New Moon rose in theaters on Nov. 20, 2009. In the span of 72 hours, the film grossed $142 million, more than doubling the opening-weekend performance of Twilight. Box-office analyst Jeff Bock described the debut to E! News as "absolutely freakish."
Critics had choice words, too, many of them unkind. Director Chris Weitz's film was accused of being "a bloated, self-important, bore"; its stars of "primp[ing] and pos[ing]."
Nearly all would be forgiven with David Slade's Eclipse, which arrived in theaters just seven months later, on June 24, 2010. Where author Stephenie Meyer's story had dictated that Robert Pattinson's Edward be relegated to observer status in New Moon, Eclipse demanded action, even battlefield scenes, and lent itself to self-knowing humor. ("Let's face it," the warm-blooded, torso-baring Jacob tells his pale vampire rival, "I am hotter than you.")
Audiences responded again, and at the same time like never before: Eclipse became the highest-grossing Twilight film of them all.
"I get asked all of the time about the success of the series and about it being phenomenal and all that," Pattinson would confess to the New York Daily News, "but you never know when that might just possibly end randomly."
Nothing was ending randomly much less abruptly for the Twilight stars, who were committed to two more movies, as Summit Entertainment formally announced in June 2010 its intention to split Meyer's fourth and final Twilight novel, Breaking Dawn, into a cliffhanger and a saga-resolving finale.
"The story absolutely warrants two films," Kristen Stewart told MTV.com.
To be sure, Breaking Dawn saw Bella run the gamut, marrying Edward, giving birth to their child, Esme, and undergoing the vampire "change."
No storyline point was more anticipated or debated than Edward and Bella's honeymoon night, which, as written by Meyer, was a pillow-chomping, feather-flying, bruising affair. Add in the "intense" birthing scene, as costar Nikki Reed put it to E! News, and how would the studio keep things to a girl-friendly PG-13? And, not incidentally, who would guide Pattinson and Stewart through it all?
The answer to the last question was answered when Summit ended its quest for a high-profile director by tapping Oscar winner Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Chicago).
Filming on Breaking Dawn, both parts, began in Brazil in November 2010. Within days, photos of Pattinson and Stewart kissing, in character, were everywhere. Though the actors' off-screen relationship was now more or less an open secret, neither spoke of it publicly. On Oprah, during a promotional stop for Eclipse, they'd each joked they'd impregnated the other, but that was as far as it went—a couple of jokes.
At work, on the set, things were different. "They're so cool and comfortable with each other," Condon would tell E! News.
Still, the honeymoon scene was not without its challenges.
Pattinson cracked to TheWrap.com that he had to be in shape "for the time this whole series."
In Parade, Stewart called "the bed stuff" an odd job. "Every time I was off-camera," she said, "I was making goofy faces at Rob to make him laugh. I couldn't take it seriously."
Stewart said it—she said the word boyfriend—and everyone took it seriously.
Shortly before Breaking Dawn—Part 1 arrived in theaters on Nov. 18, 2011, British GQ published an interview in which Stewart made a passing statement that "my boyfriend is British." The cat was formally, and finally out of the bag.
Though the magazine noted Stewart initially regretted the innocuous comment, it noted she soon loosened up.
"I mean, it's like, come on guys, it's so obvious!" she said.
At the time of the interview, Stewart was in England, shooting a new movie called Snow White and the Huntsman.