Who knew that a young adult teen romance novel could inspire three more novels, four record-breaking films, launch several new acting careers, and create one of the most rabid fandoms the movie industry has ever seen? Stephanie Meyers' Twilight book series has not only dominated the box office and teen hearts since its release, but has contributed to the release of other young adult fantasy franchises like The Hunger Games and the upcoming The Host. After four years of filming, new characters, rumors, romances, star-studded premieres and sequels, The Twilight Saga is coming to an explosive close.
Anyone familiar with the series knows that Breaking Dawn - Part 2 is not only the series' epic finale, but also a huge game changer for each of the characters. Buzzine’s Emmanuel Itier met with the expansive cast, including Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz, Elizabeth Reiser, Peter Facinelli and Michael Sheen, to discuss being a part of such a massive pop-culture phenomenon, creating a new film sub-genre, what’s next, and what The Twilight Saga has given them...
Emmanuel Itier: I’m sure after over four years of filming and five films, you never thought this day would come. The Twilight Saga is coming to a close. For all intents and purposes, the characters are going out with a bang in this epic finale. What is it about the story of Breaking Dawn - Part 2 that is different from the films that have come before?
Robert Pattinson: Yeah, there's a bunch of different stuff. It's kind of... having a kid for one thing, it's very, very different. I know when I signed on to the movies, I'd only read the first three books, and I would never have said in the fourth one they'd have a kid who also grows to be an 11-year old within about three months, and that Jacob would fall in love with her as well! [Laughs] I mean, it's completely crazy. But yeah, that and doing kind of the vampire sex stuff… it's all pretty crazy.
EI: We’ve heard that you and Kristen had to act out your sex scenes in first person, looking directly at the camera. It’s a pretty intimate way to shoot that sort of scene. Was that an off-putting experience for you?
RP: Yeah, we were, like, by ourselves half the time. There was just with the cameraman, and we're sort of sitting there trying to look sexy. But I haven't seen the movie yet, so I don't know how it turned out.
EI: In terms of the final product, how do you feel about the arc your character has taken over these five films? You’ve taken Edward, a now iconic character in teen lit and teen film, and carried him through different stories and personal changes. Are you happy with the way your character evolved and how the series concludes?
RP: Yeah. I mean I always kind of thought… I mean, what I was trying to set up for his character arc from the first one was, he's kind of fossilized at the beginning, and then he meets Bella and she cracks him open. He suddenly starts to feel for the first time in 80 years and then spends the rest of the movies kind of catching up to normal people, and then becomes kind of a normal guy at the end. [Laughs] It feels like quite a complete journey, I think.
EI: And how has this entire experience changed you? What do you see as being the biggest change within yourself, over the course of the last five films?
RP: I think I was kind of obsessed with being tortured at the beginning, feeling... to be an artist, you have to be so confused and in pain all the time. And I think, as I got older, I gradually learned to not be like that as much. It may not be a good thing, though! [Laughs]
EI: Twilight became an overnight phenomenon, and since the first film’s release, more teen fantasy novels have been adapted for the big screen. Do you feel at all responsible for creating this new genre?
RP: I don't know. It is funny that... Because when Harry Potter came out, it didn't seem like every other young adult series was being made into a movie. When Twilight came out, you cannot find a young adult trilogy which is not being made into a movie anymore, or a TV series. But I don't really think it's to do with me; it's definitely [Stephanie] Myers.
EI: After being tied to such a huge project for so many years, do you feel a sense of freedom now, to do anything you want? What’s coming up next for you?
RP: I don't know if you feel "free." I mean I've been really lucky in the jobs I've got for next year. I'm doing another movie with David Cronenberg which is going to be cool, and I'm working Werner Herzog as well, and in January doing this movie called The Rover, with David Michôd. I've never done a movie which is incredibly violent before, and it's very, very, very violent.
Emmanuel Itier: Though you’ve carried on a very diverse career outside of the Twilight films, there’s no denying that this franchise has been a huge part of your life. This last film must be very special to you – what was unique about filming this last piece of the Bella Swan/Edward Cullen puzzle?
Kristen Stewart: I guess the biggest difference in making the last Twilight was the ease at which it all sort of flowed out. Having played human Bella along the way the entire time and making the change, you know, the jump into vampire land, it didn't feel like a change; it just sort of felt like the next, very natural step.
Also, because everything is sort of... every question in her mind and in her heart has been put to rest. Now, the imposing danger is really just coming from the outside, whereas before, there was major inner turmoil. So now, to play her as such an assured, very sort of stand-up person, it was just a little bit less stressful, even though the movie is chock full of milestone moments, with just, like… the wedding, and the birth, and all of those. They happened so naturally that, yeah, it was just a lot of fun.
EI: You finally get to play around with vampire stunts with the rest of the cast. Did you find those particularly challenging or difficult?
KS: I loved doing all the fight stuff. It was fun doing action that wasn't just 100% perilous. Usually, Bella is just in a lot of danger and taking a lot of hits and falling down and running away, and this was all about running towards what you were fighting. And that was fun because I got to sit around and watch everybody else do it for ages. [Laughs]
The love scene was interesting. Bill [Condon] had said that he wanted the experience to be very shared, that he wanted it to feel like you were kind of inside of it. And to do that, he had us do our close-ups directly into camera, and you can see yourself. Instead of looking at Rob, I was looking at my ridiculous sexy face. I don't think that they used many of those shots, to be honest. It was pretty awkward. But yeah, it was good, I think… hopefully.
EI: There’s no denying that the Twilight series has been incredibly influential in the movie business. After the success of your franchise, we’re seeing other young adult fantasy series coming to the big screen. What do you think about this new sub-genre that you and the rest of the Twilight team have created?
KS: It's great what the fan base has done just in terms of acknowledging that there is definitely a gap to be filled. You know, people only want to make movies in Hollywood if they're guaranteed to be successful, and now they've proven that they exist and that's fantastic. It's important to take youth seriously. I don't know; I think that makes for much more well-rounded adults. Yeah, it's cool.
EI: Lastly, on the tail end of promoting the very last Twilight film, what do you think has been the biggest change within yourself? How have you grown with the series, and what has it given you?
KS: Well, it's been, like, five years. I think at the end of any five-year experience, you're going to see a difference between who you were and who you are. But at the same time, I feel very much like Bella in that I haven't changed aspects of who I am; I've just sort of gotten to know them better and I can use them. I can actually, like, really utilize what I've got rather than trying to figure out exactly what your tools are. I mean you get a little bit older and you really realize what you want, and so it's easier to go and get it.
Emmanuel Itier: After five films and over four years of filming, you’ve finally come to the conclusion of The Twilight Saga. Besides being the very last of these movies, what do you think sets Breaking Dawn - Part 2 apart from its predecessors?
Taylor Lautner: Yeah. This one is very different than any of the other ones. One, the dynamic between the characters is different. My character Jacob realizes the correct place for Bella in his life, so the love triangle is kind of over now. So it's nice to see the characters happier with each other. And then there's a lot of action in this one, more than any of the other ones, so I think the guys will definitely appreciate that. There's plenty of new characters that are introduced. It's a big movie. It's very epic.
EI: Are you happy with the way your character evolved over the course of these five movies?
TL: Yeah. Jacob was an extraordinary character to play because he never stopped growing and never stopped changing throughout the whole series. I mean he started this franchise as a little boy and he matured quite a bit. And by the end of this one, he is a man. He finds himself in this one, which is very nice, and I couldn't have asked for more of a character to play than Jacob.
EI: You’ve portrayed him for so many years at such an important time in your life… how did The Twilight Saga and the character of Jacob change you – both as an actor and as a person?
TL: I grew up a lot myself during this process, because I was 15-years old when I started this franchise. And now I'm 20, so I've matured alongside Jacob and, I mean, I have this to thank for that. This definitely helped me. And I learned so much throughout this process, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I soaked up everything. I'm very thankful for it.
EI: How does it feel to be a part of something so huge in pop culture? After the success of Twilight, many other young adult fantasy/romance novels have been adapted for the big screen. What do you think about this new sub-genre of movies?
TL: Yeah, I definitely think Twilight can take a bit of credit for that. I think the real credit goes to Stephanie Myer because she did… she started this all. I mean, all we did was brought what she put on the pages onto the big screen. But yeah, there's a lot of franchises now, a lot of book series being turned into movies, and a lot of them are working, which is great.
EI: Now that the movie is about to come out, and the whole process is coming to an end, do you feel like a free man? With the way movies are being rebooted left and right, could you ever see yourself participating in a future Twilight reboot?
TL: Yeah, it is. It's a strange feeling that it's all done, and I guess you could say that I feel a little freer. But I don't know. I'm looking forward to that next chapter and doing different things. I'm not sure about a reboot. I'm just finishing this, for crying out loud. I can't even think about that yet. But I'm definitely looking forward to some new things.
Emmanuel Itier: After four novels, five films, and millions of adoring fans, The Twilight Saga is coming to a close. Filming Breaking Dawn - Part 2 must have been a unique experience, after working on the series for so long. Besides being the epic conclusion, what do you think sets Part 2 apart from the other films?
Jackson Rathbone: You know, I think the idea that it was the last of the series held a certain amount of weight and levity. It was a very long shoot, though—seven months—we felt like we were shooting one movie that took seven months. A very long movie. There's a lot of wonderful new casts, very exciting scenes, some surprises, some heartfelt moments, and I think what Bill was able to bring to the series is a wonderful sense of nostalgia.
Nikki Reed: The process of filming was very different. We introduced 20 or 30 new characters. I think for the last four years, we've kind of had a routine down and it was kind of, I don't know, shook up a little bit with this last one. We spent a long time shooting certain scenes. I'm sure you know what I'm referring to, the surprise scenes, and so I feel like there was a lot of intensity there.
EI: When you first signed on for the first film, did you have any idea where your characters were headed? Are you pleased with their journey, and their adaptation from the books?
JR: Whenever I signed on for Twilight, I read ahead in the books and really wanted to kind of understand my character and see where he was going in order to play where he should start. And so from the original Twilight, to kind of play him as, like, freakish, uncomfortable around humans, and then to develop him up to New Moon, where he nearly kills Bella, to Eclipse, where he can redeem himself, and here in Breaking Dawn, he's a little bit more relaxed. But he's going to always fight for his family, and for the love of his life, Alice. I think that there's a certain development and arc there that I was very excited to play, since day one.
NR: I felt very attached to Rosalie because I felt she was so misunderstood. That challenge was very appealing, I think, to me. Thank God we made it to the end because we finally got to see that there's more to Rosalie than just a stinky face.
JR: It wasn't stinky. It smelled wonderful, like roses.
EI: Fantasy and teen romance have always gone hand in hand, but Twilight really revitalized the popularity of the genre. What do you think about this trend, and how do you feel about being a part of something so huge?
JR: It's interesting to think about it in that aspect. I think what Stephanie was able to do was kind of tap into this psyche of people that says, you know, it's like there's a certain amount of formative years you spent in your teens where you really discover yourself and you shape who you are. You're constantly learning and you're constantly developing over the course of—through the years, but there's a very defined time in your teens where you make a lot of choices, and you're brave, and you're bold, and you're fearless, and I think that's something that people resonated with.
NR: I feel like, especially in Hollywood, you see something that's a success and you think that the recipe for it is laid out in front of you, so I have seen a lot of—there's a lot of "vampire/werewolf theme" shows going on right now, and I think it's fantastic. I mean how exciting is that, that we were a part of, sort of, the first in that category—the young, teen demographic as well? But I don't know if The Hunger Games necessarily falls in line with that. That's sort of its own sort of cool, unique thing. I don't think they were following in our footsteps at all.
Emmanuel Itier: You two have now played Esme and Carlisle for five films. Now that it’s all over, and you have the scope of time and distance from each sequel, what sets this one apart?
Elizabeth Reaser: Well, it's the epic conclusion and it's probably the most romantic movie, I think, out of the series, and also has some of the most intense action of all the movies. But for me, more than anything it was the only way to really say goodbye to all these characters. It was just the conclusion was so beautiful and so moving.
Peter Facinelli: Yes, I agree.
EI: In what way do you think your character evolved? Were you satisfied with the evolution of the character and how the story ends?
ER: I was, yeah. Esme really got to sort of transform over the course of the series. She got stronger, she got fiercer; she really had to step up for her family. And I think, at the beginning, she was very content to live a demure peaceful life, and yet this human came in and put our family in danger and made us vulnerable to the Volturi, so she really had to step up and become a real partner with Dr. Carlisle.
PF: I think Carlisle, you know, he's been around for 350 years; he's seen a lot. He's almost seen it all, so he's always the steady rock of the family, even in times of crisis. But this last chapter, this finale, the stakes are so high for him because it's not just a matter of losing his granddaughter and his family, but for him, it's about losing his whole ideology. I mean he started this vegetarian vampire coven, and I think in his mind, he hopes that this might catch on. Maybe Edward and Bella will create a vampire coven and it might spread, and maybe one day vampires and humans can live amongst each other. And if the Volturi come and wipe out our family, then that ideology is gone.
EI: How does it feel to sort of be the pioneers of these huge teen fantasy franchises?
ER: Well, I'm happy to see that young girls have these franchises. When I was growing up, there were no big franchise movies with young women as the lead role, so I think that's exciting. I mean we've had female directors, female writers, so I think it's very different. I think times are changing, and I think kids go out to the movies.
PF: I'm jealous of them because in some way, our franchise kind of paved the road a little bit for them. I know Hunger Games came out, and right away they knew they were shooting all three books, and for us it was like every time we finished a movie, we didn't know... even as popular as it is... well, are we going to get to do the second book? Are we going to get to do the third book? And we would all be waiting for an announcement. And so it was always like there's this anxiety of are we going to get to finish it, and so for them, it's like they did one movie, and now they're like, "Oh, we're doing 2 and 3."
Emmanuel Itier: Now that you’ve finished work on all five Twilight movies, what’s different about this last chapter?
Kellan Lutz: You know, I think everyone is just looking forward to seeing vampire Bella. My character wanted her to be changed right away. And here we are five movies in, and finally we get to play. We get to play some ball. And Kristen, I'm sure, was having such a great time playing it.
You know, at the ending, we did something special for the fans that are really going to get them with their jaws on the floor.
EI: With so much rich back-story from the books, and an entire series of sequels, are you happy with the evolution of your character?
KL: Yeah. You know, any time you get to really play the same character over and over again, you get to fill them up and you get to just keep on adding more and more back-story and depth to them. My character has just been a blast to play because he's the comedic relief. And then, he also is the protector. So, what great two roles to play?
He's not the moody one; he's not the depressed one. He's not the emo one. He's the fun one.
EI: The series does bring up some darker elements. Even being the comic relief, did Twilight, or Breaking Dawn Part 2, make you think about some of those issues like life and death… mortality… that you hadn’t before?
KL: No, no. I always stand with I love life because death is imminent and it's going to happen one way or the other. I think that's what makes life so worth living. I'm a risk-taker by nature, so it's really important for me to do something extreme and really challenge and push myself. I think that's what keeps us so young and enjoying life; obviously smart decisions, but nothing too chaotic and dangerous.
But if you had immortality, I think you'd be stripped of that satisfaction because, to a point, you've done everything extreme and you can't die. So you'd feel a bit empty without that risk.
KL: Well, not necessarily alone, but just what's the meaning of life then? There's no death. You know, if you're just being able to experience everything. You're going to see a lot of bad moments in life; you're going to see a lot of good moments in life. But then again, it's like… there's something about death that is beautiful.
EI: The fans would definitely agree. You also can claim some responsibility for helping to shape a new sub-genre of young adult, fantasy romance movies. What do you think about this new trend of adapting from these teen novels?
KL: Of course, it's good news. It's good news for the industry and for the people who go and want to see and get lost for a couple hours and watch these movies.
EI: After being in the franchise for so long, and over so many years, how do you think you’ve changed? What has Twilight given you?
KL: When you're a part of something like this and when you grow from—for me, I was 23 and now I'm 27, so in life, that's a lot of life to grow in. And then being a part of something like this that's given us all so many opportunities, it's like I get to travel the world, which is one of my favorite things to do. It's just brought so much opportunity my way that I'm just so thankful for. It's just perk on perk on perk.
EI: Besides being thankful for what Twilight has done for you, and your career, does it feel a little freeing to be finished? What’s up next for you?
KL: Yeah, there is a bit of a freedom that comes with it because being a part of something like this, it's made a name for us, which has opened up all the doors like I had said. But then also, I think it's important to be hands-on and creative with your own career and kind of manage it and create the opportunities for yourself.
And now, in regards to that, I'm getting myself into producing and I want to create some really great, smart action movies. That’s what I like. So it's good to be hands-on as much as scripts are coming your way. You can very much create your own material. It's a good time in life to be creative.
Emmanuel Itier: You’ve done so many different films and interesting characters. For this particular movie – being a part of a massive franchise that teens have gone wild for – what challenges did you encounter along the way?
Michael Sheen: The main challenge, I suppose, is knowing there's so much expectation with these films; so many people that have read the books and they're so passionate about it and it's come to mean so much to them, so just taking on a character that is already quite fully-formed in people's heads... they have their own version of it... and hoping that people accept what I do with it, that's one of the big challenges of it.
But I think with this particular film, because it's the end of the whole saga, trying to make sure that it's exciting, dramatic, but also a kind of satisfying end for the audience. You've gone through, you know, some people have grown up watching these films, and so hopefully it'll be something that they're all pleased with.
EI: What is this particular film - Part 2 of the last book - about for you?
MS: Well, I remember when I first started reading the books, when I knew I was going to be involved, and I was really taken back to my own teenage years when those first times that I felt I'd fallen in love with someone, or the first time I broke up with someone, and the huge epic emotions that you can feel. And I thought that the books really managed to capture that, so I think that's part of the big power of the story.
I don't think there's necessarily a message, but the fact that we follow this young girl's journey into womanhood and all the dilemmas and choices that she's faced with, I think a lot of young girls have really related to that, and I think that does it a great service. I think Stephanie, through her books, and now subsequently, the films have done a great service to that story.
EI: Why do you think this one stands on its own? How is it different from the other ones?
MS: Yeah, well this film has got 18 new vampire characters that are coming into it, so there's a lot of new characters that we meet. They all have their unique gifts and it's really enjoyable seeing all those different qualities. I think this film has got a lot more action than the other films. You know, it's the big climactic showdown between the Volturi and the Cullens. It's got a lot of humor, I think, as well. There's a lovely kind of tongue in cheek quality about some of the elements. Things that people have found funny about the other films kind of gets included in this in a kind of knowing way, which I think is really great. And also, of course, it's the end of the whole thing, so we get to look back on things; we get to kind of say goodbye to characters. And also for people who know the books very well, there's some big, big shocks and surprises. So I think this film has kind of got everything.
EI: Were there were a lot of liberties taken from the book?
MS: Well, there's one particular element in the film—without giving anything away—that I think the more familiar you are with the story, the more shocked you'll be by what happens. But it's all within the world of the book and it resolves itself in a way that sort of makes sense later, so it's not like we've messed around with things too much.
EI: Do you think it's a new trend—how do you see the movie experience being changed by teenage movies?
MS: Well, movies are very cyclical and the trends that happen come and go. But obviously, seeing how successful stories are that are based on teenage audiences, you know, obviously we've seen a whole spate of those kind of things. But the ones you've mentioned, like The Hunger Games, they're based on books. They're fantastic stories. They're great, great opportunities to make something cinematic.
Another, Ender's Game is going to be a film adaptation as well, but these are fantastic books. And if it gets people to go back to the books as well, that's no bad thing. But I'm sure we're not going to see the end of films being made out of teenage books. But as long as the stories are as good and as relevant, it'll only...
The films will only be a success if the story itself speaks to the audience. So as long as they're as good as Twilight and The Hunger Games and Ender's Game and things like that, then I think it's fine.
'Breaking Dawn - Part 2', the epic conclusion to The Twilight Saga, will be released in theaters nationwide Friday, November 16th, 2012.