On August 2, 2008, Breaking Dawn—the fourth and final chapter of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga—hit shelves, setting a record for Hachette Book Group by selling roughly 1.3 copies in a day. But the vampire hype had yet to reach its peak for that year, because not four months later, on November 21, the film adaptation of the series’s eponymous first installment hit theaters.
Twilight, directed by Thirteen’s Catherine Hardwicke, took about $37 million to make and earned more than $400 million at the worldwide box office. While some critics panned it as cheesy or, in Variety’s words, “disappointingly anemic,” many others gave kudos to Hardwicke and her cast for capturing teen lust in all its angsty awkwardness. Good or bad, the movie—which follows the forbidden romance between a teenage (but immortal) vampire, Edward, and a human high schooler, Bella—is undeniably important, as it catapulted Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart to global fame and also proved that it’s possible for a major blockbuster to seem more like an indie cult classic.
To celebrate Twilight’s 15th anniversary, Lionsgate Home Entertainment is releasing a new collection that features DVD, Blu-ray, and digital editions of all five films in the Twilight Saga, complete with directors’ commentaries, deleted scenes, and more bonus features. It’s currently available for pre-order from Amazon for $54.
We’re celebrating the milestone, too—with 11 illuminating facts about Twilight, from why the first screenplay got scrapped to how much enthusiasm Pattinson had for playing baseball (hint: not a lot).
1. The original Twilight script included a Jet Ski chase and some surprising deaths.
When Paramount’s MTV Films initially started developing Twilight for the silver screen, they thought the story would need much more action in order to appeal to a male audience. So screenwriter Mark Lord wrote a script in which Bella is a long-distance runner who gets to shoot vampires with a shotgun and transform into one of the fanged immortals herself. Lord also decided to kill off Bella’s dad, Charlie, and Edward’s dad, Carlisle.
The studio ended up letting its option lapse, and Summit Entertainment picked up the rights in 2007. When Catherine Hardwicke was tapped to direct the film, she told Summit to scrap the screenplay completely. “The original script literally had Bella on Jet Skis being chased by the FBI. She was a star athlete. Nothing to do with the book,” the director said on The Big Hit Show podcast. Melissa Rosenberg, who wrote the screenplay for 2006’s Step Up and had also written for The O.C., was hired to pen a new Twilight that stuck to its source material. (She went on to write the screenplays for the rest of the Twilight Saga.)
2. Stephenie Meyer’s dream cast included Emily Browning as Bella and Henry Cavill as Edward.
While Meyer was heavily involved in the making of Twilight, she didn’t spearhead the audition process—but that’s not to say she didn’t have a dream cast in mind. She initially wanted Henry Cavill to play Edward, though she felt he’d aged out of the role by the time Summit Entertainment optioned the film rights in 2007. (Cavill was already 24 years old.) Other “realistic options,” as she wrote on her website, included Tom Sturridge and Logan Lerman.
For Bella, her “favorite choice” was Emily Browning, probably best known at the time for starring as Violet Baudelaire in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004). Meyer thought Elliot Page and Danielle Panabaker “could do a decent job with Bella,” too.
Meyer also wanted Charlie Hunnam as Carlisle, John C. Reilly (or Vince Vaughn) as Charlie Swan, Rachel Leigh Cook as Alice, and Cillian Murphy as James.
3. Jackson Rathbone was almost cast as Edward.
Hardwicke found her Bella fairly easily—Stewart was chosen in part because she conveyed “longing” so well in Into the Wild (2007), Hardwicke told Yahoo! Entertainment. Casting Edward proved harder: Pretty boys abounded, but not many looked “otherworldly, like they’d been around for a hundred years,” Hardwicke said.
Jackson Rathbone, who ended up nabbing the role of Jasper Cullen, was among the final four, along with Ben Barnes (Westworld, Shadow and Bone), Shiloh Fernandez (2013’s Evil Dead), and Pattinson.
“They all came over to my house with Kristen, and she had an hour and a half with each guy. She had to kiss him, and we had to do improvs, and run around and do all kinds of crazy, fun stuff, and just see who she really could click with,” Hardwicke said. “At the end she goes, ‘It’s gotta be Rob.’”
4. The vampires took a cat movement class to get into character.
Hardwicke had the actors take a cat movement class so they could learn how to comport themselves with the grace and fluidity you’d expect from vampires. Nikki Reed (who plays Rosalie Cullen) told Insider that she found the approach “really cool and interesting.”
Ashley Greene (Alice Cullen), on the other hand, called it a “wildly uncomfortable situation” and “one of my least favorite experiences” on her podcast The Twilight Effect. “I think it bonded us a little bit because we all felt like idiots,” she said. “[The instructor] was like, ‘I need you to all move like cats and meow and hiss,’ and I was like, ‘Is she serious? Is she joking?’”
5. Robert Pattinson handpicked “You better hold on tight, spider monkey” from a list of options.
One of Twilight’s most memorable lines occurs right before Edward gives Bella a lightning-fast piggyback ride through the woods. “You better hold on tight, spider monkey,” he says. Pattinson actually handpicked that line from a list of nearly 10 options that Hardwicke had written herself the night before. (The Writers Guild of America was on strike while Twilight was being filmed, which meant Rosenberg couldn’t make any edits to the screenplay during production.)
Other options included “Prepare for liftoff,” “Got a good grip? Don’t let go” (to which Bella would’ve responded “No chance of that, buddy”), and “Wrap your legs around me like a spider monkey.”
6. Kellan Lutz inspired Emmett’s egg-centric school lunch.
Eagle-eyed fans have pointed out that Emmett’s (Kellan Lutz) school lunch consists of a plastic bag filled with hard-boiled eggs—a strange meal for most high schoolers, and especially for one who doesn’t subsist on human food. The bag of eggs actually belonged to Lutz, who was eating them on set in order to stay bulked up for the role. Hardwicke noticed and decided to use the detail in the film.
“I was just laughing so hard,” Hardwicke told Insider. “I’m like, ‘OK, [Emmett] has to have those eggs. You have to carry that in that scene,’ because it was just outrageous.”
7. Meyer makes a cameo in a diner scene.
Not only did Meyer get to visit the set during production, but she also makes a cameo in the movie. Right before Bella arrives at the diner to meet her dad, the camera focuses on a patron sitting at the counter—that’s Meyer. “Here’s your veggie plate, Stephenie,” the server says.
“[The filmmakers] talked me into it. They thought it would be cute for the fans, because lots of them would recognize me,” Meyer told the Middletown Transcript.
(Meyer makes another cameo in 2011’s Breaking Dawn - Part 1 as a guest at Bella and Edward’s wedding. “It wasn’t my idea—and I hated that dress!” she told Entertainment Weekly. But she did admit that she had fun making up a backstory with producer Wyck Godfrey, who was seated next to her: “He was a deputy policeman, and our marriage was on the rocks because he was in love with [Bella’s father] Charlie.”)
8. The Cullens got to do a little improv during the baseball game.
The thunderstorm baseball game—soundtracked by Muse’s “Supermassive Black Hole”—is a chance for the Cullens to show off how much higher they can jump, faster they can run, and harder they can hit than human sluggers. The actors had to train quite a bit to pull it off, and not everyone embraced the game with enthusiasm. (“I just didn’t care. I think sports are stupid,” Pattinson told MTV.)
Though the whole scene was intricately choreographed, the actors did get to embellish their performances. Emmett’s chaotic little boxing warm-up was all Lutz, and it was Peter Facinelli’s idea to have Carlisle point his bat toward the field in a Babe Ruth–inspired manner. Jasper’s impressive bat spins, meanwhile, were a Rathbone original. “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,” Rathbone told Entertainment Weekly.
FX’s hit vampire mockumentary series, What We Do in the Shadows, paid tribute to the scene—but with kickball—in its third season (which you can watch above).
9. Edward and James’s fight scene featured Swiss cheese and honey.
During the climactic fight in the ballet studio, Edward sinks his teeth into James’s (Cam Gigandet) neck. As Gigandet remembers it, Pattinson came up with the idea to place a piece of honey-covered chicken on Gigandet’s neck in order to simulate biting into bloodless vampire flesh. “So we started off with chicken, and it was just getting everywhere. We were running out of chicken, and eventually after that, we actually replaced the chicken with Swiss cheese,” Gigandet told MTV.
The final cut doesn’t show what Gigandet described as “layer upon layer of Swiss cheese and honey upon more honey all over my neck.” But you can see Pattinson tear into James’s throat and spit out a big chunk of the fake flesh.
10. Robert Pattinson didn’t compose “Bella’s Lullaby” …
There’s an ongoing misconception that Pattinson composed “Bella’s Lullaby,” probably because it was reported ahead of the film’s release that he was doing so. Though Pattinson was playing his own music on the piano during the scene in which Edward shares “Bella’s Lullaby” with Bella, that scene was shot before the filmmakers decided what music would be used in the final cut.
The real “Bella’s Lullaby” was composed by Carter Burwell, who scored the rest of the film. He’d actually written it years earlier when his girlfriend Christine Sciulli left him (the two are now married). “She wouldn’t speak to me, so I sent her the music to speak in my place,” he wrote on his website. Muse frontman Matt Bellamy also composed a version of “Bella’s Lullaby,” which has never been released.
11. … But two of Pattinson’s songs are featured in the film.
Twilight features two songs performed by Pattinson. You can hear “Let Me Sign,” which he co-wrote with Marcus Foster and Bobby Long, while Edward is sucking the venom from Bella’s wound after James bites her. “Never Think,” co-written with Sam Bradley, plays softly in the background while Edward and Bella are eating dinner at a restaurant in Port Angeles.
As Pattinson remembers it, his music ended up in the film “by accident” after Nikki Reed gave Hardwicke a CD of songs he’d recorded years earlier. He considered using a pseudonym for his credits on the soundtrack because otherwise he “thought it would be distracting … which it has been,” he told MTV. “It was probably all a big mistake. But I like the idea.”