This week, Eclipse, the latest installment in the Twilight saga, arrives in theaters. Like its predecessors, the film combines monster mythology with good old-fashioned romance, and like all good film series, it continues to build drama and suspense as the stakes – both emotional and physical – continue to rise. Cinematical recently spoke with members of the cast and crew, including Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Peter Facinelli, and director David Slade, at the film's Los Angeles press day, where they offered new insights and observations about the series' continued success.

In lieu of a litany of individual interviews, we've compiled a collection of choice quotes from the above actors and filmmakers. Not only do they offer interesting information to longtime fans about the highly-anticipated film, but they provide a few reasons why even newcomers to the franchise will find its twists and turns too tempting to resist.

1. Eclipse finally puts Bella in control of her own destiny. The first two Twilight films endured criticism that Bella, the main character, was too reliant on her two male suitors when she should be making decisions for herself. Kristen Stewart said that this film's Bella takes responsibility for her life, and she emerges from the shadow of her would-be soul mate. "She's definitely making decisions for herself," Stewart explained, "and not just going along with what Edward is saying to do which is something that people instantly latch onto, that she's this weak and codependent girl that's just in need all the time with this guy. That's so not the case. I think if it were to be told from his perspective that he would be just as vulnerable and as needy as her, but it's told from her mind though so obviously those things are going to be more inherent. I think she's definitely, like I say over and over, owning up to things that have gone down. They've been both good and bad. She can reap the benefits from the things that she's dealt with in a good way and also make the relationships in her life stronger based on the mistakes that she's made. As soon as you sort of screw someone over and go back and say, 'I admit that. Can we still be really cool? I've been really selfish.' Everyone now in the family is looking at her differently, like, 'Oh, maybe she does know what she wants. Maybe she's not acting so immature and crazy.'"


2. Bella's newfound independence doesn't deter Edward and Jacob from continuing to fight over her. While protecting Bella from attack by Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), a vampire who desperately wants to kill her, Edward and Jacob square off in a tent while she sleeps peacefully between them. Stewart said the experience was more uncomfortable because of the shooting conditions than the substance of the scene. "It was so hot in that sleeping bag, literally and then the takes are so long," she revealed. "That scene is eternal and I have nothing really to do in it, especially when we shot it. We got close-ups on two guys and we do mine and it's completely separate and they run the lines a little bit but I was playing halfway between being asleep and hearing bits. I couldn't get my head around hearing that conversation because she's really not supposed to. David was like, 'Let it slip in. Hear a little bit and then fall back asleep.' As soon as I'd hear any of that I'd be like, 'Bing! What?' So that was difficult but I just remember it being hot and in terms of being between those two guys I'm always between those two guys.

Meanwhile, Pattinson said that he had a lot of trouble getting through the scene as well. "The tent scene, for some reason on that day, we reshot it, but the first time we did it, I was really freaking out and I don't know why," he admitted. "I think it had to do with claustrophobia or something, we were actually shooting in a tent. And I just couldn't get it together! I kept forgetting my lines and was so nervous. I just wanted to punch anyone who was near me! We did about three takes and Kristen is supposed to be asleep on the floor and she saw that I was freaking out. Halfway through the take she suddenly opened her eyes and was just staring at me and kept trying to make me laugh through the entire take, and it's like the most serious scene in the whole movie! I just wanted to strangle her for the first two seconds, but then I could not stop laughing the entire time. We got literally one take where it went kind of right and it was because of that, when I was trying to hold back. I guess it made me more alive or something."

3. Although the pair square off on screen, Pattinson and Lautner got along fine behind the scenes. Notwithstanding the duo's constant parry of arguments and insults, Pattinson said he occasionally couldn't compete with his co-star's physical dexterity. "Jacob has quite a few catch phrase type of lines, with me especially," Pattinson concedes. "It's quite funny, for some reason I find it quite funny when I'm doing stuff with Taylor. There are a couple scenes where we have sort of confrontational scenes, I sort of push him around a little bit and I was supposed to grab his shoulder, and it wasn't even in the script, I thought I'd really scare him and grab him and it would freak him out and turn the whole scene upside down! Then I grabbed his shoulder and it was too big to actually get a grip on. So I just dropped my hand, so that was kind of embarrassing. I got him badly, though; he kept having to dress up in a little grey spandex wolf suit all the time and try and be intimidating in that with Kristen patting him on the head and stuff. That was quite fun."

Lautner said he thrilled at the chance to do more scenes with Pattinson. "I had a scene or two in New Moon where I was able to work with Rob, and I was really excited to work with him for Eclipse," he recalled. "The hardest thing I found about working with Rob is I usually have to hit him in the scenes, and it is difficult. He is such a funny, nice guy. It is literally like we are doing a scene where we are yelling and screaming at each other, and he is slapping my shoulder and I'm shoving him off me. We are screaming. We are spitting in each other's faces. Then as soon as they call cut we just bust out laughing. It is really hard to be mean to Rob."


4. Bryce Dallas Howard joins the cast as Victoria, and her success in replacing actress Rachelle LeFevre is largely due to her personal love – and professional commitment – to translating the details of the source material onto the silver screen. Howard indicated she went straight to Meyer herself to make sure her choices were correct. "It is intimidating talking to Stephenie, although she is not an intimidating person," she revealed. "She's a really, really lovely woman and a very warm person. It wasn't something that I wanted to do necessarily anything different at all, it's just Stephenie wrote in the book very clearly that when Victoria spoke she had a surprisingly high voice, almost like a little girl, that's kind of how she wrote it. So I wanted to know more of what she envisioned in terms of that so it didn't seem silly and I wasn't doing a caricature of what she had written but rather an honest depiction of what she had written. That was just something I had a brief conversation about."

5. Howard threw herself into her fight scenes with Pattinson, but worried for her off screen well-being if she beat him up too badly. The actress explained that she feared fan girl reactions if she cracked up Pattinson's porcelain countenance. "There was a lot of fight training that happened to prepare for it," she said. "Actors are always nervous about not only hurting each other but maybe perhaps hitting each other's face and ending one's career. So there was a lot of preparation that made us feel more comfortable, certainly. I just knew that if I rustled his hair perhaps millions of young women would want to kill me so I was quite cautious for that reason. It was fun. There's a point at which you're wrestling for six consecutive hours that it just becomes absurd. You just kind of, you can't help yourself but laugh. It ultimately was great, yeah it was a really good job."

Pattinson said that Howard's efforts translated into a rather mild scuffle. "I did a bit of practice with Bryce, it's really hard to do stuff with her because she's the gentlest person and she's always laughing when you do anything," he remembered. "So we did a little bit and kind of half heartedly and then she'd be afraid of hurting me even though she'd only be hitting [lightly]. Most of the vicious stuff I did was with a stunt double who was really really tough. But the bits with Bryce we're just kind of rolling around and grabbing onto each other, but yeah it was fun."


6. Director David Slade was determined to explore new territory with these now iconic characters. In particular, Slade said he wanted to rekindle Edward's dangerous side, especially since he would be participating in some vampire carnage during the film's climax. "I think what I was getting at was I really wanted to make sure his character was dangerous. That's what I was getting at with him. In the last movie, he had played a different character arc. In this one, I wanted to bring out the carnivore in him because he has to get a character arc from someone who's just relieved to have his reason for existing back to killing, decapitating with his teeth somewhat. That's quite an arc so that had to come throughout the film, and he hadn't really done that so much - a little bit in Twilight - and I think that was the bit thing. So it was a case of, try to look at every scene with that in mind. Underlying this is danger. Underlying everything is danger. It is a different way of looking at the character completely. That was the intention."

Pattinson echoed Slade's suggestions, saying he tried to tap into Edward's age and loneliness. "[His behavior] in the first two movies were just caused by his desolation from reality, so when he finds one thing to hold on to, that's where possessiveness comes from," he said. "I think as the series goes on, he accepts more of the contemporary world. I think all the things that were deemed to be flawed before start fading away, and that's how I'm trying to play him. I think he's coming out of his shell a little bit in Eclipse, so hopefully by the end of Breaking Dawn I'm hoping he'll be a normal 17 year old guy, just a little bit pale."

7. Slade also wanted to change the visual palette of the film, fleshing out the horror and action underneath all of those adolescent emotions. Slade and his producer, Wyck Godfrey, said that the director's approach was predicated on keeping the actors at the forefront – so much so, in fact, that the film features a preponderance of close-ups. "You know, there's a vocabulary, a cinematic vocabulary to each of the films they've done," Slade said of the first two Twilight movies. "And it doesn't come from that much premeditation. It comes from two things. One, seeing the film in my head before we go out and make it, and being very clear about that that is and planning it, and then two, what's right for the scene and the character. I believe the most interesting thing to look at in the world is the human face, so that is why I tend to be a little closer to those human faces than maybe other directors would be."

Godfrey offered more specifics. "When you were first talking to us about the movie, you had said that by letting the background fall out of focus and really focus on the characters,," he remembered. "In the dangerous scenes it creates a heightened sense of anxiety. You feel like you don't really know what's back there, and in the romantic scenes it creates an incredible sense of intimacy. You really feel like it's just these two people in that world, and I really think that was really effective in the movie."

8. In lieu of vampires, werewolves, action and romance, the cast and crew thinks audiences will respond to the characters and their otherwise very realistic obstacles. Stewart said that she thinks the series would work even without its creatures of the night. "I think that if you took all the mythical aspects of the story that it would still stand as a really strong and interesting thing to be a part of," she suggested. "I think the whole vampire and the whole werewolf thing are really good sort of plot devices. All of the aspects of the vampire and all the aspects of a werewolf are fully encompassed by the humans, by Jacob and Edward, but if all of that was gone they would still be the same people. I don't think it's a big phenomenon because of the vampire mythical aspect. It definitely takes a good story and it raises the stakes and it makes it a little bit more interesting but I think it's just about whole the characters are and how easy it is to have faith in them and be sort of addicted to them. They let you down a lot and then pick themselves back up. I don't think it has anything to do with the vampire thing. I think that just makes it a little cooler."

Peter Facinelli, who plays Carlisle, the paterfamilias of the Cullen clan, said that he thinks this film will help the series escape the teen-tween ghetto it's been assigned by critics and the media in general. "I think that there's a misconception with Twilight that it's just for pre-teen and teenage girls and that guys might go see it," he said. "When New Moon came out, it had more action and guys responded to that. Although they didn't really want to admit it, it's kind of like guys driving around singing and listening to Barry Manilow in their car, belting it out loud and then someone pulls up next to them and they pretend like they're not. Now, with Eclipse, the action has gotten even greater. For me, as a male, it's my favorite book because I love the all the action-yet you still have this love triangle that's heated up even more. It hits on a lot of different things. It has themes of vengeance which is universal. You have themes of alliances being formed between two different families or covens or species or clans or mortal enemies that are teaming up for a common good-which I think is a great universal message."

"With those universal messages out there, with a family that you can relate to in the sense that they're bonded and joined up for a common good-with the action and with this love story, it's got a lot of things going on for a lot of different people," he continued. "I've had fans that are six-years-old up to eighty. I'm hoping that they enjoy it. It's my favorite book and I enjoyed it."