end, and closing a lucrative chapter in the young actors' careers.
It was a star-studded night as the Twilight cast shone on the red carpet of the LA premiere of Breaking Dawn Part 2. But it was clearly Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson's first appearance post split that was most talked-about.
The five films, based on novels of the same name by Stephenie Meyer, have made a fortune for them and for the Summit Entertainment studio, earning $2.4 billion since the first movie in 2008. And like the Harry Potter movies, the franchise remains a huge success right to the end: some 2,200 fans, mostly teenage girls, camped out for days in Los Angeles ahead of the red carpet premiere this week.
The stars say they are happy about the excitement they still generate, but say the time is right to move on.
"I'm so happy that the story is told, you have no idea. The fact that this thing is out and it's not weighing on us anymore, I'm super excited about that," said Stewart, who plays Bella Swan. "I don't want to sound like I'm excited just to be done with the experience. It is sad, it is strange," she told reporters in Beverly Hills before the film's release. "But it's normal. Things shouldn't stay stagnant," added the 22-year-old, who has already made her post-'Twilight' mark in films including this year's Snow White and the Huntsman and On the Road.
British actor Pattinson -- Stewart's partner both on- and off-screen, except for a few months' separation after the actress's widely-reported fling with the director of Snow White -- said it will take time to get over Twilight. "I think it's going to take 10 years to really settle in my brain," said the 26-year-old, who plays Edward Cullen. "If I could get a little bit more control over my public image, that would be nice."I guess you could play superhero after superhero. That seems like the only guaranteed big money thing. It's not that satisfying, getting monetary success, but it keeps the door open for doing what you want. "I'm trying to sign up and do movies that I can be proud of," said the actor, who has already branched out with an appearance in David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis.
In the fifth and final Twilight installment, Bella begins a new life as a vampire, and has to defend her daughter Renesmee against the elite Volturi, who fear she is a threat to their future. "The first one was more romantic and intimate, and this one is more epic and has a bigger scale," director Bill Condon told AFP, saying his biggest question is how movie-goers will react to Bella's transformation. "Those movies are Bella's story. Kristen Stewart is a human and she's been the one who takes us through it all. Now, Kristen is not a human anymore, so this is a story now where you've lost your human guide," he said.
The story now primarily involves vampires, whose expressions and body language is extremely limited.
Condon said that was "the biggest challenge of this series... it's something that is laid out in the mythology: they don't even breathe, they have no need to sit, they don't move, they don't cry, so these intense emotional things can't happen. So yes, a lot of the actors' tools are taken away from them, including their eyes. Each of the actors wears contact lenses. So they're not seeing so clearly and we're not seeing that clearly into their souls."
He continued: "You're starting with an awful load of restrictions. That's why sometimes, these poor actors get accused of being wooden. I think they felt misunderstood and I feel for them because it's a very specific thing. "That wooden thing is something that represents a lot of work!"
But Condon remains confident that the strength of Bella's character will keep movie-goers gripped. "I think that the secret of this franchise is that there's a woman at its center and it's told from her point of view. And there are not enough of these movies," he said. "And I think that audiences and especially female audiences are starving for that."
It's no coincidence that the mega-saga likely to take over from the Twilight series is The Hunger Games, a post-apocalyptic drama also centered on a powerful female character, Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence. Also produced by Lionsgate-Summit, the first film in the trilogy was released in March, and has made $645 million globally. The second installment is due out in November 2013.