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Twilight Watch: Let the Right Vampire In

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 3, 2008 at 4:49AM

True confession. I am into vampires.
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True confession. I am into vampires.

Raised on Hammer Dracula films starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, when I was nine I dressed up as a Chinese vampire on Halloween. F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu is a fave. I devoured Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, as well as the classic movie starring Bela Lugosi. ("I don't drink...wine.") I read all of Anne Rice's Lestat novels. Interview with a Vampire the movie was pretty good; so was Francis Coppola's Dracula. I even went to see Underworld, though not the sequel, and suffered manfully through Van Helsing. (A third Underworld, Rise of the Lycans, pitting vampire leader Bill Nighy vs. werewolf Michael Sheen, is due in January.)

I rushed through the first two Stephenie Meyer young adult Twilight vampire romances, and witnessed the femme takeover of Comic-Con at the Twilight conference in Hall H, when thousands screamed en masse for Rob Pattinson. Here's my pre-Comic-Con interview with Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke (the full interview is on the jump). The movie junket is coming up. A cadre of women in my office are begging to screen the movie ASAP. This is not normal.

Even though Twilight doesn’t open until November 21, moviegoers are already buying advance tickets for the film via Fandangotwilighttickets.com. According to the results of a Fandango survey of 5000 moviegoers interested in Twilight:

92% of respondents say they’ll see Twilight on opening weekend;
85% say they plan to see the film more than once;
56% are planning to see the movie with a group of friends;
97% have read the novel by Stephenie Meyer;
86% would be interested in visiting the locations where the movie was filmed;
95% of the respondents to the survey are female;
42% of respondents are 25 or older; 58% are younger than 25.

Trublood

HBO's True Blood also plays around with similar romantic ideas, but does so with a more mature, sexy edge. I can't get enough of this bloody stuff. What's the appeal? Brian Lowry sinks his teeth into the vampire trend. The WSJ parses the movie power of the vampire. Here's the Twilight trailer:

This trailer for Let the Right One In, a well-reviewed Scandinavian vampire romance that is currently in theaters, also creeps me out:

Here's my pre-Comic-Con Twilight interview with Catherine Hardwicke.

A Con virgin, Catherine Hardwicke ("Thirteen") directed the $37 million film version of Stephenie Meyer's runaway young adult bestseller, "Twilight," which has sold more than 5.5 million copies in the U.S. alone. The clip from this romantic thriller shows high school senior Kristen Stewart ("Into the Wild") going to meet a hunky vampire at an empty dance studio. She's in serious danger -- as she is throughout the movie.

Vampires have fed the cinema since its infancy, from Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and "Nosferatu" to Anne Rice's "Interview With the Vampire." But "Twilight" has serious femme appeal. And it's strictly PG-13.

Hardwicke's task: adapt the bestseller without angering legions of passionate fans all over the world, from 12 to 70. The director first read a script that had been in development at MTV Films before Summit scooped it up in turnaround. She Googled the title and found a copy of rookie novelist Meyer's 2005 book.

"It was so much better than the script," Hardwicke says. "It was very personal and emotional. It made me feel again that giddy, dizzy feeling of a teenager falling in love, when you will do anything. I said, 'Let's make the movie more like the book.' "

Working with "Dexter" writer Melissa Rosenberg, Hardwicke tried to capture the obsessive intensity of teenager Bella's feelings for the pale-skinned, charismatic Edward (Robert Pattinson).

"You can have braces and freckles, but because of your smell and who you are, this mysterious creature loves you," says Hardwicke. "He protects you, he cares about you, he doesn't care what anybody else thinks. That's a pretty cool fantasy."

Because Edward is a vampire who has renounced sucking human blood (he and his coven feed on animals), he struggles to keep himself under control. Bella risks her life to be near him. "He has to hold back," says Hardwicke. "That's the sexual tension, the thing that keeps people reading. Is he going to turn her into a vampire?" Time magazine's profile on the 34-year-old Meyer calls it "the erotics of abstinence."

Hardwicke insisted that her leads be the same age as the characters, 17. She picked her star-crossed couple by videotaping them on her Venice "magic bed," the same place that she had auditioned her two leads for "Thirteen." Hardwicke shot Stewart with three finalists to determine: "Do they play well together, do I feel any heat?" With Stewart and Pattinson ("Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire") the answer was an emphatic 'yes.' All the young Brit needed was a dialogue coach and some muscle training.

Like many women these days, Hardwicke is pining for sex in cinema. "Where are the sexy movies?" she asks. "There are no romantic movies. Romantic comedies aren't sexy. They're going for the big laugh. And guys want sexy romance too."

Guys also like action. Hardwicke hired Jackie Chan's stunt master to mastermind swooping wirework for her leaping vampires. In one scene, Edward flings himself through the Oregon rain forest with Bella on his back. And the director stages a "Harry Potter"-style vampire league baseball game -- in a crashing thunderstorm.

Meyer was hailed by Time as the "next queen of fantasy" with the headline: "The Next J.K. Rowling?" Her first adult novel, "The Host," is topping the New York Times bestseller list. When Summit slapped a teaser trailer up on MySpace, it pulled 1 million views in 36 hours and since has passed 3.5 million. The current Entertainment Weekly features a cover story on the "Twilight" phenom, five months before the film's release.

The news flash that may be revealed at the San Diego Twilight panel: the status of the two "Twilight" sequels.

"They are working out all the details and actors' commitments," says Hardwicke. "We have to see how the first one does."

[Originally appeared on Variety.com]

This article is related to: Franchises, Genres, Twilight, Sci-fi


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.