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'Twilight' premiere: Hysteria and happy campers

Seriously devoted fans came out in full force for the debut of the vampire romance

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Hundreds of people lined the Los Angeles streets, screaming and chanting. Some carried signs. A few people were so overcome by emotion that they cried. They stood for hours — days, even — to make sure they were seen and heard, despite the harsh, ash-filled air caused by nearby wildfires.

No, we’re not talking about a protest rally. This was the chaotic scene at the Nov. 17 premiere of Twilight, the epic love story of a high school girl and her vampire beau that’s based on the hit book series by Stephenie Meyer. ”We drove from the Bay Area yesterday, got in line at midnight, slept out here, and stood all day in order to fulfill a dream to take a picture or get an autograph,” said legal worker Cyndee Sauceda. ”And if that doesn’t work out, it will still be worth it if we get to touch [stars] Kellan Lutz or Robert Pattinson.”

Pattinson & Co. obliged — posing for cell-phone photos, doling out hugs, and signing books, bodies, clothes, pizza boxes…any surface that a black Sharpie could write on. ”With every week, the anticipation seems to grow,” said Pattinson, running his fingers through his trademark floppy locks. ”People know my name, ambush me in public, try to figure out what hotel I’m staying at, ask me to bite them and want to touch my hair. It still feels surreal.” Added leading lady Kristen Stewart, who sported a wild updo that gave Pattinson’s tendrils some serious competition: ”I’ve been to a lot of premieres, and none have ever been as big as this. Maybe if I had been alive during the days of the Beatles it would be different, but I have never been moved enough to camp out for something.”

Director Catherine Hardwicke admitted to EW that on the eve of the premiere, she couldn’t resist heading over to the two theaters hosting the event for a peek at the long line of waiting Twilighters. ”I saw all the people sleeping, and they recognized me,” she says. ”I ended up signing over 2,000 autographs. I met people from all over: Atlanta, Australia, Boston…. I could imagine how much fun this would be. It’s like touring with the Grateful Dead.” — With additional reporting by Nicole Sperling