Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, ...
Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

There were hundreds of people lining the Los Angeles streets screaming and chanting. There were homemade signs, punny slogans, and custom T-shirts. Attendees declared whose team they were on. There were moms and daughters, men and women, couples and singles. There were even a few people so overcome by emotion that tears were shed. They stood for hours, some for days, to make sure their opinions were seen and heard despite the harsh, ashy air quality caused by the numerous nearby wildfires.

I’m not talking about last weekend’s anti-Proposition 8 rally. No, this chaotic scene, which featured more black, less rainbows, was for the Nov. 17 premiere of Twilight, the epic love story of a high-school girl (Bella) and her vampire beau (Edward) based on the hit book series by Stephenie Meyer. While the two events had several similarities, I dare say the Twilight folks were slightly more fanatical.

“We drove from the Bay Area yesterday, got in line at midnight last night, slept out here, took the day off work, and stood all day in order to fulfill a dream to take a picture or get an autograph from the stars,” enthused Cyndee Sauceda, 40, who works in a law office. “And if that doesn’t work out, it will all still be worth it if we get to touch Kellan Lutz or Robert Pattinson.”

Pattinson & Co. obliged for the most part — posing for cell photos, doling out hugs, signing books, bodies, clothes, signs, pizza boxes, any surface that didn’t cause a black Sharpie to run. “I’m going to have to ice my autograph hand when I get home,” joked Taylor “Jacob” Lautner. Pattinson, Cam Gigandet, and a few other actors even did a victory lap to slap fan hands after they had completed their initial round of interviews and fan appreciation despite holding up the screening over 45 minutes past its scheduled start time.

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“This is crazier and louder than I was prepared for,” saidPattinson (pictured with co-star Kristen Stewart), running his fingers through his trademark floppy locks andlooking sharp-dressed goth in his fitted black suit. “With everyweek, the fervor and anticipation seems to grow. This is my life.People know my name and ambush me in public and try to figure out whathotel I’m staying at and ask me to bite them and want to touch my hair.I have accepted it as real now, but it still feels surreal.”

His leading lady, Kristen Stewart (in a chic Balenciaga mini-dress),arrived minutes after him, her wild swept-up-and-piled two-tone hairgiving Pattinson a run for his money. They took their obligatorycouples shots, still looking slightly uncomfortable together, as ifthey are in the middle of a marathon intense-off. Stewart’s demeanor, perusual, was reserved, but she admitted that she’s fascinated by the fandevotion. “I’ve been to a lot of premieres, and none of them have everbeen as big as this. Maybe if I had been alive during the days of theBeatles it would be different, but I have never been moved enough tocamp out for someone or something. The fact that people did that forour movie is heavy. I just hope they think it was worth it after theysee the movie.”

After witnessing the phenomenon first hand, I’m not sure it evenmatters if the final product is Oscar-worthy. (In fact, two Oscarwinners, Jaime Foxx and Kim Basinger, used their influence to score thehot tickets for their obsessed offspring.) Hours in, I was still havingto shout my interview questions at the top of my lungs because the“Team Edward” cries were being matched by the howls of theJacob-supporting wolf pack. In this economic downturn, people hadobviously spent a pretty penny getting there, getting takeout fromlocal restaurants, decorating the windows of their cars, outfittingthemselves in branded merch. “I’d hate to have to be the guy who has toclean all this up afterward,” Gigandet said, referring to the discardedwater bottles, sunscreen and snack trash.

Most of the cast and crew were trying to live in the moment and notcount their chickens, so to speak, though some tentatively admitted thatthey’d love to see the saga’s other chapters on the big screen. Director CatherineHardwicke was matter-of-fact when asked about sequel plans. “It isgoing to depend on the numbers,” she said. “The fans have to really come out inforce if they want to see a second movie, because that book will betwice as expensive to make than the first because of the werewolves andspecial effects. Realistically, this one has to make $150 million tomake the financiers think it is worthwhile. If this crowd is anyindication, I have high hopes, but I’m also not uncrossing my fingers.”

So, PopWatchers, who’s ready to finally see this movie? How far would you go to catch a glimpse of Pattinson in the flesh? Or maybe you can’t even read this because you’re already camped out somewhere for a premiere…?

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