Charlie Swan might be beloved by the Twilight fanbase, but the earliest drafts of the novel’s movie adaptation left him dead at the hands of the villains before cooler heads prevailed. Despite author Stephenie Meyers’ novel series being a bestselling phenomenon, the Twilight saga had a long and rocky road to the big screen. Before director Catherine Hardwicke helmed the original Twilight in 2008, the rights for the novel’s movie adaptation originally went to Paramount.
Unfortunately for Meyers, fans of the series, and everyone else involved, Paramount had some wild ideas about how to adapt Twilight that fairly fundamentally misunderstood the appeal of the series. While the Twilight novels were at their core a love story between a small-town girl and her immortal vampire boyfriend, the Paramount treatment was more of a quippy MTV action movie with some occasional romance thrown in. While the books were set in the chilly, rainswept environs of the Pacific Northwest, Paramount’s proposed Twilight adaptation would have seen Bella pursuing vampires on a jet ski.
However, perhaps the most egregious misstep found in Paramount’s canceled Twilight adaptation was the choice to kill off the beloved side character Charlie Swan. Despite Bella’s dad being a fan-favorite figure, the movie series was originally set to off him in the first film of the franchise to give Bella a tragic backstory and a personal vendetta against the movie’s villains. Fortunately, when Paramount’s adaptation was canceled, the creators decided to stick to the source material more faithfully, resulting in Charlie making it out of the series alive. It was a canny choice, as Charlie’s understated reaction to the paranormal chaos and melodramatic antics surrounding him offer some of the biggest deadpan laughs in the series.
While hardly as significant a character as Edward, Jacob, or Bella, Charlie was a solid addition to the franchise and a consistent source of comic relief in the otherwise self-serious movie adaptations. However, while the saga opted to adapt the novels faithfully, many movies accused of ripping off Twilight were quick to reinstate the over-the-top action and shoehorned-in chase sequences that were cut from Paramount’s proposed script. In particular, 2011’s I Am Number Four effectively served as a sci-fi retelling of Twilight with far more loud action sequences, none of which critics felt added much to the teen romance’s thin story.
In contrast, the Twilight movies fared comparatively well with critics upon finding their feet, and after the shaky reception of 2009’s New Moon, later sequels Eclipse and Breaking Dawn were well-liked by many reviewers. Fortunately, Billy Burke’s blankly accepting Charlie Swan survived to see the action of both outings and even made it to the end of the saga, despite having a relatively minor role in the later movies. While there may not have been much crime to keep the sheriff of Twilight’s small-town setting, Forks, busy, the fandom’s appreciation of Charlie still proves that the movies made the right choice by sparing his life. Whatever else the Twilight adaptations may have changed from the novels, the absence of Bella’s oblivious dad would have been a step too far.