Kimberley French
Nicole Sperling
August 12, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Kristen Stewart lies on a beige carpet, surrounded by a mess of pink roses and broken crystal. Her sweater is ripped, revealing a bloody gash on her right arm. It’s April in Vancouver, and the New Moon cast is filming Bella Swan’s climactic 18th-birthday celebration — the one cut short after an innocent paper cut turns the Cullen family, in one split second, from civilized ”vegetarian” vampires into six beastly creatures hungry for sweet human blood. Director Chris Weitz wants another take of Edward (Robert Pattinson) fighting off his vampire brother Jasper (Jackson Rathbone), as Stewart lies injured in the background. This is the third freezing night in a row that the cast has worked until dawn, but that doesn’t stop the set from feeling warm and jovial. Pattinson mugs for the movie camera between takes and teases his costar for just lying on the floor in the midst of all the vamp-on-vamp violence. ”Do you want Kristen to give us a little life back there?” he jokes to the director. Kristen smiles. ”I’m just writhing down here,” she says. ”A lot of writhing. I writhe really well.”

So do Twilight fans. Right now, for instance, millions of them around the world are writhing in delicious agony as they wait for New Moon to hit theaters on Nov. 20. Last year Twilight, the first adaptation of author Stephenie Meyer‘s series, grossed close to $400 million worldwide and set Stewart and Pattinson on the road to superstardom — and superscrutiny. Now the team is back with New Moon, though the sequel is a different beast — and one that’s not as easy to tame. Meyer’s second book is steeped in heartbreak and sadness, focusing on Bella’s road to recovery after Edward smashes her heart into a million pieces and then vanishes. In addition to the melodrama, the movie has to make do with very little of the dreamy Edward Cullen. Instead, it mainly concerns the burgeoning relationship between Bella and her friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who transforms into a gnarling werewolf. Pattinson couldn’t be happier with his downsized role. ”It was a stress-free job for three months,” says the actor, 23, in his charming British lilt. ”All the pressure was on Taylor.”

EW photo shoot: Behind the scenes with Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner

In truth, no one in Twilight-world should be feeling any pain. Sure, there have been some minicontroversies. First, director Weitz (The Golden Compass) replaced Twilight helmer Catherine Hardwicke. Then Lautner publicly campaigned to keep the role of Jacob as the character grew deeper (and taller). And recently, actress Rachelle Lefevre, who plays the vengeful redheaded vampire Victoria, was replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard for the soon-to-be-shot third film in the series, Eclipse. Each of these flaps rattled fans — but seemingly only strengthened their commitment to the franchise. Could anyone doubt that New Moon will be a hit come fall? Perhaps that’s why the set feels a bit like summer camp — albeit a very cold, very dark summer camp filled with vampires and blood. ”In a weird way, there is less pressure this time around, since it’s something we know people want to see,” says producer Wyck Godfrey. Summit Entertainment, the studio behind the movies, has already proved that it will stay as true to Meyer’s vision as possible. ”I told Summit that they could probably get a talking chimp to direct New Moon, and it would still do well,” says Weitz.

NEXT PAGE: Kristen Stewart on Taylor Lautner: ” I love that kid. I would do anything for him. I would kill for him, literally.”

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