Casting wasn’t easy for film’s director

By Rick Bentley

The director said she listened to fans when it came to casting.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Catherine Hardwicke has had millions of eyes watching her since it was announced she would direct the big-screen version of “Twilight.” Fans of the book were watching and commenting on many Web sites devoted to “Twilight” about the movie and how it should be done. Fans had ideas and expectations on everything from filming locations to casting.

And Hardwicke read them. Talk about extra pressure to make a movie. But that’s nothing new to Hardwicke. Her last film was a Bible tale called “The Nativity Story.” She points out that far more people have bought and read the Bible than the 17 million readers of “Twilight.”

That doesn’t mean she took on “Twilight” with any less zeal. She wants fans to like the movie.

“I want people to get into the film and feel like the love has come to life on the screen,” Hardwicke says.

Fans of the books were very concerned about who would play the film’s central characters of Edward and Bella. Hardwicke went so far as to audition Emily Browning, the leading online choice for the part of Bella. That was a dead end because Browning told the director she didn’t know if she even wanted to keep acting. And for Browning, the idea of appearing in four films based on the books was completely out of the question.

“I met all the people fans suggested. Some were too old, weren’t interested or in person just weren’t right,” Hardwicke says.

She thought of Kristen Stewart because of her work in “Into the Wild.” As soon as she saw Stewart’s taped audition, the director knew she had found her Bella.

“Bella has a lot of depth and a lot of soul. So you cannot pick a television actress who is just really cute. That’s not going to work because of the level that the fans feel connected to these books. This actress had to carry this kind of depth, and Kristen is one of the few actresses of her age that has shown us she can do that,” Hardwicke says.

Casting Edward was not so easy. From thousands of audition tapes, she cut the list to 100. Problem was, most of the actors looked like the guy next door. She needed someone who came across as more mysterious.

“I thought Edward had to be someone from another world. You couldn’t figure him out,” Hardwicke says. The final five contenders came to Hardwicke’s house. Each took turns reading a scene with Stewart. As soon as Robert Pattinson and Stewart were together, Hardwicke knew she had the right chemistry.

Hardwicke has to wait to see how well “Twilight” does at the box office to know whether there will be a sequel in which that chemistry can continue. The buzz in Hollywood is “Twilight” has to take in more than $150 million in ticket sales for a second film to get a green light. That’s because the second book, “New Moon,” would be more costly to make because of the special effects required.

A decision has to be made quickly. She knows her actors won’t stop aging.

No matter how the film is received by the public, Hardwicke will always have a few loyal fans.

“All my nieces and nephews think I am a cool aunt because of the book,” Hardwick said.

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