Director Catherine Hardwicke was just weeks away from the start of production on Twilight, her 2008 adaptation of the best-selling Y.A. vampire series, when she got an alarming note from the film’s studio, Summit Entertainment. “They came to me and said, ‘You’ve got to find a way to cut $4 million out of the budget in the next four days, or we’re pulling the plug,’” she remembered in recent interview, 10 years after the film’s release.
Hardwicke and her team raced through the script, blotting out action sequences, pulling effects, chopping anything they could from their already relatively slim budget. All told, they would spend about $37 million—including marketing and buying the rights for the book back from Paramount. Hardwicke remained hopeful that once the executives saw what she had to slash in order to meet their demand—big stunts and set pieces, a.k.a. franchise movie magic—they would realize the error of their ways.
Alas: “They did not,” Hardwicke said, laughing. “They said, ‘Great, glad you cut it.’ And then we made the movie.”
A decade later, it’s still miraculous what Hardwicke was able to do on that budget. Twilight, the story of a teen girl who falls in with an impossibly beautiful family of vampires—now being celebrated with a special Blu-ray and 4K release by Lionsgate—made a startling $69 million in its opening weekend. It eventually grossed $393 million worldwide, spawning four more films and catalyzing a Y.A. franchise boom that gave rise to series like The Hunger Games and Divergent, as well as the Fifty Shades franchise (itself based, originally, on Twilight fanfiction) and the post-blockbuster cinematic oeuvre of stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.
Not bad, considering an executive once told Hardwicke that her film might be interesting, at most, to about 400 girls in Salt Lake City.