Lester Cohen/WireImage
November 28, 2008 at 05:00 AM EST


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”You are a rock star!”

The moderator at a Sherman Oaks, Calif., movie theater was paying homage to Catherine Hardwicke. The director had just stunned Twilight fans by appearing for a surprise Q&A after a sold-out screening of her movie last Saturday night. The audience screamed as if Zac Efron — or Twilight‘s own Rob Pattinson, for that matter — had just strode on stage and dropped his drawers. ”OMG, OMG,” the girls stuttered, trying desperately to remember their questions. Hardwicke cheerfully navigated the swarm on the way to the stage, comparing their united passion to what it used to be like following the Grateful Dead on tour — and proceeded to dazzle them. One 50-year-old woman asked the director what she thought it was about Pattinson’s Edward that made women of all ages swoon. A Twilight mom in the audience shouted, ”He’s gentlemanly and caring and unattainable and mysterious all at the same time!” Hardwicke laughed and shrugged her shoulders. She said that when she brought her 70-year-old mother to the set she asked her mom if she’d like to meet Pattinson and his costar, Kristen Stewart. To which her mom promptly replied: ”Just Rob.”

The first movie to be adapted from Stephenie Meyer‘s breakout hit — about the chaste romance between rebel vampire Edward and a shy high school girl named Bella — left many, if not all, of the author’s fans in a state of religious ecstasy. (The unconverted, though, most likely spent the weekend plugging their ears, willing themselves to their happy places where fangirls and vegetarian vampires never roam free.) Made for less than $40 million, Twilight far exceeded box office predictions, pulling in a dizzying $69.6 million over opening weekend. ”Up until this week, everyone was thinking this would be a one-quadrant movie,” says a top female studio executive. ”The men in this industry are still chasing the young boys — even after Sex and the City.”

As the weekend’s receipts were tallied, Meyer nervously awaited news that the adaptation of her first book was a hit. ”There’s that petty part of me that wants the movie to do really great so no one can say ‘See, all this buildup for something stupid! Ha, what a flop!”’ she’d told EW a few weeks earlier. Turns out her wish was her fans’ command.

NEXT PAGE: ”If you look at the percentage of the trailer that focuses on action,” Stephenie Meyer says with a laugh, ”it’s not the same percentage in the movie.”

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