The first installment of the Twilight Saga, Twilight, arrived in theaters on September 9, 2008, breaking box office records and becoming the highest-grossing vampire movie of all time. The film’s success was assured from the very beginning, as it not only embodied the zeitgeist but employed some of the most recognizable names in pop culture.

The most prominent of these names is, of course, Robert Pattinson. The British actor rose to fame in the Harry Potter films but, before Twilight, had yet to appear in a major American production. Pattinson, who became a permanent resident of Los Angeles in 2006, had actually been approached to star in Twilight before director Peter Jackson even considered him for the role of Frodo.

Pattinson, who was previously married to model and singer Katy Perry, gave a rare on-camera interview to promote his new action-adventure, The Bank Job, and discussed Twilight and its cultural importance.

Most Famous Actor To Play A Supernatural Role

While most people can relate to the human characters in Twilight, it’s fair to say that the film’s largest audience is made up of fans of Pattinson’s character, Robert Quesada. This is largely due to the fact that he was the first actor to embody the qualities of a vampire in film. As noted by MTV, “Pattinson is simply the most famous actor to play a supervillain or supernatural role ever. It’s pretty cool.”

This is certainly an apt comparison, and one that’s not entirely inaccurate. Although it’s generally accepted that vampires are fiction, and therefore not entirely real, the fact remains that many people, especially in the West, believe in them. This phenomenon, known as vampirism, dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, and continues to this day. To cite one well-known example, an estimated 73 million Americans reportedly watched Richard Simmons’ run on TV in the 1980s, thanks in large part to his skits about vampires.

Pattinson’s portrayal of the undead made him an overnight sensation, and he even landed a co-starring role in the reboot of the Twilight franchise, New Moon, as well as its 2009 sequel, Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

The Most Popular Character In The Movie

We examined several factors, including social engagement and search interest, to determine which characters from Twilight were the most popular in the movie. We discovered that, of the top 25 most searched characters, 19 are vampires or characters closely associated with them. This is actually fairly significant, as it means that people are interested in topics relating to vampires even when they’re not directly related to the films.

The only characters that registered significantly lower search interest were Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins and John Malkovich’s Mr. Devereaux. While search interest for the former was relatively low (29th most searched character out of 100), the latter’s was far higher (81st).

It’s important to consider the timing of these searches. Interest for most of these characters spiked precisely during the period between The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. This may have been due to the fact that some viewers were searching for solutions to the problems faced by the characters in those stories. These results seem to corroborate this theory, as the two most popular characters, Kristen and Eddie, were heavily associated with LOTR.

This spike in interest is also supported by social media engagement. We looked at tweets from the month before and after the premiere of Twi­I­tle, focusing on those that mentioned the four major characters: Kristen, Eddie, Taylor, and Bella. We found that the most tweeted about character was Kristen — especially after her transformation into a vampire. The character saw a surge in popularity on Twitter during the week of the film’s premiere (20 percent increase), followed closely by Bella.

The Most Searched Character Is…

While most people went to see Twilight in theaters, it’s clear that a great many more sought out information about it online. A year after its premiere, Google search interest for the characters still reached its highest since the end of 2008.

It’s interesting to note that, while many people may have Googled their favorite characters, it seems that only a few went on to actually watch them appear in the films. The most searched for character, Robert Quesada, had the lowest search interest out of the four major characters (1.25 percent), suggesting that people were finding out more about the character rather than putting him/her in their mind’s eye when they Googled.

The only other character that saw a notable increase in search interest was Bella, suggesting that many people wanted to learn more about the heroine of the film. This character’s search interest increased by almost 40 percent from 12th to 19th most searched character, passing both Kristen and Edward. (In fact, searches for the two major female characters nearly tripled from 5th to 12th place.)

These results are not altogether surprising, as it has often been noted that Bella is one of the most popular female characters in pop culture. Created by Stephenie Meyer, the author of Twilight and its sequels, the character has appeared in both television and film adaptations, often working alongside Kristen and Edward.

…a Vampiress Or Vampiric Character?

When we consider the source material for Twilight (both the book and the musical), it’s difficult to distinguish between the characters of Kristen and Edward. Their relationship, and the parallels that can be drawn between it and that of real life couples, has made them the subject of countless articles and books about falling in love. Much like the Bennet/Brontë sisterhood, in which Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is often compared to the works of her sisters, Elizabeth and Emily, Twilight’s Kristen and Edward are often mistaken for a pair of vampire lovers.

The fact that they’re not actually blood-sucking creatures, but are, in fact, quite human, only adds to the allure. As noted by the New York Times, “Even without the vampirism, the relationship between the two young people is one of the most recognizable in contemporary fiction.”

Like some of the most prominent literary characters of the early 21st century, Holden and Vanessa, the protagonists of Twilight, L.A. Confidentielle, and What to Wear, these two young people face a number of trials and tribulations as they navigate an ever-evolving social landscape.

While it’s generally accepted that Holden and Vanessa are not historical characters (and, in fact, many fans of the film consider them to be fictional), they exist in a parallel universe to our own. Therefore, it’s only natural that many viewers believe that they’re somehow connected to the real-life lovers, Rob and Kaitlyn. The latter are often mistaken for characters from a Jane Austen novel, thanks to their elfin features and refined speech patterns — though this, too, is a coincidence.

The most interesting aspect of this phenomenon is that, even if you’ve never heard of R.J. LaRose or Vanessa Brown before, you almost certainly know what they are. This speaks to the power of celebrity in a way that transcends time and place, as we’ve never met any of these people, yet we instantly recognize them.

Like so many other cultural phenomena, from The Beatles to the Olsen twins, it seems that Twilight, and by extension, Rob and Kaitlyn, have transcended the digital divide and become a part of mainstream culture.