Starlet Kristen Stewart wanted to make the right fashion statement when attending the Knoxville screening of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” on Tuesday night.
“I just brought two inherently fancy dresses with me to wear to this event,” the 19-year-old actress said minutes before walking the red carpet and facing hundreds of screaming fans, “and they really would not have applied here.”
Minutes before she was to appear before a crowd at Regal Cinemas’ Pinnacle 18 at Turkey Creek, Stewart had her handlers go back to the private plane that brought her to Knoxville to fetch a more sedate and simpler black-and-white strapless number dotted with small geometric designs. Fans, however, wouldn’t have cared what she wore.
Hundreds of “Twilight” devotees — most of them local but some from out of state — waited for hours outside the West Knoxville movie theater just to catch a glimpse of Stewart and co-star, 17-year-old Taylor Lautner. (Lautner, by the way, had no fashion second thoughts. He showed up wearing a gray suit accented by a black shirt.)
The celebrity pair attended a screening of “New Moon,” benefiting the philanthropic organization Variety of Eastern Tennessee.
In the romantic supernatural drama “New Moon,” Stewart plays the lovelorn Bella, torn between the attentions of vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) and man-wolf Jacob (played by Lautner). The “Twilight” faithful can’t get enough of the love triangle, chronicled in four books and two movies so far.
The fans’ shrieks were almost deafening as Stewart and Lautner walked outside the theater. Only steel barricades separated the stars from those fans.
Inside the lobby, close to 800 ticketholders, who paid $100 per ticket, dined on chips and dip and awaited the stars’ arrival.
A small stage was set up there, where Stewart and Lautner were honored with a diamond-shaped marker as a reminder of the occasion. The marker will be displayed on the sidewalk in front of the ticket booth at the theater along with other stars who attended such past events, such as Johnny Knoxville and Will Ferrell.
Lautner told the lobby audience: “This is definitely an honor.”
As a fundraiser, the evening was a bona fide hit, allowing Variety to aid many local charity projects such as East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, Second Harvest, Boy Scouts of the Smokies, Imagination Library and the American Heart Association.
Knoxville-based Regal Entertainment Group, the largest theater chain in the United States, has worked with Variety to stage such charity screenings since 2003. This year’s event raised the most money of them all — a little more than $440,000.
Ten percent of that figure will pay for staging the event; the rest will go directly to the organizations that Variety supports.
Because of Regal’s influence in the movie industry, Variety was able to secure Stewart and Lautner for the Knoxville screening.
Their celebrity also made the “New Moon” benefit screening the hottest ticket of the year in Knoxville.
And their stars seem to be continuing to rise. “New Moon” is expected to be one of the biggest box office hits of the year, opening nationwide on Friday. In Knoxville, the movie will play on all 18 screen at the Pinnacle 18 at midnight on Thursday leading into Friday morning. All those tickets have already sold out.
With such a quick rise to stardom, Stewart and Lautner say they realize how fortunate they are. For now, work consumes both their lives.
“What we do is so wrapped up in what we do as people that I can’t call (acting) a job,” Stewart said. “It’s so not a 9-to-5 thing. Luckily, we love it so much that it doesn’t feel like we’re sacrificing anything.
“It’s just the way we live.”
Lautner won’t tell you that this gig as a movie star isn’t fantastic. “We’re having a blast,” he said. “We get to travel everywhere and meet so many people. I love to always meet new people, and we’re getting to do that this way.”
Being on “The Jay Leno Show” on Monday night and getting to toss around a football with Jerry Rice is a nice perk for Lautner, whose turn as the sexy Jacob has propelled him to instant celebrity-hunk status overnight.
As for fame, “it allows us to do what we love to do,” he said, “and that’s making these movies.”
Stewart described this moment in her career as “a once-in-a-lifetime experience” and one that will never be equaled.
“No matter what I go on to do from now on, it will never be quite like all of this,” she said.
“To be able to make movies and share that with somebody, too? That’s pretty exceptional.”
Terry Morrow may be reached at email@example.com or 865-342-6445. His blog can be found at http://blogs.knoxnews.com/knx/telebuddy/. He contributes to “Live At Five At Four” on WBIR, Channel 10, and “The Marc & Kim & Frank Show” on WWST-FM, 102.1.
© 2009, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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