Vampires used to be scary creatures that went around biting people in the neck and sleeping in coffins and could only be killed with crucifixes and sunlight. Well, the new lot of vampires are much cooler, judging from the legions of fans that the fantasy-romance film "Twilight" has attracted. "Twilight," directed by Catherine Hardwicke ("The Nativity Story," "Lords of Dogtown"), is based on the first of author Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling novels about teenage vampires. It has been a monster hit since its U.S. release last November.
Now, Japan has been bitten by the vampire bug. When stars Kristen Stewart, 18, Robert Pattinson, 22, and Taylor Lautner, 17, showed up for the Japan premiere outside at Ebisu recently, there was an enormous gathering of both Japanese and foreign teenagers. Bemused passersby had to take evasive action so as not to be caught up in the crush.
In Meyer’s stories, romance replaces the bloodthirsty. Stewart plays Bella, who moves from Phoenix to the small Washington town of Forks. At her school, she finds the usual assortment of nerds, jocks and -- real-life vampires (though they masquerade as Goths). Bella soon falls for one of them, Edward. So what if he’s 108 years old? These aren’t the usual vampires -- they are “vegetarian” (they drink animal blood) and they sparkle in the sunlight, rather than melting away. Crucifixes? No problem.
“I know vampires have been a staple of fiction for thousands of years,” said Pattinson, who first shot to fame in the "Harry Potter" series. “What I didn’t realize was how passionate some fans are about how vampires are portrayed. For me, the appeal is that they are all-powerful creatures who are completely dependent on humans to survive. For others, their appeal lies in the sensuality of biting people in the necks.” Stewart ("Panic Room," "Into the Wild"), thinks the appeal of vampires is the desire to be a perfect being forever. “The other side to that is being afraid to change and not be perfect, which I don’t think is very desirable,” she said.
Lautner, who plays Jacob, a native American friend of Bella, said he felt an awesome responsibility to stay true to the characters written by Meyer. “It‘s all there in the book and that’s what the fans love.” Pattinson said that for his preparation, he went off into seclusion and spent most of the time reading.
Inevitably, he is asked to compare the "Harry Potter" world with the "Twilight" zone, so to speak. “There are not really many similarities,” he said. “'Harry Potter' is set in a fantastic parallel universe. 'Twilight' is mainly about three people dealing with sexuality. I don’t think 'Harry Potter' has gone down that road yet.”
The stars have all signed on for the second and third films in the series, "New Moon" and "Eclipse." The fourth book -- "Breaking Dawn" -- came out last August, but no plans for a movie have been announced yet. However, Stewart is ambivalent about remaining an actress. In an interview in February with Vanity Fair, she told the magazine: “I love what I do but it’s not all I want to do -- be a professional liar for the rest of my life.”
After being mobbed by her fans in Tokyo, she just may change her mind.
"Twilight" opens in Japan on April 4.© Japan Today