Twilight: How Bella’s Movie Story Was Almost Completely Different

The first draft for Twilight made extreme changes to the source material, especially to the character of Bella Swan. Here's what happened.

During the pre-production process of Twilight, the story went through different versions, and one of the earliest ones was completely different from the book, changing very important details, mostly about Bella’s life – here’s what it looked like. Back in 2005, Stephenie Meyer shared her unique vision of vampires and werewolves in the novel Twilight, the first entry in a series of four books chronicling the problematic romance between vampire Edward Cullen and mortal Bella Swan. Through the series, Edward and Bella came across different obstacles, such as an elite clan of vampires known as the Volturi and a pack of werewolves, among those Bella’s best friend, Jacob Black

The Twilight book series was a big hit with readers and quickly built a solid fanbase, which grew once the novels were adapted to the big screen. The first movie, Twilight, was released in 2008 and introduced Robert Pattinson as Edward, Kristen Stewart as Bella, and Taylor Lautner as Jacob. The movie wasn’t well-received by critics, who found that it lost most of its charm in the transition from the pages to the big screen, and heavily criticized the performances of the main actors, though many praised Catherine Hardwicke’s direction. The reaction of fans was the complete opposite, who welcomed the movie with open arms and were thankful that it was quite faithful to the source material, though that wasn’t always what the script looked like.

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As it happens with all movies, and perhaps more with those adapted from other sources, Twilight went through many drafts before settling on the story that made it to be big screen. Meyer knew there were things from the novel that had to be included in the movie, and she even fought for the line about “the lion and the lamb” to be kept, which funny enough, has been one of the most criticized and mocked lines from both the novel and the movie. Meyer also made a list of things that couldn’t be changed for the movie, such as the vampires having fangs and killing characters that don’t die in the novels, and the studio agreed – but they were also given a bit too much freedom and initially changed a lot of things, especially about Bella, that made her the opposite of the character in the books.

Hardwicke told CinemaBlend in 2018 that, when Twilight was in development at Paramount Pictures’ MTV Films, the first script she was given was nothing like the book, as the studio aimed to make it as Hollywood-worthy and marketable as possible, and so changed key details about Bella and the story in general. Hardwicke revealed that in this version Bella was a track star and the complete opposite of the awkward and clumsy high-schooler the novel introduced. The movie then took a whole turn and “there were CIA agents on jet skis trying to find the vampires”, which goes against the whole concept in the Twilight series about the existence of vampires being kept a secret from humans, with the Volturi making sure it happened that way. Thankfully, there was no luck in finding a studio that would agree to make that movie, so Summit Entertainment acquired the rights from Paramount in a turnaround and worked on another script.

Now on the hands of a different creative team but with Hardwick still on board as a director (and one who was pushing for it to be faithful to the source material), the script for Twilight went through a rewrite and Meyer’s story was kept almost as it is in the book. Of course, it still had to go through changes to fit the format, but the essence of the novel is intact. Had the first version of Twilight been the definitive one, fans would have definitely rejected it and voiced their feelings about it, and the rest of the franchise surely wouldn’t have happened. In the end, Twilight made way for four more movies (as the final book, Breaking Dawn, was split into two movies) and while it’s still mocked and criticized, it lives in the hearts and/or minds of both fans and detractors.

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