SALT LAKE CITY — The third installment of Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" saga hits theaters June 30, and to prepare, eager fans gathered at Fairmont Park on Saturday for an outdoor screening of the first two movies in the series.
It wasn't the inflatable movie screens, however, that "Twilight" lovers went crazy for — it was the special appearances by Volturi vampire Demetri (Charlie Bewley) and sole female werewolf Leah Clearwater (Julia Jones).
Among the cheering fans was Payton Raynor, 13, who said she's had tickets to "Twilight Saga: Eclipse" since last November.
"I'm excited to see more of the cast," Raynor said, "and I think it's fun to meet people that liked the movie."
Also at Fairmont Park was TwilightMOMS member Kirsten Wright, who said it was the romance of the books that first intrigued her but the friendships that keep her involved with "Twilight" events.
"The appeal was the romance. I like the way Stephenie Meyer moved away from traditional vampires," Wright said. "It started with the books and has moved on to the movies because they're fun, and a lot of us are still here because we are all friends now."
Bewley and Jones, who were on a "premiere comedown" after the Los Angeles opening of the "Twilight Saga: Eclipse" on Thursday, said it's been a whirlwind, but one they are glad to be part of.
"It's all very fun and exciting," Jones said. "It takes a lot out of you, because sometimes it seems like you can never give them enough. It seems insatiable sometimes, but being part of this is awesome, and it's a gift, and it's an incredible life experience."
Devoted fans have become synonymous with the "Twilight" franchise, and no matter how big the star, it's almost a guarantee there will be a massive crowd surrounding anyone involved.
Bewley said his first brush with the crazed world of "Twilight" fans was while filming "Twilight Saga: New Moon" in a rustic Tuscan village, where 5,000 girls lined the narrow streets.
"There were girls climbing over each other to get one yard closer to Rob (Pattinson) or Kristin's (Stewart) car, and it's like, what would you do if you actually got closer to them?" Bewley said.
He got the answer to his question shortly after.
"When I first got revealed, essentially, because I walked around fairly anonymous for most the time, I was just, like, engulfed," Bewley said. "They were ripping the clothes off my body. It was insane."
Since then, Bewley said the instant-access social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook provide for fans of the series has given him a firsthand look at the insanity surrounding the cast.
"People have direct access to you, and I've seen some crazy stuff," Bewley said. "One girl got a tattoo of my face, and I don't know what I've done to deserve it. I just don't know what to think, it's like, 'Thank you.' "
For Jones, the proper response to adoring fans is still somewhat of a mystery.
"I'm still trying to figure out what to respond with when a group of complete and total strangers scream in unison, 'I love you,' " Jones said. "What do you say? 'I love you too'?"
To cope with the chaos, Bewley said he has come to terms with the passion "Twilight" has ignited in the hearts of die-hard fans.
"You just have to accept that it's real or else it seems really superficial and pop culture-y," Bewley said. "The hardest thing is to empathize with these girls how much these books mean to them."
The pressure to please the fanatical masses wasn't the only thing Bewley said went through his mind when he joined the cast of "Twilight."
"It was weird because we were joining, and the Volturi are a higher race of vampires with much more experience, yet we jump on this bandwagon supposedly as a family that's been together for seven times the length of the Cullen family, so we had to form this bond very quickly," Bewley said.
Bewley and Jones both joined the "Twilight" cast after the first film and said although they had seen what a cultural phenomenon it had become, nothing could prepare them for what it was like to live it.
"It's just now hitting me how large it is," Jones said. "I don't think when I joined I had any time to think about the size, because there is so much pressure and there is so much to do as an actor to prepare."
Although the final installment of "Twilight" is about to start filming, Jones and Bewley said it's just the beginning.
"This is the tip of the iceberg," Bewley said. "Summit is a very clever production company. They've gotten ahold of this thing, and there's no way they're not going to squeeze every single dollar out of it."
Bewley's prediction for the saga?
"I'm convinced you're going to get a Volturi film or series that explains them," he said. "There's so much depth to the wolfpack that you can't see through flashbacks. People want this."
West Jordan resident Kara Everton was one of 12 people who won VIP tickets and a chance to meet the cast during a giveaway from radio station MIX 107.9.
Everton, a mother of two, said the escape the series offers will keep her coming back for whatever "Twilight" has in store.
"I like the escape, the werewolves vs. vampires," Everton said. "It's, like, so real in my world. I'm a fan no matter what they do."
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