The Twilight Saga – Film History

When Stephenie Meyer had a dream about a human falling in love with a vampire little did she realise the books she would go on to write would become a phenomenon. The books predictably generated interest from film studios. In the beginning, Twilight was optioned to Paramount’s MTV Films, however the script based on the book was significantly different. MTV Films decided to drop the project and in 2007 Summit Entertainment purchased the rights to Twilight.

Summit’s first step towards getting the movie into production was hiring Catherine Hardwicke to direct the film. Hardwicke had previous experience in directing teenage centric films such as Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown. She qualified as the perfect choice by Summit to bring Twilight from page to screen. After Catherine Hardwicke read the already written script and the novel, she decided the script should be rewritten. Summit brought in Melissa Rosenberg, who would go on to write all the Twilight film scripts, to write the script from scratch along with the help of Hardwicke. Once the script was complete the process of casting the lead roles begun.

First to be cast was Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan. The announcement was made on Nov 16th 2007 by Summit. After appearing in films such as Into the Wild and In The Land of Women, she was visited by Catherine Hardwicke for an informal screenplay and immediately impressed the director. After her captivating performance, Stewart was given the part. Next to be cast was Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. Pattinson had featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but was not as well known as Stewart. The role of Edward, who is described by Bella as the perfect man, was one much sought after and many actors auditioned. Hardwicke cut it down to four options and each actor screen tested with Stewart in the director’s home.

It was apparent from the moment Pattinson and Stewart interacted that they were destined to play Edward and Bella. Pattinson was cast on Dec 11th 2007. The final lead role was that of Jacob Black. The part was not big for the first film but if the movie succeeded at the box office and the other books were adapted then Jacob played a key role in the story. It was therefore important to cast someone while looking ahead to potentially three sequels. Taylor Lautner was cast in the coveted role as Jacob after auditioning at an open casting call in January 2008 and acting out scenes with Kristen Stewart from both New Moon and Eclipse. Catherine Hardwicke cast many other roles including the Cullen’s and she laid down the foundations for other potential films if Twilight was successful. Filming began in Oregon as the hype for the films release increased daily.

Twilight was released on Nov 21st 2008 and grossed $35.7 million on its opening day in the United States. Catherine Hardwicke became one of the most successful female directors ever when the film became the biggest opening weekend gross for a film directed by a women. Twilight went on to gross an estimated $392,616,625 worldwide making it one of the biggest films of 2008.

After the success of Twilight, Summit attained the rights to the rest of Stephenie Meyer’s series and the second book went into production to become a film. Catherine Hardwicke was unable to direct the sequel due to time constraints and so another director had to be found. The job went to Chris Weitz who had previously directed films such as About A Boy and The Golden Compass. The director initially had doubts about the casting of Taylor Lautner as Jacob became not only a bigger role, but bigger physically. Initial steps were taken to recast the part, however Lautner showed his dedication the the role by gaining 30 pounds of muscle to keep his part.

He was successful in, not only securing he kept the part because of his physicality, but because he emotionally understood the character also. Casting for the Quileute werewolves and the Volturi also fell on Weitz shoulders and his choices just like Hardwicke before him were vital to the second film and beyond. The movie was filmed in Vancouver and Montepulciano in Italy and the title was changed to The Twilight Saga: New Moon to ensure the film was associated with Twilight.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon was released on Nov 20th 2009 and proved a box office smash breaking a number of records. The film, at the time, became the biggest grossing midnight film of all time and the biggest single day gross of all time in North America. It became the fourth biggest film of 2009 and made an estimated $709,827,462 worldwide.

The third book in the series went into production in Aug 2009 and as New Moon was in post production for its release in November, Chris Weitz was unable to direct the next installment. The third director of the franchise became David Slade who had previously directed Hard Candy and the vampire centric 30 Days of Night. The role of the vampire nomad Victoria was also changed when Bryce Dallas Howard replaced Rachelle Lefevre due to scheduling conflicts. The film was shot in Vancouver and wrapped filming in October 2009 just before New Moon was released.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse was released on June 30th 2010 and, like the previous films in the series, broke records at the box office. It became the biggest grossing midnight film of all time and the biggest single day gross of all time at the time of it release in the US. The film, like the second installment, became the fourth biggest film of the year it was released earning an estimated $698,491,347 worldwide.

Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final book in Stephenie Meyer’s series left Summit with the decision of whether to split the large book into two films to do justice to the source material. The author, producers and actors were in agreement that two films should be made with the titles being changed to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II. Summit set their eyes on hiring an Oscar nominated director to replace David Slade and they got their wish when Bill Condon, director of Dreamgirls, took the helm. Production for the film began in Nov 2010 and the two parts were to be filmed simultaneously. Filming took place in Baton Rouge, Rio De Janeiro and Vancouver and ended in April 2011.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn was released in cinemas on Nov 18th 2011. The film became the second highest grossing midnight opening of all time in North America and leapt the previous record made by the films in the franchise grossing $291 million on its worldwide opening weekend. The film became the third biggest grossing film of 2011 making an estimated $705,058,657 worldwide.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II is due for release on Nov 16th 2012.

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