A Delicate Casting Process


Twilight First Movie

Twilight’s devoted following has spawned more than 350 websites and cult-like dedication, making casting a delicate process. “If you go on the fan websites, every single person who read the book has already cast the film for you 20 times over,” says Mooradian. “We did take a look at their ideas and we decided we were never going to please everybody, so what we had to do was go with our guts. The actors we cast are the actors we feel best embodied these characters
“It took us forever to cast this movie, but once we found Bella and all the Cullens, I realized we finally had it. When I actually got to see them all together, performing in a scene, it took my breath away, and not because I didn’t expect them to work. I did. But I lived with this book for several years. To actually see all the actors in front of me at one time blew me away.”

Finding an actress to play Bella was paramount. “We are asking a young girl to carry the weight of a franchise on her shoulders,” says Mooradian. “It’s an incredible task. We had to find someone to physically match what we wanted her to be, but also somebody with the depth as a performer to be able to hit all the nuances. The list was very short. Kristen Stewart’s body of work really speaks for itself. In a strange way, she was almost an easy choice when we really looked at it from that perspective.”

Only 17 years old when Twilight filmed, Kristen Stewart has already appeared opposite Jodie Foster in The Panic Room, Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild and Dennis Quaid in Cold Creek Manor.

Stephenie Meyer was immediately impressed with the young star. “Kristen has an amazing number of movies already under her belt,” says Meyer. “Bella has a lot of drama going on. Kristen’s experience came into play there. She has a devastating vulnerability about her that’s so perfect for Bella.”

Before auditioning for the film, says Stewart, she was not familiar with the series. “Then suddenly, everywhere I looked, there was something about Twilight. I was, like, how did I miss this? Everybody I knew had read it.”

As for playing a literary icon for a generation, Stewart says, “I want everybody to be happy. Everybody’s going to see things differently. So many girls are obsessed with the books and want to be Bella, which does make it difficult. I hope, really, really sincerely, that everybody likes it.”

Meyer says that casting Edward was the most difficult task, because, “He has to be everything. He has to be beautiful and dangerous and angst-ridden and intelligent. A lot of guys were pretty, but they weren’t dangerous. Other guys were dangerous but not pretty enough. Rob Pattinson has both sides.”

The onscreen electricity between the two stars was also critical, says Godfrey. “Kristen auditioned with Rob and that was really when people looked at the two of them together and said, ‘That’s the right package.’ Edward’s been basically sleepwalking for a hundred years up until Bella enters his life and, and part of the beauty of the story is watching Edward come to life when Bella comes into his life. Our two leads have a wonderful chemistry.”

Pattinson, who played Cedric Diggory in two Harry Potter films, says that Edward is caught unaware by his attraction to Bella. “From Edward’s perspective, he has nothing, really,” says Pattinson. “He’s spent his entire life fixated on wanting to be human or die. And then Bella comes into his life and destroys any stability he’s been able to create. He initially starts the relationship to test himself. But when he gets to know her realizes this girl has reawakened him to some kind of life.”

The actor has tried hard not to let himself be affected by the task of taking on such a beloved character. “It’s always an added pressure when you’ve got a lot of people with their own opinions of something, and everyone who’s read the book is going to have an idea of what they expect the film to be like. It kind of makes you a little bit more cautious about maintaining your own take on a character.”

The Cullen clan-parents Carlisle and Esme, and adopted “children” Rosalie, Emmett, Jasper, Alice and Edward-are unique in the vampire culture. Carlisle was a vampire hunter 300 years ago. He was bitten and transformed while leading an attack. “Carlisle hated what he had become so much that he forced himself not to feed on humans,” explains Peter Facinelli, the actor who plays him. “He found he could survive on animals-kind of like a human being living on tofu. It’s not quite as appetizing but it provides enough nourishment to get by.”
Greg Mooradian says of the Cullens, “Compared to other vampires, they treat their state as a curse, but one that they’ve learned to manage. If they live this certain way, and they live in a group where they can sort monitor one another, they can do it.”

Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Green, Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone and Nikki Reed portray other members of the clan. Each of the actors is keenly aware of the responsibility that goes along with playing characters this well-loved.

“I’m a reader,” says Reaser (“Grey’s Anatomy”), the movie’s Esme Cullen. “Sometimes I have ideas in my head and when they turn into a movie, it can be horrible. Or it can be amazing. So you hope that people will make the leap with you.”

There was no script available when Green, who plays Alice Cullen, initially auditioned, so she quickly got hold of the book. “I read it within a day and a half to get ready for the audition,” she remembers. “I can see why people are so fanatical about them. It’s a great series and the first vampire film that I’ve come across that concentrates more on the love story than killing and mayhem.”

Despite the book’s popularity, Lutz (“90210”) says he had no idea what he was getting into when he signed on to play Emmett. “I feel quite blessed that Stephanie Meyer wrote Emmett the way he is and I was born the way I am. I really don’t have to do much to portray Emmett, and I think the audience and the fans will enjoy that and see that I am really like Emmett in a way. Okay, I don’t have the super powers and I can’t run up trees and do crazy stuff like that. But I’m a jokester in real life, I love having fun and having such a big family with brothers and sisters.”

Rathbone, whose previous credits include roles on television’s “The Cleaner,” “The O.C.” and “Beautiful People,” plays conflicted family member Jasper Cullen. “I’m always interested in characters that push me to extremes of my own personality, my own psyche,” he says. “The rage element of suppressing all of your natural desires is what attracted me to Jasper. The thing about an iconic character is you have the responsibility to fulfill the shoes of the imagination. A lot of the work is already done. It’s from the mind of Stephenie Meyer and it’s all laid out there in the books.”

In addition to Sarah Clarke (Thirteen) and Ned Ballamy (Lords of Dogtown), Reed is another member of the cast to have worked with Hardwicke previously. In fact, she made her screen debut in Thirteen, which she co-wrote with the director, and later starred in Hardwicke’s skateboarding drama Lords of Dogtown. “It’s definitely not coincidence that I’ve worked with Catherine three times now,” says the actress. “We work very well together and we’re inspired by each other. Catherine is great one-on-one with actors. She even likes to go through wardrobe, hair and makeup with the actors to make sure that we’re all living and breathing the same person.”

Twilight’s appeal, says Reed, crosses the boundaries of age and gender because of its universal themes. “There’s a deeper side. What’s amazing to me is that the books appeal to so many different age groups. Both my parents have read all three books. It’s very rare that my father and I find ourselves living in the same book world. I think it has a lot of adult themes and ideas like unconditional love that human beings in general long for.”

On the other side of the vampire divide lurk three very different lost souls: James, Victoria and Laurent, the nomadic vampires who encroach on Cullen territory and threaten Bella’s life. “I don’t really think of them as bad vampires,” says Meyer. “I think of them as your average vampire. They don’t think anything of killing a human because that’s how they live.”

Edi Gathegi (“House”), who plays Laurent, brings a soupcon of savoir-faire to his role. “We get to leap far and run fast and kill people, we have super sight-it’s kind of thrilling,” he says. “Laurent is French and he’s 300 years old, so he’s got some style and he’s got some class. These vampires have been around for a long time. They’ve got the best fashions, they’ve read the best books, and they’re highly evolved and highly sophisticated superior beings.”

Rachelle Lefevre (“Swingtown”) plays Victoria, the femme fatale of the nomadic vampires. “I sat down and wrote Catherine a three-page handwritten letter about why I needed to play this part,” she confesses. “I talked about how I loved the book, and why I loved vampires so much. I told her that I thought our desire to live forever devalues existence. It’s the ultimate ‘Be careful what you wish for,’ because what gets traded is that everything that had value then has no value. Time doesn’t matter; the fragility of your life doesn’t matter. You get to live forever, but then you lose the value of life.”

The third nomad is more dangerous to Bella than the others combined. James, played by Cam Gigandet (Never Back Down), is a tracker. He hunts for the joy of it and his attention is fixed on Bella, the ultimate prey because she is under the protection of the Cullens. “I love playing bad guys,” says Gigandet. “If I had a choice I would always go with the bad guys. There’s just more to grasp onto.”

Meyer admits to doing very little research on vampire mythology as she was creating her supernatural characters. “I’ve never been into horror. I haven’t read vampire books or watched vampire movies. I really don’t know the popular views on them. I just wanted to write about my vampires; I didn’t want to taint that with other stories.”
But the author has not completely reinvented the creatures, says Mooradian. “It’s more a matter of subtle differences. These vampires reflect in the mirror. They can handle the sunlight. It has an effect on them, but it doesn’t reduce them to ashes. The stake to the heart doesn’t work. She has played with different notions like that, but generally stuck to the mythology of what we perceive to be vampires.”

For Lefevre, the biggest difference is dental. “The first thing that always comes to mind is the fangs,” she points out. “These vampires don’t have any fangs and that is such a classic image. The victims always have the perfect puncture marks and our victims don’t look like that. Our victims look like you had to use the incisors you were given. It’s messier. And they don’t sleep, so there’s no lying in the coffin, or hanging upside down in the bat cave.”

Godfrey points out that not only are the vampires themselves different, so is Bella’s reaction to them. “The contemporary spin that Stephenie put on it is that when Bella finds out Edward is a vampire, her response is more in tune with what I think young adults might feel. We’re so used to the gothic portrayal of vampires and the fearful response that humans have to the creatures of the night, and in this, her reaction is “Hmm, that’s kind of cool.” I think that’s part of the fun of it. Stephenie has redefined vampires for a contemporary American world.”

Next Page: The Life of A Vampire

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