SAN DIEGO - The line didn't wrap around the San Diego Convention Center, but that didn't stop the "Twilight" faithful from displaying their euphoria with the return of Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and crew. Yes, there was a decidedly female tinge to the screams for the convention's first movie panel of 2011. It did not, however, hit the decibel level of the initial "Twilight" or "New Moon" panels in 2008 and 2009.
Taking the stage first, director Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls," "Kinsey") discussed how the opportunity to come into the third act of the saga was a big selling point for him on the project. Plus, having started his career in genre movies, he notes, "the second half turns into a really cool horror movie."
And for those hardcore fans paying attention in the audience he threw in a slight, "I quickly imprinted on the material." And for those unaware, find out more about imprinting here.
Condon was quickly joined by Stewart, Pattinson and Lautner who all looked more at ease in front of the approximately 5,000 plus fans in the room than in previous years.
There are three big "moments" in "Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1": Bella and Edward's wedding, the honeymoon and the difficult birth of their daughter, Renesmee. The wedding, in particular, meant a lot to Stewart.
"I had been ramping up to shoot [this] movie for four years, " Stewart says. "When I got to set I was just as nervous and terrified as I expected myself to be. When I saw everyone sitting in the pews it was just so beautiful. I had to get locked away for the rest of the day and I had to be locked into my dress and it was also secret service style crazy security. I ended up being much more relaxed than I thought I would be. Terrified and then fun and then, 'my day.' I know it sounds so lame."
Stewart's response didn't make her seem lame, but strikingly honest. A key reason her fanbase adores her.
As for the honeymoon, Pattinson discussed the crew's quick trip to Brazil which was a lot more stormy than they anticipated.
"[At first,] it was beautiful and warm and everything you would expect," Pattinson reveals. "For the remaining of the shoot it was not only raining, but a hurricane storm. It was sort of like having a honeymoon in England. We were playing board games instead of making love on the beach. But Bill fixed it [in the editing room]."
The question and answer session than made way to the first of two clips premiering at the con. And this scene, which Condon says is original to the movie, was clearly a Jacob (Lautner) moment.
We start off with Jacob in the Cullen house discussing the need to get more blood (possibly for Bella's pregnancy) with Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) and Esme (Elizabeth Reaser) and their concerns about the wolfpack who are out to kill Bella's potential spawn. Jacob appears to be intent to protect his former love even if it means going up against his tribe. The sequence then transitions to the woods where Jacob calls out his former pack members telling them to come out and talk. Lea (Julia Jones) and Seth (Booboo Stewart) quickly arrive behind Jacob. Jacob shocks them by telling the other wolfpack members to take them back into the group. The shocks continue as the members ask him how they are going to deal with the human/vampire baby Bella is about to give birth too. It appears that Jacob is playing both sides as he dramatically declares, "I'm the only one to destroy it. They trust me."
"It's difficult because Jacob at the beginning of the film is the one you've always seen before. He's young, he's immature, he's in love with Bella," Lautner says. "Then he gets his heart crushed. He doesn't handle it very well. He handles it like Jacob would handle it. He's forced to mature and become his own man. If that means separating form his pack, his brothers? He's [OK with it.]"
The second scene that debuted is an entertaining sequence from Bella and Edward's honeymoon. In case you've only casually follows the series, this is an important moment because the pair have never consummated their love. They have waited literally years until they are married to take that big step.
The scene begins with Edward carrying Bella into their honeymoon suite in Brazil. It's a beautiful suite with huge glass doors. Bella walks into the bedroom and stops at the bed. When Edward comes into the room its apparent both of them are nervous about consummating their marriage. Edward asks her is she wants to go swimming. She agrees prompting Edward to tease, "Don't take too long Mrs. Cullen."
He then heads out the door on the beach and slowly takes off his shirt (cue shrieks). Bella goes into the bathroom and a montage of quick cuts of the newly married virgin comically doing everything anyone would do to overcompensate for the moment. She intensely brushes her teeth. She decides to shave her legs again (huge laugh from the crowd). She plays with her hair in different ways. She then starts looking at the lingerie in her suitcase, turned off on how all of it would look on her. She finally slumps to the floor, puts her hands on her head in fear, frustration and exasperation. Then she gathers herself and then says, as if trying to convince herself, "Don't be a coward."
The second scene was much more interesting than the first. Especially as it added some realism and humor in how someone would really act in a situation like Bell and Edward are in. If this is the style of the rest of the movie, it may easily be able to overcome Lautner's continued weak acting to be the best of the series so far.
The quartet then took questions from the audience. The first was for Lautner, who was asked about his transition to action movies.
"I have always been a fan of action movies. It's definitely all I want to do. What I love about acting the most is the opportunity to do many different things. It's given me the opportunity to play a lot of different roles," Lautner says. "I play Nathan in Abduction and he's completely different from Jacob."
The next question was for Stewart: What was your initial reaction to the Renesmee birth scene?
This gets Condon to laugh. Stewart, on the other hand, admits, "I thought it was so cool. I think we tried to go as hard core as you could. It took two days to shoot. Two-day labor, it was really hard. (Laughs.) [Bella is] choking on blood that she's been drinking and just out of her mind. It was always in my head that she's able to fight a bit harder than any other human could because of that little bit of [vampire] in her - literally. (Big Laughs.) Now I'm really embarrassed. You got to see and in Pt. 2 have the venom run through your veins and that's after a moment of sheer exuberance of seeing your baby for the first time. That was fun. I was excited about that."
Before asking the next question, a fan remarks to Pattinson, "I was very pleasantly surprised by your back muscles in the movie."
That also generates some chuckles, but also a "I told you" from Stewart.
As for what Pattison's favorite scene in the movie was...
"The birth scene," Pattinson says. "It was different from anything [I've done as Edward before]. I never get to play Edward where he is so aware of his own helplessness and frail and human. Usually he's in control of a situation. He's trying to help Bella, but there is nothing he can do and he's just desperate. Usually Bella comes in and save the day. But Bella isn't there to save anyone. Someone else comes in and saves the day. It was nice to play a totally annihilated."
Lautner also commented on the birth scene giving a big shout out to his latest director.
"I want to give Bill some credit on this one," Lautner says. "[When I read the book that scene] was a lot to take in. It is really amazing. I don't want to give too much away, but the birth scene is phenomenal. I think you guys are going to be really pleased."
Stewart adds, "Bella has been a fighter, she's been fighting for everything that seems destined to her. You have to give her credit for having semi-devine intuition. You will see her fighting and you see she will die. She will absolutely be willing to and does. To see that straight up in your face?"
Some of the best banter of the panel occurred when both Pattinson and Lautner were asked what's it like working with Kristen, Nikki and Ashley?
"I always get asked this at some point," Pattinson says.
Lautner chimes in, "And what do you say?"
"Every way you can approach this answer either seems inappropriate or just plan wrong," Pattinson says as the hall reacts with laughter. "Tay - you answer it.
Before Lautner can reply, Pattinson adds, "It's really nice being surrounded by hot girls all the time. That's why I became and actor."
"There could be worse jobs. No, we have a lot of fun. It is weird," Lautner says.
And adding to the bit Stewart sarcastically join in declaring, "It's so weird that we are so hot."
Cue the biggest laughs of the morning.
Lautner was also asked by a fan about what his fight scenes in "Breaking Dawn" are like. The former JR. martial arts champ has obviously had time to think about this topic and his answer was a good one.
"My fight scenes I'm usually a wolf. It's a bummer, because I wish I could do that," Lautner says. "I'm super jealous of my CGI wolf, but he is pretty cute and fluffy. I actually got beat up in both movies. It was fun. [Pattinson] gives me a nice punch in this one after he finds out I imprinted on his daughter."
That might have been a reveal from "Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2," but considering the cast shot both movies simultaneously, you can't fault Lautner for the slip.
Co-stars Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Julia Jones and Elizabeth Reaser eventually joined the fun onstage, but the day belonged to the big three who made the two-year hiatus from Comic-Con well worth the wait.
Walking out of the hall, this writer ran into a senior Summit executive. We both marveled at how comfortable and confident Stewart was on stage her third time out. She reminded us that Stewart "was almost in a fetal position" the first time around for the first "Twilight" panel.
If today was any indication, the fame and pressure of a big movie franchise has really matured the superstar. She's come a long way. In fact, they all have.
"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1" opens nationwide on Nov. 18.
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