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Summit gave Hardwicke 48 days and $37 million to make Twilight. That's not a lot, especially in retrospect, but nobody knew whether the book's popularity would translate into box-office success. "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, that was successful," Hardwicke says, "but it made $30 million with this kind of fan base." That led to some improvising. In the book, the crucial scene between Bella and Edward in the school parking lot happens on a snow day, but snow is expensive. "So the snow became the rain. And then I had to cut the rain out and show that it had rained with some fake patches of plastic ice."
As it turned out, she could have sprung for the snow. Twilight opened at $69 million the biggest opening ever for a movie directed by a woman.
New Moon Rising
But when it came time to film the sequel, Hardwicke balked. Summit was pushing hard to get the new movie done fast, to keep up the momentum, and she was burned out. Enter Chris Weitz, who was not, by his own admission, the obvious choice. "There was a reasonable amount of skepticism when I took over the second movie," he says. "I understand that. I directed American Pie. I would be worried too." But after a 2½-hour phone conversation with Meyer a fan of Weitz's About a Boy she gave him her blessing.
For New Moon Weitz had more money to play with, about $50 million, but in some ways he had a more difficult assignment. Not only did he have to stay true to Meyer's books, but he also had to follow the tone of Hardwicke's Twilight. Up to a point. "I wanted it to look more old-fashioned than the first movie," he says. "Hardwicke's film was very contemporary, very stylish. Very immediate. That was great. But not me. I'm a bit of an old fogy. What I wanted was wide-screen epic."
Another challenge: Edward is AWOL for most of New Moon. Instead the movie focuses on Bella's relationship with Jacob, the Quileute Indian werewolf played by Taylor Lautner. It helps that Lautner has transformed his abdominal muscles into something resembling armor plate for the role. "I wonder if I might have gone one shirtless scene too many," Weitz says. "Of course, once they turn to wolves, any clothes they're wearing split apart. It's an economic incentive for the disadvantaged Quileutes that they not have to keep going to Target to buy new T-shirts."
While shooting New Moon, the cast and crew began to realize that like Jacob, Twilight had transformed. It's a different beast now: not a fast, maneuverable indie franchise but a global juggernaut. The books have hit No. 1 in 15 countries. Pattinson just got back from Japan, where for the first time he heard the same shrieking that he gets in the U.S. "No one could really speak English, but they reacted in the same way as they have around the world," he says. "Even the distributor was saying, Japanese audiences don't react like this."
It's Twilight not just in America. The shadow has fallen over the entire globe. "It didn't really get out of hand until Italy," Weitz says he filmed scenes in the Tuscan hill town of Montepulciano. "The streets were filled with fans. The nice thing was that they weren't interested in hampering the filming at all. When you asked the crowd of 1,000 people to be quiet, they were absolutely silent. But then when you finished a take, there would be a round of applause, which doesn't happen on a film set."
At the heart of all this are Stewart and Pattinson, who have gone from obscurity straight to superstardom. People wait for them outside buildings. People try to follow them home. "In Vancouver shooting New Moon, I tried something," Pattinson says. "It's the only city in the world where hoods are not fashionable. If you're wearing a hood, you're going to mug people. So I wore a hood, and then I'd sort of spit on the ground a little bit and do a little bit of shaking around as you're walking. Everyone moved to the other side of the street."
If there's an irony to the success of Twilight, it's this: life as the idol at the white-hot center of the hottest entertainment franchise in the world isn't that much different from being a vampire. Pattinson has become the immortal object of global fandom's hopeless yearnings. What began deep in Meyer's unconscious mind has become Pattinson and Stewart's reality. They're living the dream.
With reporting by Bryan Alexander