LOS ANGELES -- The Twilight Saga is almost over, both in the pages of Stephenie Meyer's novels and on the big screen. Bella is finally a vampire. Her baby with Edward is growing up abnormally quickly, becoming the fulcrum of the final movie's plot. The Volturi are unhappy. And the fifth movie is ready to energize Twihards with more blood, gore 'n' guts than ever.
Not surprisingly, for core cast members, the Friday debut of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 is bittersweet. This four-year, multi-billion-dollar franchise has changed their lives and careers forever -- for better and for worse.
American actress Kristen Stewart, who has played Isabella (Bella) Swan since the first movie in 2008, says she shares the Twilight experience with her co-stars. Obviously, she does so with Robert Pattinson, who plays moody vampire Edward Cullen (and is her own on-again, off-again lover in real love). She also does so with Taylor Lautner, who plays the werewolf, Jacob Black. "I guess it's nice not to be alone on that," Stewart says of riding the Twilight wave with other actors. "We share the movies."
Yet each seems to have a different way of saying goodbye -- Stewart and Pattinson in particular.
Stewart says she is often asked: "How is it going to be to walk away from this?" She does not accept the premise. "I genuinely don't feel that I have to walk anywhere," she tells a Los Angeles press conference. "It's what I like about this job. You hold these things. You wouldn't have done it in the first place if it wasn't something that you're going to carry. I think they (Pattinson and Lautner) feel the same way. They tell me they do."
Stewart is, however, delighted about one thing: "I'm so happy that the story's told, you have no idea!" After four years and five movies, "it's not weighing on us anymore. I'm super excited about that!" As for her own feelings about the experience ending: "It is sad. It is strange. But it is normal. Things shouldn't stay stagnant. They should move."
British actor Pattinson admits he is glad it is over, "in some ways." Seeing the cult of The Twilight Saga emerge so dramatically after the first movie was overwhelming, he says, especially when people started calling the series "a franchise."
It is a term he abhores. "Franchise is a Burger King or a Subway. It's not a movie. And the people who start to say it are generally the people who are making money off it. They love it when something has become a franchise. But, as an actor, it is scary. You really, really feel that you have no control. It's a huge juggernaut, especially when something becomes part of the cultural landscape. It's really scary because you get trapped and you get scared of changing, which is the worst thing that could happen if you want to become some kind of artist."
At their separate press conferences, 22-year-old Stewart and 26-year-old Pattinson both reference each other but give no indication of where their personal relationship is currently at after the dramatic events of the summer. Stewart made a public apology after it was revealed she had an affair with the married director of Snow White and the Huntsman. The celebrity gossip machines worked overtime. That storm has passed, but there is renewed interested because of the pending release of Breaking Dawn -- Part 2.
Both actors are committed to the publicity tour. Both seem happy with the results of the shoot, which actually took place two years ago. Director Bill Condon shot both parts of Breaking Dawn simultaneously, out of chronological order. Condon says that Stewart, despite looking nervous in public, had no problem tackling Bella as she changed back-and-forth from desperate teen to empowered vampire mom.
"I worship at the altar of Kristen Stewart," Condon says in a one-on-one interview. When asked why, he says: "Oh boy, so many things: Fearlessness, danger, honesty, commitment! It's all these things. It's her face, her eyes, her ability to express so many thoughts and emotions. It's her presence on screen, her glow for the camera."
Pattinson is a different creature altogether, Condon says. "He has that great kind of British wit and reserve and sense of detachment." Beginning with the release of Breaking Dawn -- Part 1, Condon also saw a new side emerging. "He has reached a new level of comfort as Mr. Jokester. It was like: 'Who is this person who feels so comfortable telling these goofy jokes on television and at these big events?' "
At his press conference, however, Pattinson was his usual awkward self. He did joke but he also blanked on some questions, offered convoluted answers to others and found himself repeatedly saying: "I don't know."
He was best with off-beat queries. Such as what advice would he give himself, if he could go back in time to the beginning of the shoot. "Drink vodka instead of beer!" he says with a laugh, referring to the reduced calorie intake. "Just try and get a six-pack as early as possible. You'll be a much more successful actor."
He would change few others things, as scary as it was launching into Twilight as an unknown actor.
"It's fun to deal with the terror and the kind of huge highs and lows of things. I'm still getting massive surprises every time we get to any kind of Twilight-related event." For example, he remembers visiting Munich's Olympic Stadium with Stewart and Lautner after the third movie. They just stood in awe as 30,000 people screamed for 15 minutes. "It's obviously bizarre. There is just absolutely no way you can ever compute it."
Stewart now regards the rabid fan response as "the coolest thing" because the Twilight characters, and their fates, have become so important. But do not ask her to explain the phenomenon.
"Like, yeah, cool, let me explain the phenomenon to you," she says sarcastically. "I would just phenomenon-ize every single day if I knew the equation."
Instead, she says, The Twilight Saga remains a mystery.
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