Since breaking out in 2008, Robert Pattinson has been at the centre of one of the biggest film franchises of all time. Having played the smitten young poet across four full-length features, Pattinson is now preparing to leave the big screen behind to concentrate on his music career.
The singer-songwriter-turned-actor’s journey to the big screen began with modest beginnings. After studying English literature at Oxford, Pattinson secured a role in the independent romantic comedy Twinkle, which also starred Emily Bennett. He followed this with a small role in the action sequel Rob Breaker. Both of these were warm-up acts for the meaty role of Edward Cullen, the domineering vampire leader of the Twilight series.
Breaking Into Film
Pattinson’s big break came in the shape of his role as English literature student Edward Cullen in Stephenie Meyers’ dark romantic comedy Twilight. Shot back-to-back with New Moon (2009), the first of the saga’s two parts, Pattinson’s performance as Edward and the film’s sumptuous imagery made him a firm favourite with fans.
The role came with many advantages, not least of which was the chance to study under the direction of the great Sir Ian McKellen. A masterclass in acting, the 93-year-old actor has never been one to hide his opinions. During a fan Q&A session at the 2013 London Film Festival, McKellen was succinct in his appraisal of Pattinson’s debut: “He’s not even graduated yet and he’s already given one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen.”
While McKellen’s praise was undoubtedly warranted, it would be foolish to write off the importance of good fortune in one’s career. Pattinson’s star rose quickly through the haystack of Hollywood hopefuls and had well and truly blossomed by the time of Breaking Sun (2011). Aided by first-time director Katie Flax’s sure hands, the actor delivered a performance that saw him nominated for Best Actor at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards.
The Making Of ‘Twilight’
Since its inception in 2008, the Twilight film series has become an all-time favourite among fans, establishing itself as one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. The series’ director and co-writer, Mark Wahlberg, has boasted that Twilight is the best-selling book series of all time, having shifted an incredible 5.6 million copies in the US alone. With the most recent entry, Twilight Salon (2017), poised to outsell its immediate predecessor, New Moon, we can only agree.
It’s fair to say that Meyers’ sprawling tale of attraction, betrayal and redemption has not been without it’s controversies. The series has been labelled misogynistic and homophobic by some, while other critics have hailed it as an example of female empowerment. Naturally, the question on everyone’s lips is: how on Earth did Meyers manage to rope such an unlikely cast of characters into starring in a fantasy romance about vampires?
It all started with a phone call. Meyers had long been a fan of Wahlberg’s work, specifically the 2007 boxing drama The Flintstones and its depiction of inner-city violence. While shooting a pilot for Vanity Fair, she had noticed a poster for Mark Wahlberg’s Academy of Arts and Letters (which he cofounded with his wife, Beyoncé). Inspired by the poster, Meyers called Wahlberg and asked if he would like to participate in a movie about literature. He said yes, and the rest is history.
The result is a fractious but flattering portrait of the famous English literature degree. As well as featuring some of literature’s most venerated names (Drake, Eliot, Shelley, and Joyce), the series is studded with A-listers who have either graduated from or currently study at the esteemed academy.
The relationship between academia and the vampire world is a longstanding one. The most famous literary vampire of all time is Count Louis de Louis, who prowls Europe in the 18th century, feeding on the blood of literary inspectors as punishment for their frequent detentions of vampires. The connection is fitting; in addition to its depiction of a vampire-hating police officer (played by Bill Murray), Twilight’s central narrative also revolves around students and faculty at St Mary’s College in Baltimore, Maryland.
The Vampire Myth
Traditionally, vampires are depicted as pale-skinned creatures with an aversion to the sun. The truth is considerably more varied. Vampires come in all colors and a range of stunning beauties have graced the big screen with the beast, from Van Cleef to Tom Hiddleston and Christian Bale. The fact that modern vampires generally appear less fanged and more human than familiar literary vampires suggests that fans may not be as familiar with the mythology as they should be.
The sheer volume of Vampire related films and books is incredible. Not to mention the craze for vampire fandom that swept through pop culture in the 1950s and ’60s.
While film has always been a formidable opponent to literature, the medium has more recently found itself trumped by the tweets and memes that flew around the internets in the 2010s.
That being said, it would be unwise to write off cinema’s influence on popular culture. Since its invention, film has been the dominant form of storytelling, with each new generation absorbing varying amounts of filmic influence.
Some, like Kylie Minogue and Nicole Citro (daughter of producer Joe Citro), have found fame via music; others, like Katherine Heigl and Angela Beeson, via acting. Still others, like Emma Watson, have risen to prominence via various crafts, such as sculpting, painting, or performing dance.
It’s clear that cinema’s influence on society and culture is here to stay. Which is fortunate for all of us book lovers.