella in place, Hardwicke could begin the arduous slog to cast an Edward, auditioning hundreds of actors before finally settling on Brit Robert Pattinson following test scenes with Stewart.

Other actors cast included Peter Facinelli as Edward’s adoptive gather, Carlisle, Ashley Greene as Alice Cullen, Cam Gigandet as the evil James, Billy Burke as Charlie Swan, Bella’s dad and, in a role that would become more important later, Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black.

Fans reacted as they so often do when beloved books are adapted for the screen – negatively. Web boards lit up with anxious demands that most of the lead roles be re-cast.

But Hardwicke persevered and shot for 44 days in Oregon to maintain the proper setting. The actors did a lot of their own stunt work and the sets were regularly visited by uber-fans known as “Twilighters”.

Released in the US last November, Twilight was an instant hit despite dividing critics and being labelled as one strictly for fans, it has since earned nearly $400 million worldwide.

Enter New Moon…
 

Next: New Moon Rising...

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7. New Moon: The Movie

The day after Twilight hit it big in the US, Summit announced that the sequel, New Moon, would be rushed into development for a release date of late November 2009.

That gave them a year to get everything done.

Understandably, Hardwicke decided to pass on the challenge: "I am sorry that due to timing I will not have the opportunity to direct New Moon.

“Directing Twilight has been one of the great experiences of my life, and I am grateful to the fans for their passionate support of the film. I wish everyone at Summit the best with the sequel - it is a great story."

Despite the seemingly chummy sign-off, there were rumblings that Hardwicke was actually ditched by Summit, who were unhappy with some of her work on the first film.

But New Moon’s development continued undaunted, with Chris Weitz hired to take over the reins last December: “The extraordinary world that Stephenie has created has millions of fans, and it will be my duty to protect on their behalf the characters, themes and story they love.



“This is not a task to be taken lightly, and I will put every effort into realising a beautiful film to stand alongside a beautiful book.”

Melissa Rosenberg’s adaptation had to confront the fact that Edward is gone for large chunks of the novel’s plot, appearing only as a voice in Bella’s mind.

The film’s story has been shifted to give everyone’s favourite brooding Brit vamp more screen time.

New Moon expands the tale out to Italy, home of the Volturi, who are being played by the eclectic likes of Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning and Cameron Bright.

Also added to the cast is a werewolf pack for Lautner’s Jacob Black who had to prove he could bulk up for the role, gaining more than 20 pounds to play the newly muscular character.

And though New Moon hasn’t seen the inside of a cinema yet, Eclipse is already up and running…

Next: Eclipsed...

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8. Eclipse: The Movie


The third film in the series was announced in February 2009 and scheduled for release in 2010.

Somewhat naturally, given that pre-production and filming on the new movie would have to start before New Moon leaves post-production and cloning technology has yet to be perfected, Chris Weisz will not be behind the helm for this one.

Nope, Hard Candy and 30 Days Of Night director David Slade is the unexpected choice.

Slade got himself into a spot of trouble with fans (and, likely, the studio) shortly after the announcement with a quote dug up from an old interview admitting he’d rather shoot himself than watch Twilight.

He quickly issued a statement apologising for the remark: "When I made these comments, I had neither seen the film nor read the books.

“I was promoting a comedy short film that I had made for Xbox and every pop culture subject was seen as a possible comedy target. I was being silly and none of the statements were from the heart.

"Of course, I have since seen the movie and read the books and was quickly consumed with the rich storytelling and the beautifully honest characters that Stephenie Meyer created.

I would like to reassure everyone involved that I am invested in making the best film that I am humanly capable of, and that I am acutely aware of the power of the original books we serve.

“Please be rest assured this statement is absolutely from the heart."

We believe you, DS – let’s hope the fans do too. Twilighters can be dangerous when angered…



For the movie, Slade will get his, uh, teeth into the meaty plotline about Victoria’s undead army and a wave of related killings around Forks.

Sounds perfect for the man who made the vampirical 30 Days Of Night, which might be why Summit picked him.

It’ll be darker for sure, and aside from the 'newborn' vamp army, most of the casting is already done for him, so he can concentrate on getting the atmospherics right for Melissa Rosenberg’s script.

Slade was just one of several directors considered, including The Orphanage’s Juan Antonio Bayona and 3:10 To Yuma’s James Mangold.

Other names considered? Try Drew Barrymore. No, really – after making her directorial debut with roller derby comedy drama Whip It. She chucked her name into the ring as a possibility, but nothing came of it…

Maybe she could reapply for Breaking Dawn. It’ll have to be greenlit first, though…

Next: Greet The Dawn...

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9. Breaking Dawn: The Movie

Very little is known about Breaking Dawn’s eventual cinematic incarnation other than nothing short of New Moon and Eclipse doing zero business at the box office will keep it from being made.

All we know at this point is that Robert Pattinson has implied that Summit are working on plans for the pic and that there's been no official greenlight yet.

But it sounds like the toughest of the books to adapt, mostly because A) like later Potter tomes, it’s massive (according to Meyer, it's “hard to imagine fitting it into 90 minutes”) and B) features a self-aware half-human/ half-vamp baby.

So what to do… Dodgy CG child? Major make-up job? Time will tell.

One option might be to do a Deathly Hallows and split the film into two, thus allowing more of the plot to breathe.

But given that the studio has usually compressed the books’ plots into each movie, we’re sure some slicing and dicing is more likely.

Another challenge for any director is the sheer scope of the thing, which plays like a greatest hits of Twilight’s plot to date – Jacob and the wolves are a big part of it, as are the Volturi.

Plus the Cullens recruit lots of vampires from around the world to argue the case for Renesmee’s survival, including Nahuel, a 150-year-old human/vamp hybrid, who proves that she’s not a threat. Looks like the effects budget will be stretched to breaking point…

So who could direct this mammoth finale?

Let’s look at possible contenders…

Next: Dawn Directors?

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10. Directing Dawn

It’s possible, if Summit is happy with his work on New Moon, that the company will ask Chris Weisz to return for Breaking Dawn.

But what if he says no? Who could tackle it?


Juan Antonio Bayona
The man who made The Orphanage must have been under serious contention before David Slade got the Eclipse gig, so what if Summit was trying to line him up?

He’s got the goods, he knows how to handle horror and it would be a great boost to his profile across the pond.

He’s told friends he wasn’t sure he was ready to tackle a big franchise film.

But might he be ready by the time Breaking Dawn is set to go before cameras?


Drew Barrymore
She’s an industry veteran and would bring a female touch back to the series.

But we’ve yet to see Whip it, so it’s tough to judge her as a director.

Plus, Dawn will require an epic scale and lots of effects work, so she might need a little more seasoning first.


James Mangold
He’s certainly a solid, proven director, and he actively pursued the job, so Summit could end up giving him his shot.

He knows how to handle complicated films, but he can also shoot to budgets. A real possibility.



Alfonso Cuaron
He’s proved with Potter that he can inject fresh life into tiring franchises.

So Summit would be crazy not to consider him.


Guillermo del Toro

A bit busy.


Uwe Boll
No.
 

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Comments

    • imaginarium

      Jun 18th 2009, 11:34

      Sorry to nitpick...technically he didn't move to her high school...he was already there, she was the new one.. And much as I love Robert, I hope they don't change the story of New Moon a lot just to give him more screen time. I wish they hadn't changed it at all. I hate it when stories are compromised so that the studio can earn more money, in this case by attracting all the Robert fangirls; they're clearly scared that not as many people will go and see it if he's not in it as much.

      Alert a moderator

    • imaginarium

      Jun 18th 2009, 11:38

      Sorry to nitpick but...technically he didn't move to her high school...he was already there, she was the new one.. And much as I love Robert, I hope they don't change the New Moon plot too much, just to give him more screen time. I wish they hadn't planned to change it at all. I hate it when stories are compromised to earn the studio more money, in this case by attracting all the Robert fangirls again; they're clearly scared that not as many people will go and see it if he's not in it as much.

      Alert a moderator

    • imaginarium

      Jun 18th 2009, 11:40

      ..it said that didn't post the first time.

      Alert a moderator

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