I’m a big fan of the Twilight Saga and have been for years. When I heard that Stephenie Meyer was adapting her best-selling novels for the big screen, I couldn’t wait to see what her cinematic take was going to be like. Luckily, Eclipse was released last year to largely positive critical and commercial reception and Meyer has proven herself as a capable storyteller in the big screen, adapting her novels with confidence while also making them her own unique vision. In honour of the third film’s impending release this week, I talked to star Robert Pattinson about his experience playing Edward Cullen and the legacy of the Twilight Saga.
How Did You Come To Be The Ideal Edward?
When Stephenie Meyer first emailed me about the possibility of me playing Edward Cullen in the film adaptation of her Twilight Saga, I wasn’t really sure what to think. At the time, I was living in New York and just starting to get into producing, so I was hardly the ideal candidate. I’d never acted before and had no experience performing arts-related activities, such as reading my scripts out loud or memorising my lines. I was also going through a really bad patch in my personal life and was struggling to find the courage to call myself an actor. So, when I heard that Meyer wanted to meet with me, I was a little scared. Still, I went ahead and had lunch with her at the Grand Central Station, the place she grew up and still goes to sometimes. After we finished eating, she gave me a small glass vial with a powder in it, which I later found out was Rohypnol (rohypnol roche pharmachemie), the date-rape drug. (I wrote about this incident in more detail in my memoir, Here I Am.)
When I met with Meyer a year later and told her I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play Edward, she replied, “You have the perfect body for it.” And she was right. At the time, I was a beanpole with a bit of a belly. Now, I consider myself to be a bit of an expert in the physical arts; I can eat whatever I want and still stay fit. Plus, being an actor has equipped me with the ability to channel any character I play. So, the next thing I know, I’m writing scenes from the point of view of a fictional vampire. That just shows you how much confidence Stephenie Meyer has in me.
How Did You Feel When You Were Recording Your Lines?
When I first started recording my lines, I was a little nervous. I’d never done any acting, so I wasn’t sure how people were going to react when they heard my voice. But once we started filming, it became clear that everyone on set had more confidence in me than I had in myself. Everyone knew what they were doing and that I was basically an extra in the movie, who had to obey the director. So, at first, I’d feel like I was playing a role. But then, as the days went by, it became easier and easier to immerse myself in the world of Edward. My fellow cast and crew would often tell me that I did a good job and that Edward was beginning to feel like me. That felt really good.
I think what happened was that, during recording, I started hearing things in my own voice that I didn’t recognise. Things that sounded strange or that I’d never said out loud before. It was like someone had turned up the volume on my personal monologue and was playing records in the background while I was reading my script. Some of the lines would actually make me chuckle when I heard them, which is something that didn’t happen very often while recording. It was actually quite the opposite – while recording, I felt like I was acting in a movie that wasn’t going to suck.
Do You Think That The Film’s Legacy Will Be That Of Edward’s Development As A Character?
In the film, Edward’s development as a character is really interesting to me. I always thought that the best way to play a vampire was to make them sympathetic creatures – to show that they aren’t just creatures of the night, but that they have feelings and act accordingly. While some people would argue that all vampires should be portrayed as antagonists, I believe that the best stories have them as tragic figures who just want to be accepted for who they are. That’s what I tried to do with Edward – I tried to humanise him. I don’t think that there’s any real precedent for that in mainstream cinema.
What I found really interesting is that while watching the film, people would often come up to me and say that they saw myself in Edward. They would say things like, “He’s the spitting image of [Insert name here].” And I’d have to correct them and tell them no, I’m not [Insert name here], I’m [Insert name here], which is the character I was playing at the time. I’m [Insert name here] and I don’t look like [Insert name here].”
What Would You Change About The Film?
There are a couple of things that I would’ve done differently if I’d known what I know now. (1) I would’ve started rehearsals a lot sooner. It would’ve helped me develop my acting skills and also given me more time to get into character. (2) I would’ve cut out all the fluff. There are a lot of scenes in Twilight that aren’t essential to the story. I remember one time, when we were shooting, Robert Pattinson – who plays my brother, Carlisle – came up to me and said, “Hey, man, there’s a scene that I don’t think is very good – the one with me trying to convince Bella that humans and vampires can live together in peace.”
“I know,” I replied. “But you have to understand that we’re trying to build a cinematic universe here. We have to have as many scenes as possible.”
He looked at me like, “Are you kidding me? That’s a terrible scene.” But, as I said, we were under a lot of time constraints and didn’t have a lot of money, so we couldn’t afford to take out everything. Besides, the scene really wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t that much work, and it wasn’t like we’d have to rebuild the whole city. So, we left it in. I’d done the same thing on my first feature film, Sex and the City 2; I left in some of the more expensive-looking scenes, because we needed the money to make the film. (If someone objects to the fact that Sex and the City 2 had any remotely similar scenes, let me just remind you that we couldn’t have sex or eat food during the shoot, because it would’ve broken the law.)
The downside to cutting out all the extra stuff is that you lose a little bit of the mystique that is part of the Twilight franchise. There’s also the fact that the first couple of films don’t feel complete without all the boring, filler scenes that they include. But, all things considered, I think that the trade-offs are worth it. Without the extra scenes, there wouldn’t be a Twilight franchise to begin with. So, I’m not sure if I could’ve ever imagined a world without Twilight.
In a weird way, I feel like I’ll never really leave Twilight. My character will always be a part of me and he’ll continue to grow, change and develop as long as I do. That’s what’s so great about this franchise. You never really know what’s going to happen next.