To borrow from Winston Churchill, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning: When "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" opens Friday, fans of the franchise will not only be swooning, they'll be swept along in a new, ghastly and dramatically more adult direction. The past has merely been prelude; it's all been leading up to this.
"Everything starts to happen now," said Bill Condon, director of what will be the last two installments in the series based on the Stephenie Meyer novels, and which has made nearly $2 billion worldwide. "I feel lucky I got to do the third act of this story; so much of it had been a buildup to this."
Condon pointed to Kristen Stewart, who, along with co-stars Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, has been made an international celebrity by the success of the "Twilight" saga. ("Oh, my God," Lautner told Newsday, "I owe evvvvvvverything to 'Twilight'!") Stewart's character -- the heart of the story -- goes through more changes than Lady Gaga.
"In those first three movies," Condon said, "she was this high-school girl, Bella, who moves to town and falls in love with this vampire.
"In this movie," he continued, "she starts like that, it goes for about 15 minutes till she gets married, then she loses her virginity, she becomes pregnant, she gives birth to a half-human/half-vampire child and then she dies and becomes a vampire. And that's only the first movie."
None of this is any secret: "Breaking Dawn," the cinder-block-size conclusion to Meyer's series, sold more than 6 million copies the year it was published (2008) and is so chock-full of plot development that the producers of the film decided -- echoing, perhaps, the Harry Potter series -- to split the finale in two. ("Breaking Dawn Part II" will open Nov. 16, 2012.)
"The cynical thing is to say, 'Oh, they're just trying to keep the franchise going,' " said producer Wyck Godfrey, who has been with the series since its 2008 debut. "Our initial instinct was to make one movie. And there truly was too much story." He said extensive discussion about plot compression between Meyer and Melissa Rosenberg, who has scripted all five movies, and then the producers and the studio (Summit) concluded that too much would be lost by making one film. "The next trick was deciding where to split the movies and making sure 'Breaking Dawn Part I' had a structure that was climactic," Godfrey said. "And I think we've done that."
"I hoped it would happen," Lautner, 19, said of the two-part finale. "There was so much stuff to cover, there really is, and even while reading the book, I pictured it as two, or three, movies. There's the wedding and honeymoon and all that stuff, and her getting sick, saving her life; a portion told from Jacob's point of view, and then all of the stuff that will take place in 'Breaking Dawn Part II.' I was really hoping they would split, and when I got that news, I was really happy."
For Pattinson, who went from being a 21-year-old unknown to a 25-year-old superstar in three ''Twilight" films, it's all a bit unreal. "I don't even know what I'm talking about anymore," he said with a laugh, adding that fans may be a bit flummoxed as well by the direction in which Meyer, Rosenberg and Condon have steered the good ship "Twilight."
"I read the script, both together, the first and second parts and I was kind of shocked the places where they decided to take it," Pattinson said. "In trying to wrap everything up, you had to make some really out-of-the-box decisions. But I really hope it scares people a little bit and shocks them a little bit. We'll have to see what happens."
What will happen to Pattinson is already happening: He's completed filming "Bel Ami" with Christina Ricci and Uma Thurman, as well as "Cosmopolis" for the always-intriguing David Cronenberg, which will come out next year.
The wrapping up of "Twilight" quite naturally provokes reflection. "I remember when all of us were making the very first movie," Lautner said. "We thought we were making a smaller-budget indie film that hopefully a few people would like. But this was completely unexpected. It continues to blow my mind every single day."
About the last two chapters, Pattinson said, "We were all older. Everyone's in a very different place than they were on the first one, and it's a very different feeling. When you're 25 as opposed to 21, you think about things differently, especially about marriage and children and stuff. When I was 21, I would have played it differently. Or at least understood it in a very different way.
"I'm glad it started when I was 21, rather than younger," he added. "I'm not sure I could have handled it. The shock to your system -- over just a couple of days, you're walking down the street and your life is completely different."
Cover girls signs cover stories
Nikki Reed, who plays Rosalie Hale in the "Twilight" movies, will be signing copies of her cover issue of Seventeen magazine Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble at 91 Old Country Rd., Carle Place. She will be appearing with her husband, former "American Idol" contestant Paul McDonald, and Seventeen editor in chief Ann Shoket.
Magazines must be purchased from this store to attend. Limit two magazines per person. Wristbands will be distributed starting at 9 a.m. Thursday.