Twilight is about to turn to dusk. When The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 hits cinemas this week, it will bring the curtain down on arguably the biggest pop culture phenomenon of the past decade. Based on Stephenie Meyer’s hugely popular quartet of novels, the movies have so far generated a staggering US$2.5 billion (Dh9.2bn) at the global box office and made superstars out of its two leads, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, who play the vampire Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, the ordinary teenage girl who Edward becomes dangerously attracted to.
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It’s bizarre to think but when Twilight made its debut in November 2008, we’d barely heard of R-Patz and K-Stew, as Pattinson and Stewart eventually became known in the tabloid media after they became a couple in real life. Back then, the British-born Pattinson, then just 22, was a relative unknown (despite playing Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) while Stewart, then 18, was an indie actress with just David Fincher’s Panic Room of note on her CV.
For Pattinson, playing Edward Cullen not only made his career, it saved it. “If I hadn’t done Twilight, I’m not even sure if I’d be acting anymore,” he reflects.
He was, by his own estimation, “done” with the business, which was seeing him paid minimum wage to appear in low-budget films such as Little Ashes, in which he featured as the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí.
“I got Twilight afterwards, completely by fluke. I had no money, and I had to pay a tax bill,” he says.
When Twilight crept out of the shadows, Pattinson became a teen idol overnight – set upon by screaming adolescent girls wherever he went.
All of a sudden, vampires became cool – with shows such as True Blood and classy Euro movies such as Let the Right One In capitalising. With Twilight’s aching romance causing a revolution in young adult fiction, as book series such as The Hunger Games and I Am Number Four grew in popularity, the franchise also became ripe for parody. A sure sign of the effect it had made on popular culture, South Park, Saturday Night Live (“Firelight” with Taylor Swift) and the Funny or Die website (“Dark Moon”) all ribbed its adolescent angst. Understandably, Twilight has left its stars with mixed feelings; sad that this whirlwind is now over but happy to move on.
“I don’t want to distance myself from Twilight,” argues Stewart. “That’s another thing that people assume, the different choices that I’ve been making, trying to get away [from Twilight].
“And it’s something I love looking back on. It took four years. But I’m lucky that I could have done movies in between, or else I would have gone crazy. I would have lost my mind playing the same character for that long.” For Pattinson, you can also sense the relief that he has finally put Edward to rest, after the marathon six-month shoot of Breaking Dawn, which saw the film’s director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) marshal two episodes back-to-back.
“Actually, doing the job got quite hard, because I was running out of ideas,” Pattinson admits. “The character doesn’t change – you can’t die, you can’t get hurt. So what do you do? I just ran out of ideas.”
This final episode – the second part of Meyer’s final novel Breaking Dawn – will pick up where Part 1 left off, with Bella giving birth to Edward’s half-vampire/half-human baby before dying and being resurrected, by Edward, as a vampire.
“The last one is very, very final,” says Pattinson. “It’s very, very crazy. And it’s funny as well, which is strange. It’s really funny. Bill is in his element. You can see all the different influences – you can see Dreamgirls in it!” Twilight the musical? Don’t bet against it.