Twilight stars reflect on 10 years of a cultural phenomenon at New York Comic Con
This November will mark ten years since the first Twilight movie arrived in theaters. To mark the anniversary, many of the film's stars (including Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone, and Edi Gathegi) assembled at New York Comic Con on Sunday along with director Catherine Hardwicke to reflect on their experience as part of a massive cultural phenomenon — one that generated several EW covers over the years. Talking to EW before the panel, the actors still vividly remembered filming the first film's iconic vampire baseball scene.
"The vampire baseball scene was a big thing," Rathbone recalls. "I remember seeing it on the page and thinking, how are we gonna make this look cool? How is this not gonna be just B-movie camp? But luckily we were in the hands of an incredible cinematographer [Elliot Davis] and of course, Catherine directed the hell out of it. The little baseball bat trick I did, that was just me improvising, but it became kind of a thing with the Twilight Jasper fans. A lot of people thought it was CGI and I've had to prove it many, many times that I can do it in real life."
Lutz adds, "I hadn't worked with many directors who were out there and enjoy what they do so much as Catherine. I really enjoyed working with her. Any setup she had, she would get in there and act it out for us. During the baseball scene, she had us acting like cats and bears and animals so we could give life to these vampires who are 'the undead' and don't have much going on."
Hardwicke's memories of filming the baseball scene include the very important element of having to actually teach the actors how to play baseball.
"The baseball scene was super fun," she says. "We had to go into training. As a British person, Rob did not play baseball, Alice had never pitched, and Niki had never slid into home plate. We went to an indoor gym in Portland where everyone learned to play baseball, and there was a lot of training, so there was camaraderie built from that. It was fun. Jackson was very good physically, Kellan was very good physically, so they got to do the wire work."
The stars also shared their memories of filming Twilight with the throngs of New York Comic Con attendees on Sunday, but the panel had other surprises too. Kristen Stewart sent in a pre-recorded video message, while Robert Pattinson actually called in via Skype. Technical issues sometimes made the video chat breakup, but Pattinson was able to convey his love of the franchise and his appreciation for all the fans who still adore it a decade later.
That fan connection was a big part of the Twilight phenomenon. As Rathbone told EW, the almost universal reach of Twilight fandom basically pre-empted the connections of social media.
"It's been interesting looking back 10 years ago at the first Twilight movie coming out because this was before Facebook became the monolith it is, before Twitter and Instagram even existed," Rathbone says. "This was a film that captured so many people before social media and connected them across the world. The amount of people I've met who have been like, 'Oh because of this series and fandom I was able to meet my best friend, even though we lived in different countries.' I've heard stories from mothers and daughters who said they really connected over these books and films."
The universal connections of social media aren't the only things Twilight predated. In this current cultural moment, where Wonder Woman is the most acclaimed DC superhero movie and many YA franchises revolve around female protagonists, it's important to remember that Twilight was one of the first female-centric fantasy phenomena — written by a woman, directed by a woman, and starring a woman as a character whose decisions and desires drove the plot.
"When I'd ask for action scenes they'd say no, because they already had a female-centric movie written by a woman, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and it only made $29 million, so that might be all that this makes. They felt there was a limit to how many women and girls would actually go see a movie," Hardwicke says with a laugh. "That was not true. On opening weekend they said if we made $39 million they would be excited. Cut to us making $69 million. Then they were like, 'Well that's all, everyone who wanted to see it saw it opening weekend.' Cut to us making $100 million. Nobody thought this could happen, and then of course it did, and then it kept going. Then you saw Hunger Games and Divergent and Wonder Woman … it's like, duh!"
There were vampire stories before Twilight, and there have been vampire stories since Twilight (in fact, Sunday of New York Comic Con also featured the world premiere of the new What We Do in the Shadows TV series). But there was something about Twilight's interpretation of the vampire myth that enthralled people, even those who had never been interested in the genre before.
"I had never really been into vampire stories," Gathegi says. "I have since learned to love the genre. Just being a part of it, opening myself up, and I actually love the Twilight books. The clever thing with Twilight was, it's really a story of star-crossed lovers, but it's disguised through vampirism. I'm going along for the ride because of the emotional core, the teenage angst, the love story. Whatever you put on top of that, if it's done in a truthful way and everybody's buying into the premise, I'll take it. But really what I want to know is, who are these characters and why should I care about them?"
Ten years later, plenty of people still care about Twilight. Later this month, the film will even return to theaters for special anniversary screenings on Oct. 21 and Oct. 23.