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American films

Twilight turns 10: before they loved Robert Pattinson as vampire Edward Cullen, they hated him

  • People said, ‘He’s revolting. He’s disgusting’, film’s director recalls – but she and Kristen Stewart knew he was the one
  • British actor was an unknown when he was picked to play world’s sexiest undead man
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 October, 2018, 11:52am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 October, 2018, 11:52am

As the first Twilight movie turns 10, many remember the screaming crowds and frenzied fan adoration for the film’s vampire lover Edward Cullen, played by Robert Pattinson.

Few remember the online outrage that roared when the then-unknown British actor was cast. Twihard legions hated that Pattinson was chosen to play Cullen to Kristen Stewart’s human Bella Swan, director Catherine Hardwicke recalls.

“People were like, ‘He’s revolting. He’s disgusting,’ ” Hardwicke says of the early days of the super-franchise, which surprised Hollywood and took US$3.4 billion in worldwide box office.

Even on the set, Pattinson was rattled by the online onslaught of negative reaction.

“Robert was like, ‘Look what they are saying about me!’ I was like, ‘Don’t read that stuff,’ ” Hardwicke says. “And he goes, ‘My mom sent me these emails about how revolting I am.’ I guess it’s that wry British sense of humour. I just told him, ‘You better avoid your mom’s emails.’ ”

To be fair, Twilight fans were going to have a hard time with any actor playing their beloved Edward from Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling young-adult novels, much less the question mark of Pattinson. At that point, he had only a small part as Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to his name.

To make matters worse, as news of his casting spread among fans, they found unflattering photos of the young actor online.

“He was drinking beer, he had a little belly. His hair was a bad black dye job from some movie,” says Hardwicke. “He did not look perfect.”

But the director knew she had a hot-looking young actor who showed serious chemistry with Stewart (his future off-screen lover). The couple’s electricity was such during their audition at Hardwicke’s home that Stewart insisted “it has to be Rob” afterwards.

Playing the undead legend was difficult to live up to for Pattinson.

“The book says Edward Cullen is the sexiest guy in the world. Robert was like, ‘How do you play that?’ I told him to just stay in the moment and be there,” says Hardwicke. “He took it dead seriously and got in terrific shape so he could look like a strong vampire.”

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Hardwicke set up a photo shoot to show off her in-shape, cleaned-up Pattinson in full Edward Cullen mode. Releasing those pictures “turned the tide”, she says.

“When we posted those, everybody was like, ‘OK!’ ” says Hardwicke. “All the negativity went away.”

And then “the trailer came out and everything turned around”, Pattinson told the Daily Mirror in 2011. “I started getting love letters and fan mail instead of hate mail.”

Other Twilight stars had to deal with backlash that went well beyond their casting. As Swan, Stewart endured comments on everything from a perceived lack of facial expression to her penchant for biting her lower lip.

“But she stayed focused and on track,” says Hardwicke. “Of course she got criticised for 100 reasons. But some of these were from all the other fans who wanted to be there kissing Rob Pattinson instead of her.”