How is the Twilight fandom is different from the Harry Potter movies? I think you’ve mentioned that the sound of the screams is even different.
It’s different because I think it’s almost solely females of a certain age group, and they have a very specific tone. It’s much more to do with the sort of sexuality aspect of it. So many girls made this guy [their ideal], so when they see you it’s like all of their energy is projected onto you. It’s a really strange experience. I’ve never been in an experience where people just want to touch you — it’s like being in a boy band.
Is it weird to have girls that are so young have this incredibly sexualized thing around you?
It’s weird that you get 8-year-old girls coming up to you saying, “Can you just bite me? I want you to bite me.” It is really strange how young the girls are, considering the book is based on the virtues of chastity, but I think it has the opposite effect on its readers though. [Laughs]
Do you think that’s part of it, though? One of the things that seems to make Edward so attractive to younger girls is that you can have it both ways. He’s the ultimate bad boy, and someone that you shouldn’t want, who would never harm you.
That’s exactly what it is. It’s a certain type of girl. I don’t know what it is — when you look at fan sites [you can tell] — but there’s definitely a very large fleet of people, it’s actually Americans, that want those type of guys. In the book she knows the whole time [he’s not going to hurt her], but Kristen [Stewart] and I tried to make it more not caring, more unpredictable. It’s what I liked about the story — he’s literally holding himself back every single turn, never lets up.
He’s such a sort of gentlemanly character, and Kristen and I really, really emphasized that — especially when there are intimate scenes. When we did the blocking for the kissing scenes, we would be going way further than [director] Catherine [Hardwicke] thought.
And why did you want to push it in that direction?
I guess to sort of scare little girls and stuff. [Laughs] I mean, people who read the books won’t be expecting it, and, for a younger person’s film, it’s also quite shocking. When I read that scene in the book I thought it was kind of sexy, and then when you translate it onto film, the kissing is a little like a thing out of a TV series. So I thought, “How can we make this thing a little bit on the verge of wrong?”
I think a lot of people have already judged the film before they even started shooting us, and I didn’t want to be part of a film that was just a cash-in thing. So we tried to take as many risks as we could, and tried to make it a little bit more serious than people expect. It’s quite difficult to take too many risks.
Were there any risks that you wanted to take that you ended up just not being able to do?
Edward’s constantly saying, “I’m a monster, I’m a monster, I’m a monster,” and doesn’t end up being one. We shot the final scene first, and I wanted the fight to not just be a fight, but to literally have him turn into that monster. In the book he very much comes in to save the day as the hero, but I noticed when we were doing the blocking it’s the first time he’s seen a lot of her blood — and I thought it would be interesting [for him to start] wanting to kill her and then fighting himself for that.
There’s a part that we significantly cut down in the PG-13 — when I start winning there are all these stunts, but stunts are so protracted that you couldn’t get what me and Kristen wanted to do, which was to literally try to pull his head off. [At that point] it’s like you’ve turned into this beast. Then there’s a scene where I try to attack [my father in the movie] when he tells me to stop. I think it’s him looking at me, saying, “I thought you were the one. You’re my protégé, and you’re really, really not.”
After that point in the movie, he’s certain that once she’s seen that’s who he [really] is, and there is no way there’s a happy ending. I kind of wanted to make it really, really depressing; I just sort of got further, and further away from the book as I picked up on little pieces.
I think a lot of people who like the book and like the love story at the end will be sort of baffled by it. But I also thought that’s the best type of love story, where the whole time he knows his thoughts and he knows he has so many doubts and he has so many things about weakness. Like, he couldn’t kill himself because he’s afraid he doesn’t have a soul. He couldn’t be a proper vegetarian vampire, can’t be a proper real vampire, can’t be a real man, can’t be anything, and it’s all like, he’s completely impotent about everything. Then he finds this one thing, which makes him feel alive, and he can’t even protect that. He can’t do anything. He thinks he’s a very insignificant human being — well, thing.
Then it makes it so much more amazing the second when both of them literally could just die when they leave each other, and I wanted to make that kind of operatic Carmen type of thing. At the same time you’ve got to try and please some people [laughs], and you couldn’t really go too dark with it because of the book.
I wanted them to touch three times: when he saves her life and it hurts him to touch her, when they try and kiss when he tries to kill her, and when he’s sucking the blood out and trying to kill because he’s so afraid of what would happen. Then the director gave me a copy of the book with these highlights of all the times that he smiled and all the times that they touched. So…
Stephenie Meyer talked about the influence of a lot of Victorian literature, which definitely seems obvious in Twilight, even the fact that his name is Edward. Do you see that there’s a Victorian quality to Edward?
Yeah, I definitely think it’s a lot of Heathcliff.
What’s attractive about that kind of character that made him popular then and still popular now?
It’s being unreadable. It’s attractive in women as well, just that kind of mystique. It’s so obvious, but so few people do have it, especially in characters now and especially in modern society where there’s so many celebrities.
You’re in this position where you’re playing this character who’s attractive because of that mystique and then don’t have that luxury.
I just disappear. It doesn’t really make any difference. But I didn’t play it so old-fashioned; I tried to get in little elements. I think there are so few young characters in modern films who even have any form of restraint unless they’re a geek. I guess Edward would be the jock in a normal type of story, and just playing it sane you can’t really touch — everything is very understated.
Why do you think he’s attracted to Bella?
I think it’s a progression. The way I did it the, whole thing comes as a complete surprise to him. He has so many issues. He’s stopped killing people for 50 years, she comes in and he’s like, “Oh, I can’t control myself!” I just thought that the guy would think, “This fucking girl is not gonna ruin [me],” like, “She’s not better than me and I can control my base instincts.” And so the relationship starts as [testing] his own power of will.
It’s like, “I can go a little bit closer to her, and closer and closer and closer,” and then a joy comes out of that where he’s just like, “See, eating my instincts again.” Later on it’s funny how wanting to kill her makes him realize he’s in some way alive. And that’s why she becomes so important, because the only thing he wanted to do before is become human and die.
There’s no way to pin down the story. I never really understood it the whole way through. I understood Edward’s character. I didn’t understand what Bella was all about. I really tried, and I was working with Kristen for ages. There’s definitely some defining characteristics of young girls, which are very, very strange and which aren’t really explored in movies. Troubled teens, especially girls, in movies are just so one dimensional it’s ridiculous, and they always have somebody to fix them in the end. Whereas in Twilight she doesn’t really get fixed she just gets this addiction.
She’s all right in the beginning and then she becomes completely dependent; even in last scene of the movie, she’s saying, “Don’t ever say you’ll leave me.” That’s what makes the story unusual; when you read it at face value and it’s just like, “Oh, it’s an easy read.” You can read it in a few hours, and it’s kind of cheesy but as soon as you actually look at it you have to really take massive leaps to join the dots of the character. So I ended up putting tons and tons of thought into it, just to make it not be cheesy cash-in movie 95 percent of the people probably expect it to be.
Do you think that’s why it seems to have a stronger following because she’s not fixed at the end, and people can identify with that?
People desperately want to read the next book because she’s a different person. Even though it’s a solid ending at the end, it feels like it’s missing a beat. I haven’t actually read the fourth one yet so I don’t know how it ends, but I definitely like the transition from the first and the second. The second one was my favorite one, even though I’m hardly in it.
Have you ever had a situation where fans sent you something kind of crazy or very extreme?
I got sent a lot of different books on Scientology by a Scientologist fan. It’s quite funny actually, almost the whole series on Dianetics. She wanted me to be a Scientologist. But I mean it must have cost quite a lot with all the packaging. And I got sent this really well-bound book with all these Unibomber-type notes. I thought that was incredible.
What did they say?
Similar type of things — “Will you marry me?” sort of stuff. I thought it was pretty amazing, just like, long, hundreds of pages.
Did you read the whole thing?
Yeah pretty much. I mean, there’s only so much adoration you can take before you start thinking, “Is a thank you note enough, or do I actually have to say yes to one of these people?” [Laughs]
Do you think people have trouble distinguishing you from your character?
Yeah. Then they always get really embarrassed and they say, “Sorry! I called you Edward.” [Llaughs] I think people will really want something to pin their ideas on. In Italy [before the movie came out], I was literally walking straight out of the novel. But it’s probably a good thing.
You said that when you read the fan sites that they’re all kind of similar voice.
I get a lot of e-mails from my agent saying [fans send] complaints about my security and all that stuff, and they’re really professionally written. It’s something about fans of books — they’re obviously much more literary. When you’re in crowds, everyone’s like, “We love you!” But the actual letters and stuff you get are amazing, and that’s the most surprising thing about it. They’re surprisingly well written, everyone’s got really good vocabularies and they correct each other’s grammar and things like that. It’s quite funny.
I don’t really know how it defines the group of people, but you always think, “you’re an obsessive fan, but you seem like a logical person, so I don’t understand how the two things go together.”
Do you have any gay teenagers contacting you?
Not really. It’s really just increasingly more and more straight guys than gay guys — unless my gaydar is just not really working. It’s just started happening recently. They’re all kind of a little bit embarrassed about it, but they’ll all go up and still get their book signed or whatever. I’m so used to like writing to girls I always keep writing like, “Love, romance and kiss, kiss, kiss” that I have to like cross it out, “Oh, sorry about that.”
Tell me about an experience you had where you just found someone hiding and watching when you were on set.
It’s just weird. I mean again though, all really nice people. It seemed completely logical to them why they were there: “We like it. We want to see it.” And they were so blunt about it. I think if we were shooting it now it’d be such a different story. The crowds were getting bigger and bigger and bigger as we were shooting; they’d be out all night with us at a shoot.
But there’s something to be said by it being different group than the people who scream at Jonas Brothers shows.
Yeah, and they defend it as well. They don’t want to be associated with other groups. Like, you see little things on message boards and stuff — whenever I get any negative publicity, you get literally 400 comments just saying like, “Shut up! You’re just writing this like so people will go and do this for your site.” I don’t know. I never expected any of this from this job. [Laughs]
Who do you think is more intense, the Twilight moms or the younger girls?
The more intense letters and stuff come from younger people. The, “I’m going to kill myself…” [letters]. That’s always a little bit worrying. But the Twilight moms are everywhere. It’s unbelievable. Every single time we do an appearance they’re always in the front row, and buy their tickets way in advance. It’s pretty intense. They’re always really nice though; no one seems crazy when you meet them. They just like the books.
There’s so little literature aimed at girls, so it becomes very hyped and successful. There’s definitely a kind of clan mentality with the fans, and people want to be part of the group. They like defending it, because a lot of people say it’s cheesy, and I think a lot of it is an outsider mentality — the whole book, the whole kind of fantasy genre…
But then outsiders who also aren’t really outsiders.
Not anymore. When the outsiders become strong it’s incredibly powerful. As the movie’s been happening and the magazine covers, more people think it’s legitimized and more people buy the book; everything is kind of galvanized. That’s why I don’t really feel bad about the hype or anything, because it’s not someone who’s forcing it down anyone’s throat. The reason we were on the VMAs is ’cause all these fans sent e-mails accosting us. It’s not someone who’s paying for this — it’s all fan-driven so it’s completely out of anyone’s hands.