A movie is nothing without its cast, and that goes tenfold for a series. You are building a brand around your stars, as films have long since been the stuff of artistry or taste. Even when they did possess potential, the knowledge that your trilogy was only as good as its lead’s staying power was not lost on directors. Imagine Indiana Jones or Han Solo as anyone but Harrison Ford — you can’t — and that’s half the reason those movies have left such a lasting impression. We grow comfortable with the characters; we can predict their behavior and take pleasure in that familiarity. This is also why contracts exist, so even when the star grows sick of the role, they are legally bound to stick around for the full run of the films.
The creators of Twilight knew exactly what they were doing. With the Harry Potter craze as proof, it was clear that tweens made a closer connection to repeat casts than any audience before them: They were now growing up alongside the stars. And in addition, they had become their own market, one with the parental cash flow and tendency toward obsession that makes a movie as silly as ‘Twilight’ a multimillion dollar franchise.
While it may seem to the casual observer that the movie’s main attraction is its three stars — the love triangled Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner — this couldn’t be further from the facts. While Twihards do certainly love their three power players, the film’s fanbase is hardly of the less is more variety. In an effort to appreciate the movie to the fullest, all elements must be equally scrutinized then lusted after, which means supporting players are every bit as important as the vampire, the werewolf and the little lamb.
On the human side, there’s Anna Kendrick. She plays the typical high school friend of Kristen Stewart: ditzy, self-serving and largely irrelevant in matters beyond lunch table politics. She’s certainly made a name for herself in Hollywood, however, receiving a Golden Globe and SAG nomination for her role in ‘Up in the Air’ and playing a small part in the upcoming ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’ with Michael Cera. But within the franchise phenomena, it’s all about the vampires, who help shape the love story between Stewart and Pattinson. Their screen time and actual pertinence fluctuate, but their star power has done anything but.
Ashley Greene plays Alice, Pattinson’s sister and crucial connection between the two lovebirds when things go sour, as they often do when you’re dating someone who wants to kill you. Off screen, she landed the cover of Maxim’s December 2009 issue, was featured in a bodypainted bikini for Sobe’s advertisements in Sports Illustrated‘s 2010 Swimsuit Edition and is starring in the upcoming film ‘Warrior’ — right alongside Twilight cast mate Kellan Lutz. Lutz is in a similar position to Greene, clearly only padding for Pattinson, but popular enough now to have earned fans in his own right, and the same goes for the rest of the Cullen crew.
They may not be taking the best steps in terms of longevity, but capitalizing on your fame while you’ve got it may be the wiser career move in the end. Where Kendrick may find success in the intellectual realm, Lutz, Greene and their blood sucking brethren have already been rewarded in the more immediate world of general celebrity. They’ve also gotten smart and realized that a personal fanbase means much more than screaming girls at every premiere. Put simply, it’s leverage, and they might just get the opportunity to do something with it.
‘Breaking Dawn’ is set to be the fourth and final film in the series, and Summit Entertainment is now considering splitting it into two separate movies. This would require renegotiation of contracts for the entire cast, as they were originally on board for four films, not five. Summit has no problem upping the pay for its big three, but it seems things have hit a snag as far as Lutz, Greene and the Cullen kids are concerned. While they may have tried to set an example with evil, red headed (of course) vampire Victoria — firing original actress Rachelle Lefevre and replacing her with Bryce Dallas Howard in ‘Eclipse’ — this absolutely will not work for any other member of the cast, especially this late in the game.
Message boards are already abuzz with the contract hold ups, and it isn’t as though fans accepted the Lefevre firing without complaint. Her character may be minor enough to withstand the naysayers, but without the familiar faces to back up the love story, the movies become just that. There’s a reason Twilight has so successfully navigated the two boys desire one girl plot normally reserved for romantic comedies; it walks the line between a number of different genres, bringing science fiction and action to the table on its overarching quest for abstinence only education. It also doesn’t hurt that the entire supporting cast is attractive, adding about ten more reasons for fans to continue coming back for more, and for Summit to quickly come to its senses and pay the people responsible for their own skyrocketing profits.