Fandom Flashback: The Casting of the Twilight Saga

Now that filming has wrapped for the five films that will make up the complete Twilight Saga, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at what happened in late 2007 when the saga was first cast. Speculation ran rampant with who should be cast as which character. The fandom was smaller then and totally book based, but everyone had their own opinion as to who should play their favorite characters.

For Bella Swan, fans debated over Emily Browning, Alexis Bledel, and Danielle Panabaker as front runners. Fan wanted a true brunette with a small frame and a kind of innocence to her. (Keep in mind that the casting for the film happened before Breaking Dawn was published!) When Kristen Stewart landed the role, the feeling we got at the time from the fandom was that fans weren’t completely thrilled, but they were at least happy that Bella wasn’t being played by a Disney-esque actress and that the film was at least being made.

On our post announcing the casting, most comments were fine with the choice and were really only interested in who was going to play Edward. Even still, we posted our personal position on the casting of the films. Having lived through the casting of several Harry Potter films at the time, we knew that it wasn’t wise to be too attached to a particular actor or actress as a book character because the chances of that actor actually landing the role were slim to none. Also, you really have to wait to see the finished film before you can pass judgment on how great or terrible the casting is. (I think many Hunger Games fans can relate to this right now!) Stephenie Meyer even drove home the point after being bombarded on her MySpace page by hate for Kristen Stewart. She had this to say at the time:

For anyone who’s visited my site, this is not really news. After reading through your comments, though, I felt the need to reiterate a few things:
1) I did not choose Kristen Stewart to play Bella. Summit films choose her. I’m happy with their choice, but it was never up to me.
2) Similarly, I have no choice in the matter of who will play Edward, Alice, or any of the other characters. I have made suggestions, but no one at Summit is obligated to listen to my suggestions. They’re nice enough to let me bug them, but even that is more than I contractually have the right to expect.
3) Begging me to choose a good Edward is a waste of your typing time.
But since we’re on the subject of Edward, I’d like to give you all a little advice (the same advice I’m giving myself). To my knowledge, no one has been cast for the role yet, but here are some things for us to repeat to ourselves daily as we wait for the news:
1) Do not expect the actor who plays Edward to fit your preconceived notions of the character. No one is that perfect; that’s why he’s fictional.
2) DO expect that the actor won’t “look like Edward” to you. Try to be open-minded about that. Headshots lack the magic of makeup and lighting; they aren’t going to convey what the actor might look like on the set.
3) Do not expect a name you’re familiar with; do not expect the guy in your lexicon banner (who is probably too old, not a good enough actor, or not interested anyway).
4) No human actor is pretty enough to really pull off a vampire. What we are hoping for here is that magical element of screen charisma that makes all the difference in the world. Example: Pirates of the Carribean. Were you drooling over pretty Orlando? I wasn’t. I was taken with the drunk pirate in the eyeliner. Some actors can own any scene they’re in. Let’s not focus so much on the perfect face (which no one is going to be happy with regardless); let’s hope for an inebriated pirate. I.e. someone who can own a scene like Johnny or Joaquin or Jonathan Rhys, someone who will make us forget he’s not quite pretty enough to be a vampire.

Here’s my wish: that, after we find out who is going to play Edward, my comments page is not awash with “I can’t believe they picked HIM!”-s and “John Doe is the real Edward and no one else can do it!”-s and “I hate him! I want him to die!”-s. Can we give him a chance to become Edward? Can we let him try to convince us? I’m keeping my mind open. I hope I can keep my comments page open, too

It was wishful thinking and the intention was good, but the storm was already brewing. Fans were constantly debating over who should play Edward Cullen. Favorites included Stephenie’s personal choice of Henry Cavil to Hayden Christensen and even Gaspard Ulliel. There had even been some talk about Jackson Rathbone as Edward. Stephenie herself had him on her possibilities list.

Nothing though prepared us for what was to come.

The date was Dec. 11, 2007. And this was how we posted the news that day: “Summit Entertainment announced that Robert Pattinson, an actor from the UK, has been cast as Edward Cullen.”

And the world went crazy.

Not in the way that you think. I’m sure those of you that fell in love with Edward because of Robert Pattinson will find it surprising that so many people absolutely hated this decision. Personally, Laura and I laughed a little because as Harry Potter fans we had a bit of a difficult time picturing Edward with a wand fighting off Voldemort… I mean the Volturi. But our laughter didn’t last long given that this one announcement crashed the Lexicon! We’d had high traffic before with book releases, but nothing anywhere near the amount of traffic that came in on that one day. It actually led us to separate the blog from the forums and run them on two separate servers to be able to handle the hits coming at us! To paraphrase our server company, “Do you people realize you’ve had over 300,000 hits in the last half hour? What the heck kind of site are you people running?”

The first comment on the blog about the news said, “I hate Robert!!! Edward is supposed to be hot and I think he’s not…I don’t like him!!!!!” And it didn’t stop there. “THEY PICKED THE WRONG PERSON FOR EDWARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Or how about, “No offence or anything, but Robert Pattinson isn’t good looking enough to be Edward.” Did you know that Catherine Hardwick has said multiple times that even she had to convince the rest of the film makers that Robert was a good choice and that fans would think he was sexy? She had to convince them!

It’s a bit shocking to look back and see that one of Hollywood’s current hottest leading men, who is on the cover of literally thousands of magazines around the world every month, was once thought of as not being sexy enough to play the role for which he’s most famous. I think the majority of fans would agree that the single greatest contribution Catherine Hardwick had on the Twilight and film community in general was the casting of Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen.

Casting continued with the addition of the rest of the Cullens as well as Bella’s high school friends. One by one, as each cast member was announced the fans responded with their fair share of love and hate comments. Most of the problems came from the fact that so many of the actors had the wrong hair color for their character, which meant they would have to use wigs or be dyed. Comments about Ashley Greene being too tall to play Alice or Kellan Lutz not being bulky enough to play Emmett were tossed around on message boards.

Once the casting of the Cullen family was finished, Summit released this photo to help fans see the big picture of these actors in their various roles. Contained in the 929 comments on our blog the day the first photos of the Cullen family surfaced were some of these gems:

OMCOMCOM! These are spectacular! (we can just overlook the fact that Jasper’s hair might eat him at any given moment)  Edward is just….woah! If Emmett grows his hair out a little more, and Jasper tames the beast…then I would just…die!  I cannot wait for more pictures, especially if Bella is in there!

Have I said yet how much I LOVE Edwar… Robert’s eyebrows? I LOVE THEM! I didn’t before, but now they are pretty and groomed, and I’m in love with them. Oooh… and his chin. YUMMY.

hotty hotty!!!! gawd i cant even stand it soooooooooooo CUTE!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAA i cant wait to see him!

Obviously, whatever doubts fans were having started to wane rather quickly, and the birth of the screaming Twi-fan was born.

Surprisingly, the casting of Jacob Black didn’t make much of a splash. This was posted on Stephenie Meyer’s website in January of 2008:

“Director Catherine Hardwicke is keen to find the right teenager for the role of Jacob,” says Casting Director Lana Veenker, owner of the Portland, Oregon-based casting company. “Besides being an authentic Native American, he needs to have charm and charisma. At this point, Catherine is more concerned about finding someone with the right looks and personality, than she is about prior acting experience. And he needs to be available for sequels! This will be an amazing opportunity for one lucky teenager.”

Then, about a month later, we ran this announcement:  “Billy Burke, Taylor Lautner, Christian Serratos, Edi Gathegl, Rachel Lefevre, Sarah Clark and Gregory Tyree Boyce have joined the cast. At this time we are uncertain of who is playing who, and I think we have all learned that speculation only leads to problem. Once we know the characters they will play, we will let you know.”

As you can see, Taylor Lautner’s name was slipped in there with little to no fuss. In fact, we were one of the first people to interview Taylor in regards to his role when we visited the set of Twilight. At the time, the media focused mainly on Edward, Bella, and the Cullens and didn’t pay too much attention to Jacob, since his role was rather brief in Twilight. It wasn’t until casting came around for New Moon and word got out that Taylor might be replaced that there was any real fuss over the casting of Jacob Black.

Casting news has surrounded each film as new characters have been introduced. I remember the hype over casting the wolf pack and then the Volturi and the fact that big names like Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning were going to join the cast. With Eclipse we had the tension over the recasting of Victoria coupled with the swoon worthiness of Xavier Samuel as Riley. And then with Breaking Dawn and the whole influx of international vampires as well as the fan favorite Denali clan, casting news still ran rampant.

There will always be movies based on books. The casting of those movies will always cause excitement and grief and joy for fans of those books. In the end, what matters is the final product. Given the popularity of the franchise and the love and devotion fans everywhere have for this cast, I think The Twilight Saga has done well. We rush out to see other films starring these actors. We follow their charities and causes. We wait in lines for days and days and days just to catch a glimpse of them. I’m pretty sure Summit is happy that they listened to Catherine Hardwick all those years ago and trusted her casting decisions!

Now it’s your turn to chime in! Where you around when Twilight was first cast? What did you think then and what do you think now? Did your opinion change?

If you came into the films because of the cast, does any of this shock you? What was it about the cast that appealed to you and made you want to see the film?

Leave us a comment and tell us your thoughts!