As it celebrates its 10th anniversary, one is reminded of just how big a pop culture phenomenon that Twilight — and subsequent chapters in The Twilight Saga — really was and remains. It is, of course, the old story of girl meets boy, boy bites girl, girl becomes a vampire, yet the characters of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, as played by Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, touched a chord with people in a way that few leads in a film series have. And now there’s a whole new reason to be excited. For starters, as a part of Fathom Events, the original Twilight is returning to theaters for special screenings on Oct. 21 and Oct. 23, the latter of which will also see it released on disc in the 4K format.
Closer Weekly recently had the opportunity to sit down with Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke for an exclusive interview in which we look back at how the saga began and the impact that it ultimately had — scroll down to read our exclusive Q&A with Catherine!
Is it really possible that it’s been 10 years since that first San Diego Comic-Con press room for the start of The Twilight Saga?
I know. Is the world moving too fast? I hear you because I was just at New York Comic-Con the other day and it seemed like we were just there, you know? A couple of the actors were there and they looked exactly the same.
Comparing the cost of Twilight to what it grossed, it makes you think of Wonder Woman‘s success and all the success Patty Jenkins received as a female director of a blockbuster. But you were kind of there first, weren’t you?
The truth is, I think Twilight was so successful that it moved things along so that Patty could do it. Each thing builds on the next thing, you know? So now there are just going to be more and more cool movies directed by women. We hope [laughs].
Going back through the mists of time, what was it that drew you to Twilight in the first place?
It was like 2007. I was at the Sundance Film Festival. I was on the jury and they gave me a stack of five scripts that Summit wanted to make. I read them all because they wanted to start out being a production company, and I didn’t really like any of them. I threw them all in the trash, but the next day I kept thinking about the Twilight one. And so I said, “I wonder if it’s based on a book.” I went and read the book, and immediately got what people loved about it. I felt like it just drew me in and made me feel like I was 13 years old with my very first crush, or I kept writing Ravi Watkins on my notebook 500 times — that kind of thing. It’s that thing where you knew that was wrong, that you shouldn’t like this person, they’re dangerous or a bad boy or whatever, but you just couldn’t help but be crazy about them. And I thought, “Oh my God, that’d be fun to see if I could capture that feeling in a movie.” So I went to Summit and I said, “We need to throw the script away and we need to start over and make something that captures the crazy, madly in love, intoxicating feeling in the book.”
Obviously, the whole thing rises and falls on Bella and Edward. How difficult was it to find just the right people?
Well, that was by far the biggest, scariest challenge, because not only are they supposed to be the right people, you have to believe that they’re both in high school. That is a limited pool. Like it’s not like you can pull up the Academy Award list, because none of those people are available. You have to find somebody new or relatively new that people don’t know. But it was really fun; I love the casting process and I was very taken when I saw Kristen Stewart in Into the Wild. I saw an early cut of that and loved how much she just embodied that sense of longing. She just wanted to kiss Emile Hirsch so bad. I’m, like, “Oh my God, that is the essence of Bella — she’s just desperate. A serious girl and an intelligent girl, but also just swept away by being madly in love. And so I got to go meet Kristin in Pittsburgh. I loved her and then I had to find the match — the other half — and that was just a worldwide search for the perfect guy that felt otherworldly, but you could believe is still in high school, you know? So that was a very big challenge.
Did you get the sense of chemistry between Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson right away, or did it take a while to build?
I have always done chemistry reads at my house. I have a very funky open wacky beach house in Venice, [CA] so instead of being in a more sterile casting director’s office, I said, “Let me get the top four guys that seemed to be the best candidates and Kristen over to my house and we’re going to play like an hour and a half of each guy, like try different scenes, you know, Improv, do the kissing scene — just all kinds of stuff to see who it should be. And I would record it, shoot it all, and we’ll see who really does have that chemistry. And so as those top four guys, Kristen looked at me at the end of the day and said, “You know it’s got to be Rob, right?”
Jacob Black has a small role in the film, but he becomes more integral as things go on. Was it tough finding the right actor for the part, which obviously you ultimately did with Taylor Lautner?
Very tough. And Taylor also came to my house and we did a chemistry read there. But the reason that was really tough is that I was trying my damnedest to find a hundred percent native American actor that could play that part. Hopefully, even somebody from the Pacific Northwest to be as accurate as I could. But as you can imagine, that is not easy to find; that’s like the tiniest pool you could ever have. I even went to great lengths to even pay a native American kid from the Pacific Northwest to take acting classes. I did workshops with him, it just wasn’t really his thing. Whereas Taylor has wanted to do this for a long time. He had the confidence and you can look up videos when he’s seven years old doing those martial arts videos, and he’s just bold and brave. But, yeah, it was tricky.
But, again, it all obviously worked out quite well, didn’t it?
It worked out great, and he really rose to the occasion. And even though he didn’t have the height that’s described in the book — the character’s written as, like, six foot three or something — Taylor worked out so much and was so physical that everybody of course just loved him.
Not to harp on budget, but what’s shocking to me, even in 2008, this movie was made for only $37 million, which sounds crazy to say only about $37 million. But how tough was it to turn that book into a movie with that kind of budget?
It wasn’t even that much, because, if you think about it, they had to pay for the rights to the book and they had to pay back Paramount for the other scripts that were developed on it and stuff. So there was even a lower amount of money available to us at the time, which I don’t know exactly what it was, because the filmmaker’s not really privileged to all those details, but, you know, it was challenging. I had really wanted to do a lot more interesting stunts in the ballet studio sequence during the big fight. I also want to do a lot more stunts at the baseball game — vampire baseball — but they said, “Nope, we can’t afford it, because we don’t think this movie’s gonna make that much money, because, based on a female-centric book, this could top out at $29 million.” They compared it to Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants because that film made $29 million. But Twilight made close to $400 million.
Which raises a question: What do you think the connection was between the film and the audience?
Stephenie Meyer had this dream of a very powerful and kind of original idea, and then she just spilled out the book in a very short amount of time. It was a pure impulse and the result was this kind of wild, different take on vampires. That take drew people in and just played on our dreams and fantasies of having the sexy bad boy that would actually love you, you know? And care about you and protect you or kill you, so that it had all those cool elements in it. And then Stephenie was just amazing, let’s be honest.
She created this great website, she interacted with her fans, she didn’t just write one book, she wrote three more. And she would publish the playlist of what she was listening to when she wrote the book. People were turned on to new music. She built up that base and then Summit Entertainment was very smart, too. We published photos of how cool the vampires lived, which got the fans even more excited. Oh, then there’s a movie and the fourth book is coming out and everything just started ramping up and getting people whipped up into a frenzy.
Just this week there have been reports of a number of vampire projects for the big and small screen in the works. This sub-genre just goes on and on, which, of course, begs the question, why?
If you go back 2000 years, you would read about the vampire legend in China. You’d read about it in Europe and all over the world because there’s just something about drinking blood. You know, is that going to give me special powers? Well, a little via a fountain of Youth. It’s always intrigued people, the idea of what blood means to somebody if you take somebody else’s blood. Also, vampires are very sexy. I mean, you know, zombies are not too sexy. I know they’re very popular right now on a certain TV show, but you don’t really want to make out with a zombie. Whereas a vampire continuously kisses your neck and if they go too far and get too excited, they could bite you and kill you. I mean, there’s just so many layers to vampires, I think.
With a film as successful as Twilight was, what sort of impact does that have on you and your career?
Every filmmaker puts their heart and soul into a film, but sometimes they don’t get seen by a lot of people for whatever reason. The fact that this film was seen by people all over the world, and actually inspired people all over the world, is pretty cool. I’ve had people come up to me and say that they were depressed and started painting again or started making clothes and jewelry or started reaching out online and finding other friends, making friends all around the world, because of Twilight. I was just doing an event and a young girl from Peru, she’s 21, said she saw my book [Twilight Director’s Notebook: The Story of How We Made the Movie Based on the Novel by Stephenie Meyer] in a little village in Peru. Because the director was a woman she thought, “Hey, if a woman directed this, maybe I could be a film director.” Cut to nine years later and she had a short film screening at the Academy in Hollywood. That’s pretty neat. Lots of women in film schools said, “I saw you on the DVD; I saw that a woman directed this. Why couldn’t I be a director? I showed that to my parents. They paid for me to go to film school.” So I’m very excited that, you know, I could inspire people. That’s pretty damn cool.
To sort of throw this in your court, anything you want to get in there that we haven’t discussed?
You kind of touched on this before, the fact that this was sort of like a groundbreaker, with a woman directing a female-centric storyline. Patty Jenkins did something similar with Wonder Woman, though she went way bigger with a beautiful, huge budget. She did a great job with it. I like that this gives ammo for other projects to get made. It’s really exciting to be a part of that sense of change; the sea change that’s happening with journalists like you and all kinds of people actually putting a spotlight on women behind the camera and in front of the camera. And I’m proud that I just did a movie for Sony called Miss Bala. It has Gina Rodriguez in the lead and it’s a story with a Latina heroine, which is really rare and cool. So we are starting to feel like things are changing, and that’s a good feeling.
Twilight returns to theaters Oct. 21 and Oct. 23 as part of Fathom Events screenings and arrives on disc in 4K on the Oct. 23 as well.