It’s safe to say that most people were completely unaware of the existence of Twilight and its sequels when they were first released in the United States in 2012. The young adult vampire romance had debuted in other countries several years earlier and was now finding its way into the American mainstream.
And it’s not like it wasn’t expected to be a big success. The Twilight saga was the culmination of seven years of careful building by the studio Summit Entertainment. Beginning with the moderately successful Harry Potter film series in 2001, Summit founder and CEO Thomas Tull had set out to create a Young Adult franchise that would appeal to both movie-goers and book readers. The first step had been Take Me To Twilight, a 2007 film based on Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling novel of the same name. It starred Robert Pattinson and Kate Winslet as two lovers forced to go on the run after their relationship is threatened by the vampire mafia. Though it wasn’t a financial success, the film received positive reviews and helped introduce the world to Twilight and its heroine, Bella.
With the second Twilight movie, Twilight Saga: Eclipse, now in theaters, Tull and Summit have once again demonstrated their knack for creating lucrative franchises based on bestselling YA novels. The film is the long-awaited conclusion to Bella’s story, which began with Twilight and continued with its three sequels and a prequel novella. In Eclipse, as Bella struggles with her newfound identity as a vampire, she joins forces with a team of werewolves led by a mysterious alpha male named Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). Together, they band together to protect Bella and her friends as they navigate the dangerous world of the supernatural.
With each successive film, Twilight has only gotten more popular. Four years after its premiere, Twilight was still the No. 3 top-grossing movie in the United States at the box office, behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World.
What has made Twilight so appealing to audiences is not just the series’ big celebrity names but also its ability to capture the cinematic magic that is only present in big-budget Hollywood productions. Though set in modern day, the series evokes the look and feel of an old-school Hollywood movie with its dazzling special effects and breathtaking action scenes. It also boasts one of the most recognizable soundtracks in entertainment history, composed by Grammy Award-winning musician John Williams. While other series might opt for a more realistic approach, Twilight always finds a way to stay slightly fantastical, even when dealing with very real-life situations. This cinematic quality has made the series popular among both fans and newbies alike, providing an escape from the everyday for those who found joy and inspiration in the characters’ journey.
Robert Pattinson Before Twilight
Before Twilight, Robert Pattinson had already starred in two other financially successful young adult franchises: the comedy franchise Birds of Prey and the horror series The Twilight. Both of those titles were the starting point for a newfound interest in YA fiction that would later blossom into a full-fledged love affair with the genre. He would eventually star in all five of Meyer’s Twilight films as well as the upcoming 2019 Snow White prequel, The Curse of Snow White.
The Walking Dead is also often credited with jump-starting the current YA trend, as the hit show made its debut in 2010 and immediately became one of the biggest, if not the biggest, money-makers of all time, raking in billions at the box office worldwide. The film series based on the show, along with the books that inspired it, have also been massive bestsellers. While The Walking Dead focuses on gut-wrenching stories of survival, its popularity also reflects the escapism that comes with many YA series. It’s no wonder that Hollywood has recognized the potential of this growing market and begun pumping out new YA movies and TV shows, with big-name celebs like Pattinson and Lautner lending their star power to the trend.
Kate Winslet Before Twilight
Kate Winslet had already established herself as a major player in the American film industry when Twilight debuted in 2012. The esteemed actress had won rave reviews for her performances in the likes of Revolutionary Road and The Holiday, as well as a Golden Globe for her role in The Reader. Winslet had also proven herself to be a talented dancer, having appeared in numerous musicals and films, including the original Titanic, which she subsequently reprised in a critically acclaimed stage production.
Though her acting career had taken off, Winslet hadn’t lost sight of her real passion, which was performing on stage. She had even gone on to establish herself as a singer-songwriter, penning such classic hits as “Tiny Little Arms” and “When You’re Gone”, as well as the title track for the 2010 stage musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. She had also collaborated with her Dance Moms costar Tyra Banks on a special performance of the latter’s dance routines for a Twilight-themed episode of the former’s popular reality series, and had even performed at the show’s wrap party.
Banks had been on the forefront of establishing the Dance Moms franchise, which has aired for ten seasons and counting. The show has built itself a huge following by chronicling the misadventures of a group of moms who dance for a living. Though ostensibly geared toward adult viewers, the series has been very successful with audiences of all ages, and many of its alumni have gone on to further established themselves as solo artists. It’s no wonder that the producers of the show had chosen Winslet to reprise her role as a dance teacher for a Twilight-themed episode, as Banks’s involvement in the franchise already assured it a dedicated following among younger viewers. This was further evidenced by the fact that as of 2014, over 22.1 million people had viewed the one-off special on YouTube alone.
While Twilight would mark a huge turning point in both Robbins’ careers, the success of the series hasn’t been all good news. The actress has had to deal with some serious personal tragedy. At age 34, Pattinson had lost his mother, Carrie Fisher, to Alzheimer’s disease. The actress had also lost her battle with drug addiction a few years earlier and had to go through extensive rehabilitation. Though she has kept busy with her career, the tragedy has undoubtedly weighed on her. In a 2016 interview, Pattinson admitted that he still thought about Carrie every day and hadn’t gotten over her death yet. He also noted that it was taking him a while to trust people again.
The Making of Twilight
Summit Entertainment’s Twilight is consistently cited as one of the greatest cultural phenomenons of the 21st century, due in large part to its unprecedented success and the fact that it sparked a YA frenzy that is still going strong. Its seven-year production process and international appeal are what made it possible. It began with a novel that was turned down by eighteen publishers before being accepted by one, Hachette. The story would later be turned down by another seventeen publishers before being picked up by Dymaxion Pictures, a major studio in the Middle East. The film’s budget was eventually tallied at $55 million, with additional spending on special effects and costumes.
The film’s director, Chris Weitz, would go on to helm the successful American Pie film franchise. Though he had previously expressed interest in directing an adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s The Host, it was Twilight that cemented Weitz’s Hollywood talent. The two-time Oscar nominee had managed to balance the film’s large scale with a sensitive treatment of Bella’s mentally ill father, Charlie. Weitz’s approach had won over both fans and critics alike, with many hailing Twilight as the best film of the year. Weitz himself would say of the film, “It has a realism that is very poetic and emotional, and a surrealism that is very visual and entertaining.”
Though the production had been a financial and critical success, it had also been a time-consuming one. Weitz had to fight for every scene he wanted, and though he had a final cut of the film, he would often watch dailies and request re-shoots. It was, in other words, a labor of love. Weitz had even gone as far as to dub in his own voice several lines of narration over the climax of the film, as he felt that the story deserved a sense of realism that was not present in the original book. He later revealed that he had read the Twilight novel in four days, falling in love with the story all over again before calling Charlie to tell him about his passion for the project. Weitz had then spent ten months traveling the world to see how a young adult fantasy would look and play on the big screen. Now, with Twilight getting ready to enter its tenth anniversary year, Weitz could finally rest easy, knowing that his baby would be taken care of, professionally and financially.