While thousands camped outside of the San Diego Convention Center for access to one of Comic-Con’s most anticipated panels — an early-afternoon session devoted to a little franchise called “Twilight” — its stars faced the press this morning just a few feet away at the Hilton Hotel.
The trio — Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner — arrived a fashionable 30 minutes late. Lautner looked a good 20 pounds bulkier than he did last year, Pattinson appeared shell-shocked, and Stewart arrived like the second coming of Joan Jett (the character she’s currently playing for the independent film “The Runaways”).
“I think last year Comic-Con was the big eye-opener for us,” said Lautner, the only actor who appeared genuinely awake and eager to promote the next film in the series, “New Moon,” to the Comic-Con press corps.
“It’s awesome that we get to see them all waiting for us again a year later,” he added.
Pattinson had a different take on the franchise’s rabid fans, acknowledging up front that “there’s no pleading ignorance [with the press] now. You actually have to have something to say.”
So what did the cast have to say?
For starters, none of them had seen the completed film yet. Additionally, journalists were warned by Summit Entertainment head of PR Vivian Mayer-Siskind at the outset not to even think about asking questions about the reported romance between Pattinson and Stewart.
But mustached online personality and Comic-Con vet Bob Stencil did anyway: “What’s the off-screen chemistry like, Rob and Kristen?” The actors didn’t have time to open their mouths before Mayer-Siskind shut that down.
The stars did divulge that Edward would be much more of a presence in “New Moon” than he is in the book, which follows the the character’s breakup with Bella. He leaves her early in the novel and reappears only in the final fifth of the book.
“He’s in it!” Stewart said as if to reassure skeptics. In “New Moon,” Bella begins hearing Edward’s voice after he leaves. In the movie, she’ll see him as well.
“It would look probably pretty cheesy if it were just my voice, so they’ve done these hallucinations, semi-visible apparitions,” Pattinson said.
“It’s a severely emotional movie,” Stewart said, as if to explain why she stuck with the teen franchise.
Both she and Pattinson have participated only in select press interviews for the film, thus far.
“I like it best just in terms of how far I was able to push myself this time,” she added. “It’s not about discovery or falling in love. It’s, like, low. Bella is a manic depressive, basically.
“After ‘New Moon,’ it’s pretty much smooth sailing for her,” Stewart said.
Pattinson couldn’t pinpoint the drawing power of vampire stories. “When I play it, I try and eliminate the vampire element as much as I can,” he said. Yet he added that they obviously had “some sort of power.”
“I found myself bizarrely invested in the ‘Twilight’ story after my first audition — and I hadn’t even read the books yet,” he said.
Lautner was a little more upbeat. “The werewolves definitely step up the action in this movie,” he said. Of course, he’s biased — he gets to play one.
The third film, “Eclipse,” begins production mid-August, and Lautner called it “the high point in the series.”
The 17-year-old also divulged that he’d bulked up by “eating everything” for months and working out nonstop with a personal trainer to keep him locked into the role of Jacob, Bella’s werewolf suitor. Before “New Moon” began production, it had been speculated that the actor may
have been too slight to play Jacob in the second and third films, in
which the character is supposed to have radically transformed.
Just don’t ask him to growl like a werewolf for you. “I really don’t enjoy doing that,” he said. “Please don’t. Just wait for the movie.”
Photo: From left, Tyler Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. Credit: Getty Images